Retirement Planning Blog

20 Questions to Ask Before Retirement (and Answer)

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The thought of retirement can make one excited and anxious. Why have anxiety? Because of the ‘what-ifs’ about the future – the unknowns. You might have questions about retirement and whether it will live up to what you hope for, especially after decades of work.

Now, before you break out the party hats and leave the workplace hustle, make sure that your plan is ready to go. Retirement planning isn’t all about money, although that is a big part of it. Your financial plan should also spell out how you will make the most of your newfound free time. Whether you want to travel, spend time with loved ones, pursue hobbies, relax at your leisure, or do something else, your retirement plan will serve as a roadmap and GPS for keeping things on track.

Here are 20 questions to help ensure you have your retirement ducks in a row. From finances to lifestyle, you can use these questions to frame your overall goals and expectations for your golden years. You have worked hard to reach this point. Now is the time to confirm that you have everything you need to enjoy it fully.

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Could You Benefit from a Second Opinion for Retirement Planning?

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Do you have a financial plan for retirement? Are you 100% confident in it, or could a second opinion on your retirement plan bring you some peace of mind?

At the very least, a second opinion can’t hurt. After all, retirement is very different from other stages of life. During their working years, people usually make goals around investing, which focuses on growing assets over time. On the other hand, retirement planning is about making sure those assets will pay a steady income stream throughout their golden years.

Of course, that isn’t the only thing that it’s homed in on. Forward-thinking retirement planning also covers protecting assets from various financial pitfalls that can arise, from chaotic market swings and rising inflation to unexpected medical emergencies and long-term care spending. Those assets need to last as long as you need them to generate retirement income.

If you are thinking about pursuing a second opinion for your financial situation, here are a few things to consider. We will talk about what a second opinion for retirement planning might look like, what to look out for, and some other things to keep in mind.

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Living It Up in the Go-Go Years: Enjoying Your Early Retirement

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Retirement is the golden age of chillin’, right? No more alarm clocks, no more office politics. Just you, doing what you like on your own time. Seems like one big period of life to take it easy, but then again, retirement isn’t just a long span.

Another way to look at it is in three stages, with early, mid, and later retirement years. The first few years of retirement are what we call the “go-go years.”

And what in the world are the go-go years? Imagine it’s the honeymoon phase of retirement, where your knees still work, and your joints aren’t creaking when you get out of bed. These are the years when you are practically bouncing off the walls with energy and excitement. It’s the retiree version of a kid in a candy store. The world is your playground, and now is the time to make the most of it.

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Unretirement: Making the Most of When You Return to Work in Retirement

Everyone might plan on calling it quits with their work at some point. But what about “unretiring” and going back to work again after leaving the workforce?

Well, you have probably heard of some of the more glamorous instances of unretirement: Tom Brady’s comeback. That cringe-worthy commercial featuring NFL legends Dan Marino, Emmitt Smith, Randy Moss, and Jerry Rice. Even in the entertainment world, where long-time actors like Cameron Diaz are returning to the big screen and other acting work.

Of course, unretirement isn’t just for sports stars and celebrities trying to extend their glory days. In the real world, it’s a growing trend where, for various reasons, people find themselves back in the workforce after saying farewell to the daily grind. Sometimes unretirement is a freely made choice. In other cases, it’s forced or necessary.

Do you find yourself thinking about unretiring? In this article, we will dive into why some people are dragged into it while others choose to unretire for a second-act career, financial necessity, or drive to start a business. If you happen to find yourself in a situation of unretirement, there are steps that you can take to put your best foot forward. We will also talk about what those options can look like.

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How Do Fixed Index Annuities Let You Beat the Bank?

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When economic and market conditions seem uncertain, it’s natural for people to look for places to protect their money from losses. Some places are pretty low risk and let your money earn interest. You can find many of these options at banks: certificates of deposit, savings accounts, money market accounts, and high-yield savings and checking accounts, to name a few.

If you are looking to park retirement money somewhere, a fixed index annuity may also be an option to explore. A fixed index annuity shields your money from losses due to market declines. It gives limited opportunity to earn interest based on a market index’s performance. That being said, in exchange for the guaranteed protection of your money, that growth potential is limited.

Bank products will grow your money with interest over time, and they are backed by FDIC coverage. You can also use bank accounts as a source of liquidity for your money. But over time, a fixed index annuity can let you “beat the bank” with its potential for index-linked interest earnings. If you plan to use that money for retirement, the annuity can also pay you a guaranteed income stream for as long as you need it.

In this article, we will go over more on fixed index annuities, their potential for “beating the bank,” and some pros and cons for each option that are good to keep in mind.

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Do Fixed Annuities Have Fees?

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Are you thinking about an annuity for some of your retirement savings? Are you worried about fees? The good news is that many annuities don’t have fees, but it also depends on the annuity type you are talking about. There are five kinds: variable, immediate, fixed, multi-year guarantee, and fixed index annuities.

Variable annuities offer the most growth potential, but they also have the risk of market losses and tend to be fee heavy. The other four kinds fall into the fixed column.

Fixed annuities and multi-year guarantee annuities have guaranteed rates for a set period. Fixed index annuities can earn interest based on a market index’s performance, but the growth potential is limited. Immediate annuities start paying you income right away, while with these other fixed-type annuities you usually start income payments some years down the road.

Let’s go back to our overall fixed annuity focus. Most fixed annuities don’t have fees. Fixed index annuities don’t have upfront fees, but some add-ons to a base contract may have fees. It depends on whether you would like those add-on benefits on top of what a base contract gives you.

What about surrender charges and things like that? All annuities are long-term vehicles, and they have maturity periods. If you wish to take advantage of the benefits, then keep your money in the annuity until it matures. Otherwise, there might be a surrender charge. It’s a way for the insurance company to manage risk and keep its promises to you and many other customers.

In this article, we will go over why fixed annuities don’t have fees and how they work.

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The Three Phases of Retirement: How You Can Be Ready Financially

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Does your financial plan cover the three phases of retirement? Once you have retired, it’s quite different from your career years. Now is the time to live off the fruits of your work and enjoy life on your own terms. You don’t want to leave your retirement lifestyle up to guesswork or chance. Your plan should make you confident that you will be able to retire well and then stay retired.

All of that said, retirement is a moving target, and it comes with distinct phases. These phases of retirement are:

  • The go-go years
  • The slow-go years
  • The no-go years

The go-go years are when retirees are in good health and able to do what they enjoy. That can be travel or physical activities such as pickleball or golf. The slow-go years are when retirees can still pursue those activities, but their level of involvement slows down a bit. Finally, the no-go years are when retirees have aged and their health has changed. They tend to need more long-term care support and other healthcare supports at this stage.

It’s hard to estimate how long each phase of retirement might last. That will depend on a retiree’s personal health, family history, history of taking care of himself or herself, and more. In this article, we will go over these three phases of retirement, what they might look like for how you spend your money and time, and things to keep in mind as you plan ahead.

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6 Retirement Rules of Thumb to Keep You on the Financial Fast Track

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Financially speaking, are you on track for retirement? Can you do more to reach your goals? These questions matter, and certain retirement rules of thumb can help you see where you are. But first, what is a retirement rule of thumb, and how does it work?

Quick sum-up. A rule of thumb is a general principle to help you make money decisions. For example, the Rule of 100 is a guideline for balancing risk in your asset holdings. We will discuss it more later, but you take your age and subtract it from 100 for an idea of what percentage of your portfolio might be in growth-oriented assets, such as stocks.

Building on that concept, a retirement rule of thumb is a quick way for assessing your progress in retirement planning. In this article, we will go over six retirement rules of thumb that you can use in different ways, including:

  • If you are saving enough for retirement
  • How fast your retirement savings might grow
  • How inflation can affect your income in retirement
  • How much retirement money you might need

Again, these retirement rules of thumb are meant only as a starting point, like on a map. Your financial destination is your own, and a custom-tailored plan will help you get there.

When you are ready, an experienced financial professional can discuss your situation and come up with a personalized plan just for you.

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Are Annuity Surrender Charges Good or Bad?

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Are annuity surrender charges a good or bad thing? If you want a predictable income steam in retirement, only annuities can provide you with guaranteed payments for life or for a set period. No other financial product can truly do this.

On the other hand, a surrender charge can be a hold-up for someone who might otherwise be interested in an annuity for its guaranteed benefits. Annuities are contracts between someone and a life insurance company.

They are a long-term commitment, and if someone wanted to take out more money than is permitted or exit the contract prematurely, a surrender charge would apply. Of course, surrender charges also help insurance companies maintain their long-term promises to policyholders as well.

So, are annuity surrender charges good, bad, or indifferent? How do they work, and in what specific ways do they work for you? Are there other upsides to annuity surrender charges beyond the obvious benefit of helping the life insurance company?

The truth is, they are more of a necessary feature than a judgment of goodness or badness. In some respects, you can say they are a neutral thing. Let’s break them down into some simpler terms.

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Is Dave Ramsey Right or Wrong on His 8% Retirement Withdrawal Rate?

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Dave Ramsey is well known in the personal finance space, but at times he gives bad money advice. Sometimes his financial advice is, frankly, out of touch with reality. Such was the case on one of his November 2023 broadcasts, when he served up some bad math on retirement withdrawal rates that would virtually guarantee people will run out of money.

During the show, Dave Ramsey said that retirees could safely withdraw 8% from their portfolios each year and never touch their principal. That is assuming that you see 12% returns per year, have 100% of your assets invested in “good mutual funds,” and keep 4% in your portfolio for inflation. Inflation has averaged 4% for the last 80 years, according to Ramsey.

Apart from unrealistic numbers, the real downside is how Ramsey completely overlooks the danger of sequence of returns risk. What is sequence of returns risk? It’s the possibility of suffering investment losses during a crucial period: in the years just before or in early retirement.

During retirement, you will count on your assets to generate income for you. Average returns don’t matter, but rather the order of your returns. If your assets take a hit in the time just before or early into when you are retired, your window for recovery isn’t what it was during your working years.

Even worse, what if you are withdrawing money during a down year? Your investments will have compounding losses – whatever initial drop they had, snowballed by the money you took out of your account.

In this article, we will go over why Dave Ramsey is completely wrong on his 8% withdrawal rate rule – and why other retirement withdrawal rates, and withdrawal strategies for that matter, might be worth a look for lasting financial security.

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Next Steps to Consider

  • Start a Conversation About Your Retirement What-Ifs

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    Start a Conversation About Your Retirement What-Ifs

    Already working with someone or thinking about getting help? Ask us about what is on your mind. Learn More

  • What Independent Guidance
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    What Independent Guidance
    Does for You

    See how the crucial differences between independent and captive financial professionals add up. Learn More

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