When you near retirement it’s an important life transition. For one, this period brings changes to money matters. Now is time to examine portfolio assets and consider how you will use them for income to sustain your retirement lifestyle. A good retirement planning company can help you plan for this transition.
Retirement Planning Companies May Have Different Specialties
However, investors have many options of financial firms in today’s industry. Different firms can vary in the unique expertise to the table. Some companies specialize in investment management and others in financial planning, for example.
While similar in some ways to financial planning and investment management, retirement planning is different. It concerns advice on the distribution of money and how people will use the money for income needs.
Business Type Also Matters
There is also the question of business organization. Some firms are just one of many broker offices for huge financial companies, while other firms are small, local businesses. Whether they have a captive or an independent status may influence the kinds and selections of the retirement products they can offer you.
So, all of this adds up to many retirement planning options for investors. How do you choose the right partner for you? Let’s take a look at some questions to answer.
Questions to Ask about Retirement Planning Companies
1. Do I need help from a retirement planning company? First things first. Do you really need to hire a retirement planning company? This depends on many factors, including your personal goals and needs, the amount of wealth you are looking to carry towards retirement, and how financially savvy you are on your own. The reality is, however, that pretty much anyone can benefit from at least exploring the options available. Many retirement planning firms offer a first meeting at no cost and no obligation.
You may see benefits from a first meeting in a number of ways:
- Receiving a new, fresh perspective on your financial picture you didn’t have before
- Experiencing first-hand the advantages of working with financial professionals specializing in retirement
- Seeing what’s important to have in place as you plan for your retirement future
- Bettering your understanding of how to interview financial firms and judge their expertises
- Discovering retirement and income strategies you hadn’t considered before
- Learning of retirement and income strategies you never knew beforehand
Whether you work with a retirement planning company is ultimately a personal choice. But many investors have benefited from the guidance of financial professionals.
In a study by Northwestern Mutual, individuals with advisors were nearly 200% more likely (68%) than those without advisors (36%) to say they feel “very financially secure.” Compared to those with financial advisors, investors with no advisor were twice more likely (53% versus 27%) to believe a lack of savings was an obstacle to retirement financial security.
Many financial planning companies and advisors work with people independent of their income and wealth level. Others will only take on clients with at least $100,000 in accumulated wealth or more.
Of course, everyone has some level of financial goals and starting to think about retirement is never too early. You may want to explore your options.
2. Is the company qualified to help me? As you consider financial professionals at different retirement planning companies, keep this in mind. Retirement planning can require specialized knowledge in many areas:
- Claiming Social Security benefits at the best time for you and/or your partner
- Determining how much income you may receive in retirement
- Creating withdrawal and/or distribution strategies with tax-efficient results
- Maximizing income for your preferred lifestyle goals
- How much guaranteed income you might need besides from Social Security
- What kinds of taxable income your portfolio may provide
- The timing of dealing with debt pre-retirement or post-retirement
- Potential company plan rollovers and where you should keep your money
- Managing unique risks in retirement, like inflation, market corrections, and so on
An effective retirement-focused professional will be more of a listener than a talker. They will take time to understand your complete financial picture: your planning horizon, your current investments and financial resources, your goals and needs, your risk tolerance, your liquidity requirements, and other important personal variables.
You shouldn’t receive recommendations for your situation until they fully understand all of these dimensions.
You will also want to consider a financial professional’s areas of expertise, credentials, background, and professional record.
For starters, a financial professional should be licensed for the products which they are offering guidance and selling. This means that for insurance products like annuities and life insurance, the contacts at your prospective retirement planning company should hold all required state insurance licensing.
If they would offer securities products, they should have all required securities licenses as well.
Another manner in which financial professionals enhance their knowledge is through designations. There are specialized designations for different areas of financial planning. Some offered by the American College for Financial Services include:
- Retirement Income Certified Professional designation
- Chartered Financial Consultant designation
- Certified Financial Planner, or CFP designation
- Chartered Life Underwriter designation
You can ask prospective retirement planners about these and other credentials. They may also hold advanced degrees in finance, business, or other money-related fields pertaining to your needs.
Have a Retirement or Other Financial Question?
Get Free Feedback with No ObligationCLICK HERE to Send Us Your Question
3. How is the company recommended by others? You should also research the company in a more qualitative way. One of the best paths to finding the right retirement planning company for you is by getting recommendations. Ask your candidate firms for clients they serve and what “grades” they give them. You may want to contact them and ask about their experience with their retirement planning company.
Online research can also give insights into consumer perceptions of different companies. Google search results often include star ratings and actual reviews from other people like you. You may also find reviews on local review sites.
People in the insurance and financial industries are subject to regulations at federal and state levels. For instance, state insurance departments have records of insurance-licensed professionals in their respective states. You may check these to confirm insurance licensees are in good status in a particular state.
4. What are my options and how much do they cost? The cost of retirement planning services will depend on the type of products that you buy, the amount of money that you invest, and from whom you receive guidance and buy.
Some firms charge fees based on the percentage of assets that you invest or on the cost of products that you are purchasing. Others make commission from the products that they sell and are paid by the third party.
Yet still, others operate on an hourly or per-project basis for financial planning services, which means you may have to execute their recommended actions.
Many firms accumulate more than one type of fees by selling the two different products to their clients. They key, however, is ensuring that there is transparency in the way that your financial professional operates. During the interview and selection process, ask for information on how they are paid, and their fee/compensation structure(s). At the point of recommendation, be sure you understand any potential costs and/or fees built into the recommended products.
No matter who you work with, clarify how they guide and act in your best interest with recommendations. Is there any conflict of interest when it comes to the products they are recommending?
What is the retirement planning philosophy that they stand by? How will they make the right options work for you? These are all fair questions to ask when interviewing potential companies.
Choosing the Right Retirement Planning Company for You
While these questions are a good starting point, they are by no means exhaustive. Remember, this is your retirement future you are preparing for. Working with the right retirement planning company can lead to a more confident financial life, and it begins with careful due diligence.
Looking for retirement planning companies to guide you? Financial professionals at SafeMoney.com can help you. Use our “Find a Financial Professional” section to connect with someone directly. And if you need a personal referral, call us at 877.476.9723.