How to Find a Good Retirement Income Planner

retirement income planner

There are many kinds of financial professionals that are available today. With no shortage to choose from, why would you want to limit your search only to retirement income planners – or those who plan for retirement income?

The simple answer is life changes, and financial wellness at this point requires a certain specialty. You wouldn’t go to a family medicine doctor for matters relating to brain surgery. That is what a neurosurgeon is for.

The same goes for income planning near and in retirement. An experienced retirement income planner will be able to help you maximize the fruits of your life’s work net of taxes, inflation, fees, and other factors. They should be able to create dependable income streams that have a good chance of holding up for however long your retirement lasts.

Retirement Is Different

Your retirement years are different from your working years. During the latter, you were accumulating and building up assets for retirement. Now it’s a matter of living off those accumulated assets for the rest of your life.

You will need to make sure that you don’t outlive those assets. You should be able to have income still flowing in no matter what happens. While it used to require planning for five to ten years, retirement can now be as long as 30 to 40 years.

Over time, your holdings will generate income to replace your career earnings or other income that you brought home during your working years. It will also need to replace or supplement the assets that you have begun spending now.

Outliving Your Money

One big fear for many folks facing retirement is the looming risk of running out of money. This can be concerning especially when you are trying to maintain a comfortable, and not inexpensive, lifestyle.

A Nobel Prize-winning PhD economist, William Sharpe, has called running out of money in retirement “the nastiest, hardest problem” in finance.

If you want to be one of the “lucky ones,” insofar as you don’t run out of money, you need to rely on more than luck. It’s good to work with someone who can make your income last as long as you need it.

Your financial professional should go over ways to produce enough reliable, ongoing income for your lifestyle expectations. Remember, times are different now. You are looking for someone who is as comfortable teaching you to decumulate assets as they were teaching you to accumulate them.

Where to Look for a Retirement Income Planner?

Finding the right retirement income planner isn’t easy, even when you know what you need. To some extent, you can rely on your friends’ word of mouth, so long as you check it out.

Online is another good starting point. Look up local financial firms in your area and see what services are available locally. You can build up a list of different candidates for your retirement income planning needs pretty quickly this way.

You might also come across financial professionals in other venues. Some agents and financial advisors invite folks in the area for seminar presentations with a meal. You may come across others on social media platforms, hear of them from radio spots, or learn of them from community events or some other marketing of theirs.

If something that they say resonates with you, it might be worthwhile to check them out for your financial situation. Again, some due diligence and research will go a long way in ferreting some firms out so that you can dwindle down your list.

You are also welcome to contact one of our local independent financial professionals here at for a personal meeting, if that would be of interest to you.

Who Might Be Good for You?

Think about what sort of financial guidance that you need. The type of financial services that you might use will vary in their fees as well as how they are charged.

Do you want to pay a flat fee for management or as a percentage of your assets? Do you want to pay only when you make a transaction? How about a fee structure where the insurance company pays your financial professional directly and all of your money goes to work for you on day one?

The first of these structures represents an investment advisor representative, who may be called an investment advisor, financial planner, and similar names. They are usually statutory fiduciaries, but the SEC discourages its use in promotional materials.

The second option is a registered representative at a broker-dealer. This individual can’t act without speaking to you first (unless you give them power of attorney) and only charges you money when they actually execute a trade. These are known as registered reps, investment consultants, and similar terms.

The final option is the case with many annuity products. Life insurance companies are required to have lots of capital in place to back up an annuity policy. When you incorporate an annuity as part of a lifetime income strategy, the financial professional’s payment comes directly from the insurance company’s coffers.

It’s often based on a percentage of your annuity premium, and 100% of your money goes to work for you in the annuity policy.

If your agent has provided strong value to you in giving you retirement clarity, good work in learning about your situation, and finding a good-fitting solution for you, then this route may be appealing in conjunction with the other options discussed.

The bottom-line? However a fee structure is composed, you want the guidance that is right for your particular financial situation. Don’t be afraid to explore different avenues and see what might work best for you.

Get More Information on Retirement Income Planners Under Consideration

Do interviews with at least three financial professionals so you get an idea of what they can offer — and what your ideal retirement income planner will look like for you.

Do a background check if you think you have found someone you would like. Any credentials they claim to have, such as being a Certified Financial Planner or a Retirement Income Certified Professional, can be found online.

You can check out a registered rep’s history at FINRA’s BrokerCheck website. It will tell you how long your candidate has been in the business, what FINRA licenses they have, and any disciplinary action, financial problems, or litigation in their past.

You can check out an investment advisor at the SEC’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website. It offers the same kind of information as BrokerCheck. The SEC also provides information about individuals, not all registered, who have had a court or SEC order entered against them.

The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) maintains links to state disclosures. See NASAA’s website for more information.

What Should Your Retirement Income Planner Specialize in?

What do you want your retirement income specialist to be good at? Do you want or need many different skills? Are you honing in on one particular skill set that you consider essential?

Some of the skills you might look for are:

Retirement income strategies – If you don’t have all the assets you think you will need or get hit with a week where the market drops big time, you will need someone familiar with ensuring that you continue to have income in retirement.

They will need to understand how that continuing income affects your other assets. They should be familiar with various income strategies that give a high probability of generating lifetime income, and what risks like sequence of returns as well as inflation can do.

They should also be skillful in careful tax planning.

Understanding retirement withdrawals and how to maximize your money from all of your retirement accounts. Again, strategic thinking is essential here.

Some money is better used when you first retire and aren’t yet getting Social Security. Other money has a better or worse tax consequence, depending on timing.

Your retirement income planner needs to plan withdrawals to avoid catastrophic losses and tax consequences. An experienced planner will be the expert to help you decumulate your assets wisely.

Specific Investment Risks to Watch Out For

The specter of the sequence of returns risk is real. When you make money on an investment is essential to its real value.

The sequence of returns risk is the risk that you will experience negative portfolio consequences late in your working life. That is, when you have little opportunity to recoup those losses.

Don’t forget if you lose 10 percent of your assets, you will have to make 11 percent to get back to your original position. High losses take even higher returns, so a 25 percent loss requires a 33 percent gain to get back to even.

Investment risk refers to the risk inherent in every investment. Some investments, like Treasury securities or fixed-type annuities, generally have low investment risk. At the other end of the spectrum, trading futures and selling call options have very high investment risk.

When you select your retirement, you will need to discuss your comfort level for investment risk tolerance. Bear in mind that risk and potential reward go together.

Taxes and Your Retirement Planning

Taxes are an important consideration in retirement. If nothing else, they can consume a large chunk of your retirement income.

You can have retirement assets and income taxed as ordinary income, assets taxed on withdrawals, and assets that have already been taxed from which withdrawals and income are tax-free. Your retirement income planner needs to be sensitive to tax consequences and inflation over time — and how to plan for both of them.

One of your major expenses in retirement will be healthcare and long-term care. While most of your healthcare is covered by Medicare, long-term care generally isn’t.

There are sophisticated ways of using things like annuities to cover your long-term care. You will want a retirement income planner who understands these issues.

Questions to Ask a Prospective Retirement Income Planner

As we mentioned above, it’s critical to understand who your potential planner is. The big question is how they can work with your retirement goals. There are questions to ask that can help you decide if a candidate is the right one.

  • How long have you been in the financial services industry?

Those websites mentioned earlier can give you licensing and credential information about professionals in financial services. They will also disclose adverse background information that might affect your decision.

  • How long have you been doing retirement income planning?

It’s a little harder to determine how long a financial professional has focused on retirement income planning. Some of their answers to your questions will be clue-ins.

However, there are specifically retirement-oriented credentials that can give you an indicator as well. Among these are the RICP, Retirement Income Certified Professional, offered by the American College for Financial Planning.

  • Credentials and professional experience?

These earlier websites carry records of employment in the financial industry. If your retirement income planner is savvy, they may have a LinkedIn profile and other aspects of an online presence. Here, you can cross-reference your findings of their employment against what they have listed.

FINRA has a list of credentials used (or not) in financial services, and you can check out any credentials your candidate uses from FINRA’s viewpoint.

However, FINRA doesn’t approve or endorse any professional credentials, other than the Series license exams (e.g., Series 7 license). On the other hand, FINRA does tell you what it takes to get and keep any particular credential, which lets you judge its worth to some extent.

Does Your Candidate Communicate Well with You?

Financial services and retirement planning can be complex fields. They are full of acronyms and abbreviations that can make it hard to understand the industry as well as we would like.

Nonetheless, a truly effective retirement income planner will also be a teacher. They will work to understand what you need and then present their suggestions for achieving those goals. But, when they do so, they will try hard to ensure that you understand their recommendations, its risks, and how it will help you.

Only when you truly understand a concept, and your financial professional understands it as well, can you make a reasoned decision together about the wisdom of that recommendation.

How Does the Retirement Income Planner Make Decisions for You?

When you consider a financial professional, it’s important to understand how they think about retirement planning and how they will make recommendations for you.

Ask about their retirement planning philosophy and how much risk they believe is appropriate for you. Generally, to make the risk level decisions, a planner will ask for a great deal of information about you, your future plans and goals, your dependents, and lots of financial information. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions as well.

If someone starts making retirement plans for you without this information, you should be concerned.

Who Does the Retirement Income Planner Work For?

Retirement planners work in a variety of situations. For one, they might be captive or independent (more on that below).

Some are entirely independent investment advisors, and they have a relationship with a custodian financial company for their client accounts and any other necessary relationships. They may be independently licensed as insurance professionals to handle annuities, but still work on their own.

Some retirement market-focused agents are independent insurance brokers. They can offer annuity and insurance products from multiple carriers, and they receive payment from a life insurance company only when they do business with you.

The life insurer puts all of your money to work for you in your annuity policy. These agents have the business freedom to recommend annuity products from multiple carriers depending on your situation.

Other retirement planners will have an independent contractor relationship with a registered investment advisory company (or, less often, a broker-dealer). This affiliation allows them to take advantage of large-scale company advantages available to clients of a larger firm. By doing so, the planner can focus more completely on you and your needs.

Finally, some planners are “captives” of a registered investment advisory firm, insurance company, or broker-dealer. They are subject to the controls and limitations of that company, particularly as to the products they can use for your account and the fees they can charge.

The limited products available to the captive financial professional may mean that what might be the best product for you isn’t available to that planner.

How Many Clients Does the Retirement Income Planner Have?

You want someone with experience. Therefore, you should expect that your preferred candidate has more than just a few clients.

On the other hand, you don’t want a planner whose book is so large that you won’t get any individualized attention.

Will the Planner Be Available to You?

Sometimes you will want to discuss your retirement plans and accounts with your planner. You may be concerned about market activity. Or you may have recently experienced a good or bad financial change that needs to factor into your plan.

Before choosing someone, think about how frequently you want to be in touch with them and how you would like that contact to work.

This accessibility is another issue to discuss with any potential candidates to ensure that you have realistic expectations of your possible relationship.

Adjusting to Changes

Speaking of potential financial changes, you want to know how your planner is likely to handle any necessary adjustments to your plan.

Sometimes, you may have good changes, like an unexpected inheritance or other financial gains. At other times, the news may be less good when adverse market action forces a reevaluation of your plan.

How will your candidate deal with those changes? How do you want your retirement financial professional to deal with them? The level of consultation for necessary adjustments to your plan is a vital issue for discussion before setting up the relationship.

Some Final Thoughts

As you can see, there is a lot to think about when selecting a retirement income planner. While your initial selection isn’t irrevocable, moving your accounts is somewhat of a hassle.

It’s better to be careful and make a good choice in the first place. The retirement income planner you choose will have a tremendous impact on your retirement. Make your choice thoughtfully and carefully.

Are you looking for a financial professional that is independent and experienced with retirement matters? As a starting point, you are welcome to visit our “Find a Financial Professional” section and connect with someone to explore your options. Please feel free to request an initial appointment to discuss your goals, needs, and situation, and to explore a potential working relationship. Should you need a personal referral, call us at 877.476.9723.

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