Hiring a Retirement Financial Advisor: How to Find the Right Guide


Are you looking for an experienced retirement financial advisor to help you plan for a secure, comfortable future? Retirement has changed, and planning for it isn’t quite what it used to be. In the past, you worked for the same company for decades and were rewarded with a pension.

Those days are long gone, with pensions now largely a distant memory. People are also living longer, and thanks to advances in healthcare and technology, they can spend up to one-third of their adult lives in retirement.

The question then arises of how to make your money last for all that time. For starters, retirement doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone.

Some want to call it quits with work and enter into a more relaxed lifestyle. Others find meaning in continuing to work, remaining active in entrepreneurship, pursue consulting opportunities, starting their own business, or even embarking on a second-act career. Still, others might want to travel, visit foreign lands that they have dreamed of seeing, or get involved with causes or organizations which they care about.

No matter what, you will want to keep up your lifestyle in retirement. There are many things that can affect your retirement income, including healthcare, rising medical costs, taxes, changing housing situations, and long-term care needs.

The advisor whom you work with needs to understand all of these possibilities and more.

Being a competent retirement financial advisor is about far more than choosing investment strategies and growing your pot of money. It’s about making your money last for the rest of your lifetime, generating reliable income, and providing the resources to enjoy retirement as you see fit.

How Do Retirement Financial Advisors Differ from Other Financial Advisors?

From that standpoint, retirement planning is very different from other financial services that you might work with an advisor on.

It requires a diverse skill set, knowledge base, and real-world experience that is worlds apart from those involved with other areas of financial planning.

So, what does a retirement financial advisor do? In short, they help people plan for their future and then reach their financial goals in retirement.

Up to this point, you saved up and invested money so that you would have options once you were ready to say sayonara to your career. This was during the accumulation phase of life, when we set aside money with the hope of growing it into a bigger nest egg.

In many respects, we can think of the accumulation phase as going up the side of a mountain. Now you have reached the top, and it’s important to protect the fruits of your life’s work and determine how you will turn those assets in lifelong reliable income.

This journey down the other side of the mountain consists of the preservation and decumulation phases. Now that you have spent years and worked hard to build up this nest egg, how will that nest egg work for you to fund your retirement?

How will it provide enough income for your lifestyle, net of fees, taxes, inflation, and other risks? Planning for lifetime income is very different from the growth strategies that you used in years prior.

A competent retirement financial advisor will understand these issues and have first-hand experience in shepherding other clients through them (including in tough market cycles). They will also know how to build a strategy that works for your situation.

What Should You Look Out for When Hiring a Retirement Financial Advisor?

To recap, retirement financial advisors deal with the preservation and distribution phases of life. Therefore, it makes sense to look for someone who specializes in these areas and knows them well.

Your retirement advisor should know how to spend down assets effectively, not focus as much on building them up. You should expect to receive guidance on financial strategies for near and in retirement specifically.

Those areas of focus can include:

  • Retirement income strategies
  • Cash-flow
  • Investments
  • Asset protection
  • Insurance
  • Estate planning
  • Social Security strategies
  • Pension income maximization
  • Charitable giving
  • Medicare & healthcare planning
  • Tax reduction strategies over the long haul
  • Long-term care decisions
  • Planning for surviving spouse situations
  • Post-retirement goals like college funding for loved ones

When done right, the first appointment with a retirement financial advisor will be focused on you and your personal situation. Lots of questions will be asked.

What are your financial goals near and in retirement? What is your timeline for retiring? What do you hope to do in retirement? What sort of financial plan do you already have in place?

What is your current income, and what income do you hope to retire at? What major financial concerns do you have: running out of money, market risk, inflation, taxes, healthcare eating up your income, so on?

Your retirement financial advisor will be looking to ensure you have sufficient retirement income from your financial resources. You might also have other worries that you are seeking help for: managing your retirement portfolio to last your lifetime, providing a legacy to loved ones, or helping others with their own life goals, such as education.

Their recommendations may include annuities to help ensure you have a certain level of guaranteed income for your lifestyle.

You may also see instruments like Treasury inflation protected securities to keep up with inflation, or cash value life insurance as a source of tax-free income, if those are concerns for you.

When Should You Work with a Retirement Financial Advisor?

It’s never too early to start working with a financial advisor, but there is a difference between strategies of saving for retirement and planning for retirement.

Those in their mid-career stage will want to think about meeting with a retirement financial advisor in particular. They are near or in the “retirement red zone,” or the 5-10 years just before you retire and the 5-10 years into early retirement. Taking steps to protect some of your retirement assets so that you can turn them into reliable income streams once you do leave the workplace is crucial.

The retirement red zone is when “sequence risk,” or the danger of investment losses before or in early retirement, can strike. Should you already be withdrawing money from your retirement accounts, you are at higher risk of running out of money if sequence risk also hits your investments.

By working with a retirement financial advisor when in the retirement red zone, you can prepare for retirement on multiple financial fronts:

  • Making sure you have enough money for however long you need it
  • Maximizing monthly income net of taxes, inflation, and other factors
  • Having financial resources to pay for healthcare and long-term care
  • Building income strategies for a surviving spouse should the other spouse pass away
  • Creating financial flexibility and options in how you enjoy your retirement lifestyle

Questions to Ask Your Retirement Financial Advisor Before Moving Forward

The questions to ask a financial professional about retirement can be an entire article in itself. We cover that in depth in this piece on “Questions to Ask Your Financial Advisor here.”

That being said, here are some questions to ask so you can have a gauge of how someone might be able to help you with your retirement planning:

  • Tell me about what you do to help people plan for retirement.
  • What are your areas of specialty for retirement planning?
  • Am I on track financially for retirement? When can I retire?
  • What do you think of my current retirement financial plan?
  • When should I (and my spouse) take Social Security?
  • How long will my money last before I run out?
  • What can we do to make sure we will be okay if something unexpected happens (long-term care, healthcare, unexpected spousal death, etc.)?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of continuing to work and delaying retirement?
  • How can you help me be financially prepared for major risks and emergencies in retirement?
  • What might taxes look like in retirement, and how can we plan for them?
  • How do you help retirees plan for inflation and its long-term effects?

Again, this isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list. You may also wish to come up with questions with your spouse or partner that relate specifically to your financial situation.

Where You Can Find a Retirement Financial Advisor

There are many places in which you can find experienced and knowledgeable, retirement-focused financial professionals:

  • On websites like SafeMoney.com
  • Referrals from social connections/those whom you do business with
  • Financial industry professional associations such as the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA), the CFP Board, and more
  • Local financial advisories that are chamber of commerce members
  • Referrals from your tax advisor, family law attorney, or other professional contacts

Don’t be afraid to interview more than one financial professional for your situation.

This can help you see the strengths and disadvantages of various retirement financial advisors and what they each bring to the table for you. You may want to meet with at least three advisors, at a minimum.

Finding the Right Retirement Financial Advisor for You

Ultimately, the right financial advisor for your retirement planning should specialize in pre-retirement and post-retirement issues. They should know the unique financial nuances of this life stage and how to help you be prepared for them.

But since you are also dealing with your life savings, you should also feel comfortable about entrusting this money to your retirement financial advisor. You may want to do some hard thinking about this.

Can you see yourself working with this person for a long time? How confident do you feel about their competence, knowledge, and ability to communicate with you?

Ask questions, explore your options, and take some time to find the right financial guide for your goals, needs, and situation. You may also want to work with a financial professional who is independent, meaning they aren’t beholden to one financial company and allowed to sell only that company’s products.

If you are looking for different financial professionals to help you with your retirement, many independent and experienced financial professionals are here at SafeMoney.com. You can request a complimentary appointment to explore a potential working relationship. Use our “Find a Financial Professional” section to get started and connect with someone directly. Should you need a personal referral, please call us at 877.476.9723.

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