Do you have a retirement plan set for your financial future? How often should you review your retirement plan in case you might need to adjust anything? Life changes or other things outside of our control can take our financial journey in a new direction. Your retirement plan should let you be able to pivot and change course as such things happen.
It’s good to have routine reviews of all aspects of your retirement plan so that you stay on point. Life is dynamic, and those unexpected events can otherwise have a big impact on your financial well-being. If your retirement plan is still on track, that is good news. If it isn’t, your financial professional can help you make corrections that steer you back in the right direction.
Since retirement planning is a moving target, we will go over a few things to keep in mind for your retirement plan review meetings in this article. That will include how often to review your plan, how to evaluate your plan, and when re-evaluation might be a good idea. Whether you are starting to plan for retirement in mid-career or you want to make sure that your current plan is on the right path, this guide will help you evaluate your financial progress.
Reviewing Your Retirement Plan
Why are retirement plan reviews so important? Your retirement plan is three things: a financial GPS, roadmap, and guide. It’s a chance for you to see where you are, where you are headed, and what progress you have made to date.
You wouldn’t travel to someplace unfamiliar without directions. Why should your financial future be any different, especially as stock market swings or a changing economy can affect it? Here are a few things that make ongoing reviews an effective planning approach.
Major life events have a big impact on your financial situation. Getting married, having a growing family, your kids leaving home, or putting a legacy plan in place are among those milestones. A health scare may also prompt going through a review of your current retirement plan.
Anyway, these big life changes tend to switch things up considerably. When that happens, it’s good to schedule a financial review when one comes up and see if your plan still matches up with your needs.
There are also events beyond your control that have a direct impact on your money and overall financial well-being. Of course, markets and economies go through good and bad times.
A market downturn (or worse, market crash) can greatly impact the value of your retirement accounts. Economic crises can affect employment, quality of life when you are retiring, the cost of living, and much more.
When Should You Review Your Retirement Plan?
The frequency of your retirement plan reviews will depend on your individual circumstances. Here are some guidelines to consider:
Regular Financial Reviews
At the very least, it’s good to review your retirement plan at least once a year. Every six months or once a quarter is even better. The ongoing frequency of reviewing your plan will help ensure that not too much time passes in between each financial check-up. It will also help keep your plan on track and be ready to make changes if those are necessary.
Major Life Changes
Any significant life change should prompt a review of your retirement plan. Such life changes may include experiencing health scares, having a growing family, starting a new job, your children leaving home, being laid off, and other pivotal moments. More on this in a bit.
How Should You Evaluate Your Retirement Plan?
When evaluating your retirement plan, you want to look at the complete picture. If you aren’t retired yet, how much have you saved for retirement? How are your investments doing? Is the amount of investment risk in your portfolio appropriate for your age and career stage? Do you need to invest more and take more risk to reach the numbers you need?
When you are near retirement, your plan will look different. How much money will you need each year in retirement? What sort of lifestyle do you want once retired? How much will you spend per year? From where will your retirement income come?
These are all important questions to consider in the context of your retirement plan during your review session. Your plan needs to be tailored to your financial goals, needs, and to align with your life circumstances. Here are a few areas that you might look at during your retirement plan review:
Are your retirement assets adequately protected from market volatility? This area is particularly important when you are getting close to leaving your career and retiring. At that point, holding onto the nest egg that you have built over time is more crucial.
Ill-timed investment losses can greatly reduce your retirement income and, in turn, change your ability to have a comfortable lifestyle. Your retirement plan should be balanced with growth-oriented assets and less risky assets.
Are you saving enough to reach your retirement objectives? Your savings goals should match up with your financial goals and lifestyle expectations in retirement.
Need to save more? You might look for ways to bump up how much you are putting away each month. If you have a workplace retirement saving plan with an employer match, make sure that you take advantage of that. If you are at least 50, you can also contribute more to your retirement accounts with the “catch-up” limits.
Are your investments growing at the rate that you need? Your investments should be working hard for your future. Diversification across a variety of asset holdings can help you achieve the right balance of growth and stability.
Strategies that combine the “safety-first” school of contractual guarantees and efficient allocation across market-based investments might be among different options that you explore. Your financial professional can help you go work through various strategies that make sense for your personal situation.
Debt and Expenses
Debt loads are one of the biggest expenses that you can bring into retirement. They can take up a huge chunk of your income. Are you effectively managing debt and keeping expenses in check?
In your period retirement reviews, you can look at your current progress in paying down debt and what other steps you can take to reduce your future debt burdens. That will free up more money in retirement for the things that you want to spend on.
No matter where you are at in your financial life (working years or retirement), a bucket of liquid money for emergency expenses is critical. Do you have an emergency fund in place to handle unforeseen expenses?
Financial experts recommend keeping at least six months’ worth of expenses in your emergency fund. Once you have stopped working, that can go up to 12-18 months’ worth of expenses as you move into later years of retirement. Use your retirement plan review sessions to take stock of how much you currently have socked away in your emergency fund.
Reasons for Re-Evaluating Your Retirement Plan
We already have the scheduled retirement plan reviews covered. Again, what about major life changes? Here are some situations that should prompt revisiting your retirement plan and seeing what should be changed with your different life circumstances. Those include:
- New Children
- Exiting a Business
- Becoming a Caregiver
- Changing Jobs
- Health Changes
- Death in the Family
Using Your Retirement Plan to Determine When to Retire
As you near retirement, your progress towards your goals adds up. In your retirement plan review, it’s time to see whether you are on track to meet your retirement goals. Many factors come into play when deciding when you can retire: your desired retirement age, your expected retirement expenses, the lifestyle you wish to pursue, the retirement income that you expect you will need to pay for it, and where the income will come from.
Ensuring that you have enough income for your entire retirement is the top priority. Of course, that isn’t the only dimension to retirement planning. Don’t forget about healthcare spending, end-of-life care, and legacy planning, as these things become more relevant in the later years of retirement. Your retirement plan should provide you with a clear roadmap for these areas.
The Bottom Line on Retirement Plan Reviews
Regularly reviewing your retirement plan is an important step toward lasting financial security. Life is unpredictable, and financial markets can be volatile. Your retirement plan should evolve over time as those changes arise. Ongoing retirement plan reviews of at least annually and with major life events can help you keep financially on track.
Retirement planning is an ongoing process. Keeping your plan up-to-date and sticking to your plan will help you navigate the road to a secure retirement. If you worry about different aspects of your finances or you would like a second opinion of your retirement plan, an independent and experienced financial professional can walk you through the “what-ifs” that define retirement success.
Many knowledgeable, independent financial professionals who understand retirement issues are available here at SafeMoney.com. Get started by visiting our “Find a Financial Professional” section, where you can connect with someone directly and request a complimentary appointment to discuss your goals and situation. Should you want a personal referral, please call us at 877.476.9723.