10 Key Items to Review for Your Retirement Checklist


While there are dozens of factors to consider when building your retirement plan, our team of financial advisors in Chesterfield, VA, have put together this checklist of the top 10 items to review so that you can feel more confident with your plan. By reviewing these factors and identifying areas for improvement, you can help put yourself on a better path toward enjoying retirement.

To start, ask yourself the following questions:

1. How much Retirement income will I need each month?

The first part of your retirement plan should involve being able to answer how much income you need in retirement—a number that may differ from your monthly income during your working years.

You can use a retirement calculator for a ballpark estimate or work with a financial advisor to determine a more specific amount. This number will be based on your expenses, ranging from your fixed living expenses like housing costs to your discretionary spending, such as vacations. You should also have a buffer for unexpected expenses.

Once you have a solid idea of your expenses, you can figure out how much income you need to maintain that lifestyle. Rather than thinking about retirement budgets, think about what your monthly lifestyle will look like.

2. What is the order in which I’ll draw from my retirement accounts?

Many retirement plans and retirement calculators focus on whether you have enough money. The answer involves working through a number of items on this checklist, including figuring out how to optimize your withdrawals so you have more cash flow.

You may have several retirement savings accounts, such as a Roth IRA, traditional 401(k), or brokerage account, and you’ll want to engineer a plan that allows you to retain the highest balance as you withdraw from these accounts while minimizing taxes.

These two first items on the checklist are particularly important, so if you have any questions, you can call our Richmond, VA area advisory firm at 804-777-9999. Or text the word “tips” to that number, and we’ll respond to you shortly. You can also listen to Part 1 of our podcast on having a retirement planning checklist.

3. Have I figured out when I should start receiving Social Security?

Figuring out at what age to take Social Security isn’t always straightforward, but it also doesn’t need to be overly complex. By considering factors such as the age you want to retire vs. your full retirement age, your cash flow, and retirement savings, you can generally figure out an ideal time to take Social Security benefits. Working with a financial advisor can help you understand the pros and cons of taking Social Security at different times as part of your overall retirement plan and goals.

4. Have I built longevity risk into my retirement plan?

A key part of building a retirement plan is making sure that you can continue to withdraw from your retirement savings without running out of money during your lifetime.

Although Social Security benefits will continue throughout your life, you will likely need to rely on supplemental income from your retirement accounts and withdraw from them in a way that’s sustainable. You may also need to supplement your income with part-time work so that you can withdraw only investment gains from your retirement accounts, rather than drawing down your principal retirement savings.

The right financial advisor can create a probability analysis of how long your money is likely to last based on your income sources. Having a long-term relationship with an advisor helps because you’ll want to see whether you’re still on track every year, before something changes in your life and you end up on a course where you’re overspending.

5. How will market volatility affect me?

Handling market volatility can be both an emotional and investment consideration.

From an investment standpoint, you may be able to handle volatility in some retirement accounts or in a brokerage account if you have plenty of savings elsewhere to cover your living expenses. If you have more modest retirement savings, you may want to minimize volatility so you can more comfortably withdraw the same amount of income every month.

From an emotional standpoint, you may not want to deal with much market volatility. If you’ve worked hard to build up your retirement savings, you may feel like there’s no point in risking large swings in the value of your retirement accounts. Other people, however, are more comfortable with risk and may be willing to accept volatility to try to increase investment gains.

Some couples may have different risk appetites between them—a difference that should be taken into account. You may find talking with a financial advisor valuable as they can offer an objective perspective. Moreover, going through the other steps of this retirement checklist can help you determine your income needs so you’ll have a better idea on how much volatility you can tolerate.

6. How will I manage inflation?

While many people understand inflation, not everyone consciously considers how it affects their retirement plan. Over time, as inflation causes prices to increase, your retirement income may also need to increase.

 You don’t want to increase the risk of outliving your retirement savings, so you need a plan to afford your daily living expenses, health care costs, and more as inflation pushes prices up. Income sources such as Social Security tend to have little inflation protection, so you likely need to account for inflation in your investment strategy.

7. Am I prepared for potential tax increases?

Currently, we are in a historically low-tax environment, and you should account for the possibility of taxes increasing in the future. In the past, you may have put your retirement savings in tax-deferred retirement accounts such as a 401(k), but since taxes may increase, you should consider whether you would be better off paying taxes now in a Roth account and withdrawing that money tax-free.

We want to emphasize, though, that there’s no guarantee as to which way taxes will go, which is why it can be prudent to have a few types of retirement accounts to spread out your risk.

8. How am I going to meet the cost of health care?

In addition to health care costs like Medicare Part B premiums, you should account for possible expenses like needing a home health aide or living in an assisted living facility if your health changes.

These expenses can be high, such as $5,000–$6,000 per month for an assisted living facility, and you don’t want to put your spouse or other family members in a situation where they use most of their savings for your care.

While long-term-care insurance is an option, that can also be expensive. You may be better off building a buffer into your retirement plan by setting aside more of your retirement savings for worst-case-scenario health expenses.

9. Have I created a legacy plan?

Part of your retirement plan should involve how you plan to pass on any assets to family members or causes you care about.

Doing so is not always so simple. For one, you want to maximize the amount you pass on rather than having most of it go to taxes. Your estate plan will likely change over time, too, as you’ll have births and deaths along the way that can affect your plans.

Consider how you will document your legacy wishes, and who you will work with. Our financial planning firm helps build estate plans by taking a team approach to working with attorneys, accountants, and other service providers to help ensure clients have the resources they need for a comprehensive estate plan.

10. Should I speak with a financial advisor?

The last step on your checklist should be to consider setting up a time to sit down with a financial advisor and talk through these items, as the odds are that there a few you could use some support on. There’s no shame in not having every item on the checklist covered; that’s the reality for many people. But you can help take control by working with a financial advisor to build a comprehensive retirement plan that fits your lifestyle.

By following this retirement checklist, you can help put yourself in a better position to enjoy your retirement while minimizing your worries about running out of money.

If you’d like to discuss this checklist or any other retirement planning questions, reach out to the team at Financial Dynamics for some guidance. You can call us anytime at 804-777-9999, or text the word “tips” to that number, and we’ll be sure to respond to you shortly. You can also listen to Part 1 and Part 2 of our podcast where we discuss this checklist in more detail.

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