Your priorities in planning for retirement

Published 10:44 am Friday, March 11, 2011

The old saying, “There’s more to life than money” applies to retirement as well.

Although having enough to live comfortably obviously is important, how you live your later years may be even more important. Our previous articles have discussed separating needs and wants and determining how to fund your retirement lifestyle.

Now we’ll deal with other factors that will affect your retirement strategy, and the tradeoffs you may have to make between them.

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Research has identified six key priorities most retirees need to think about. In no particular order—that’s for you to decide—they are: Your current lifestyle, your retirement lifestyle, your risk tolerance, your retirement date, unknown risks and benefiting others.

Ranking these six priorities will help you determine if you’re on course and, if not, what adjustments might be indicated.

Think in terms of a list with “extremely important/not willing to sacrifice” at the top and “less important/willing to sacrifice” at the bottom, and see how these priorities line up for you.

There are no right or wrong answers or optimal order to how you rank your priorities. The point is to think about how each one impacts the others and what tradeoffs might be necessary. Your rankings may change over time, as your financial condition or life situation evolves. That’s all up to you—the key is to think about what really matters to you as you approach and enter retirement.

Six retirement considerations

1. Benefiting others

• Do you plan to help the grandkids with college?

• Is there a favorite charity you want to support?

• Is someone relying on you for financial assistance?

• How much money does all this involve—and where does this rank on your list of priorities?

2. Retirement lifestyle

• We all want a certain amount of comfort and discretion in our later years.

• How do you envision your retirement lifestyle—what does an average day look like?

• What do you want to be able to do?

• Once you picture this, you’ll have a better idea of how it ranks.

3. Retirement date

• Assuming it’s within your power to decide, what’s your ideal retirement date?

• If you’re not on track financially and have to work longer, what’s an acceptable retirement date?

• Do you need to take another look at your current lifestyle or expected retirement expenses?

4. Unknown risks

• We can’t know the future, but it’s a good bet you will have some unexpected expenses in retirement.

• Do you have a cash reserve or insurance policy set aside for these?

• If push came to shove, would you dip into this to achieve your other priorities?

5. Current lifestyle

• How important is it for you to maintain your current lifestyle until you retire?

• Are there expenses you could reasonably eliminate?

• Are you saving enough?

• It’s OK if you don’t want to change things—so long as you understand this might impact other priorities.

6. Investment risk

• Understanding your tolerance for risk is a critically important piece of retirement planning.

• Your age, years to retirement, income needs in retirement, and your ability to accept losses all factor in here.

• If you are determined to avoid losses, that has definite implications for achieving the level of assets you need to fund your retirement.

• This is an individual matter, and one you should definitely discuss with your adviser.

Stephen P. Poitevint is a registered principal and financial adviser with the firm of Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC, and is located at 908 Tallahassee Hwy., Bainbridge, Ga., and can be contacted at (229) 246-7208 or