49% of workers, according to a 2013 study conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, are not confident they will have enough money to live comfortably through retirement. On top of that, 38% were only "somewhat" confident.
In an effort to better prepare today's workers – or, at least help you start asking the right questions – I've enlisted the help of one of Cetera Financials Top Financial Advisors.
David Elefant is a 25-year veteran of the financial industry and he graciously donated his time to give us seven questions everyone should ask themselves to prepare for retirement.
1. "How long are you going to work for?"
As David mentioned, whether it's over the phone or in person, step one is understanding the client's goals. This should include, perhaps the most important goal, how far are you away from retirement?
Remember, while you can begin receiving social security at age 62, the "full retirement age" – which is the age at which you receive full social security benefits -- for individuals born after 1959 is now 67.
Five years can make a huge difference in an investment strategy, so get clear about what age you plan to retire and whether or not that will include working part-time.
2. "What are you spending?"
When it comes to nailing down how much money you'll need for retirement, it all starts with how much you're spending.
David suggested that even doing something as simple as creating an excel spreadsheet is more than enough to get a feel for what clients may need.
3. "Is there spending you can cut?"
Once you've got your spreadsheet in hand, David noted you should always be looking for opportunities to cut any unnecessary spending – or, to seek out opportunities to earn extra income.
In case, however, you can't fathom reducing any of your current expenses, make sure to at least avoid "10 Common Spending Regrets" as complied by AARP.
4. "Are you accounting for taxes?"
David mentioned when clients are creating a budget for retirement, it's fairly common to forget to account (pun intended) for taxes.
Pensions and investment income (such as annuities) will all be taxed so prepare your budget accordingly.
5. "Will you maintain your home?"
As most home owners are aware, mortgage or not, maintenance and upkeep of a residence can get expense.
So for future retirees, deciding how and where you'll like to live is an essential consideration.
6. "Do you have assets that can be repositioned?"
As mentioned earlier, the timeline for when you plan to retire will have a significant impact on the type of investment vehicles that makes the most sense.
With that said, David mentioned that clients will often have assets (money) that can be more efficiency utilized.
In 2013, for instance, clients willing to better utilize capital, even in fairly low-risk stock market vehicles, would have earned, at least, 6% to 8% -- which is a substantially more than the sub-one-percent interest rates banks offer.
7. "Do you want to take one big trip per year, or five?"
Maybe you want to spend your retirement traveling, opening a small business, or just sitting on the couch and watch TV. Either way, deciding how you want to spend your retirement will have an impact on how you should plan to save.
Word to the wise, if there was just one thing David stressed more than anything else, it was be to be realistic with yourself and your goals.
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