5 Steps for a Sound Retirement Plan

After World War 2, just about anyone could get a great job that would carry them into retirement, provide a pension and in some cases even health insurance. With a tiny amount of investment strategy, you could live comfortably well into your 70s, 80s and beyond.

Unfortunately, those days are largely over. Retirement can be tricky; do you have enough insurance? Are your investments safe when they need to be and aggressive when they don’t? If you’re on the cusp of retirement or just considering it, here are 5 of the most important aspects to a strong retirement plan.

Living arrangements and estate

Nobody wants to make a will – it’s icky business, even when you’re in good health. It’s necessary, however, to ensure that your wishes are legally bound to be carried out, either after you die or become incapable of taking care of yourself. You want to make sure that your home will remain in your family if necessary, and that if you need to go to a nursing home, you have done some research and picked one out ahead of time.

Speak with your attorney about setting up power of attorney, all the key elements of where your estate will go when you pass away and determining what your end-of-life care will look like. It’s also good to speak with your financial planner about whether nursing home insurance is something to consider. A good care facility can round $3-$5 per month and nursing home insurance can dramatically lower that bill. This also prevents those costs from eating into your estate, should you want to leave money for your relatives.

Income streams

Now that we have the unpleasant business of end-of-life planning out of the way, let’s move onto the fun bits; managing your money. A financial planner can help you determine how much money you’re going to need in retirement and where that money is going to come from. If you’re banking on living off of just social security, you’ll need to figure something else out. The age for SSI retirement continues to go up and the payments have not kept up with inflation. Though many people do live off SSI payments, nobody should have to, so start putting a plan together now.

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If you’re in the middle of your career, open an IRA as soon as possible and start contributing. If your employer does matching on a 401k, make sure you’re maxing your contributions out for that as well. A solid plan will help you take money from the right pots as well; removing money from a traditional IRA too early will cost you tons in taxes, so plan accordingly. Additionally, you’ll need to set up investments that pay over time as well. Something safe like mutual funds are a great way to get roughly 7% on your investment regularly and are far less likely to lose value than other stocks that may pay off more but run a higher risk.


This is about knowing the difference between tax-deferred and tax-free investments and savings. As we spoke about before, Roth IRAs do not tax you on withdrawals but do tax the income going in. Conversely, a traditional IRA doesn’t get taxed until you start withdrawing, and a traditional plan forces you to start taking money out at certain ages. A Roth plan does not.

Additionally, you might consider where you live and the property taxes (if you have any). Without the income of a job, yearly tax amounts can be a bigger deal and a large house that costs quite a bit to maintain and in taxes might not be suitable for you as you age. Considering downsizing to a smaller property with less taxes, or a condo/apartment where you’re not paying any taxes.

This is also the time to speak with your financial advisor or accountant about how your taxes can differ as you age. Take advantage of every single tax break available to you and look into tax breaks for starting your own business as you retire. There’s lots of money out there if you know where to look!

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Insurance coverage

As we age, insurance protects us against the ravages of time. It’s a fact that the longer a system exists, the more likely it is that something will go wrong. Whether this is your physical or mental health, your home, your car or your business, insurance helps insulate us against that ever-growing risk.

Some types of insurance to consider as you age are:

  • Nursing home insurance
  • Extra health insurance – even if you qualify for medicare, medicaid or some other program, extra health insurance has benefits that are worth examining
  • Prescription insurance – this is likely only going to be useful for someone who has underwhelming health insurance or doesn’t want another plan, and who also has a large amount of prescriptions each month.
  • Disability insurance – though anyone who works through an employer who provides benefits probably has some form of disability insurance, more never hurts. We’ve talked about this before, but losing your ability to work and your income stream at the same time can be catastrophic for most people.
  • Loan insurance – if you have considerable loans or you’re cosigned on some (student loans for children or grandchildren come to mind), loan insurance can help alleviate the burden of those loans if you pass away.
  • Funeral insurance – we’re not trying to be macabre, we swear! It’s just something to think about – the average funeral can run over $10,000 and you don’t want to foist that off on your family. Unless you’re super okay with being cremated and having your ashes scattered over a forest, or you have a farm where you can be buried, funeral coverage can save you thousands of dollars.

Your health

Planning to get sick is like planning to to get rained on, but you’d carry an umbrella in one case, so why not the other? You need to ensure you have at minimum your health insurance sorted out. If you have a continued plan through your retirement at work, that’s great, but don’t get cocky thinking that’s all you need. If your pension goes bust because of corrupt or poor management or the company goes under, you can be left treading water. Set up your medicare and look into coverage for retirees through a third-party vendor as well.

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It might also not be a bad idea to open a health savings account, which is basically a savings account that allows you to contribute pre-tax. This means your overall earnings are lower in terms of taxation. A good target is to look at your health plan’s deductible and aim for at the minimum to contribute that much per year. Since everything you contribute is tax-free, and it lowers your overall net income, it can save you money at tax time twice.

Planning is key with any retirement strategy

Speak with your financial advisor, attorney and accountant to set up your will, insurances and get your taxes straightened out. The more proactive you are, the better your outcomes will be when you do retire. Build additional income streams if you can, and understand the how to pay the least taxes while reaping the most benefit. Finally, ensure that your health is taken care of and your estate is planned for in the event of your death or inability to care for yourself.

Do you have any tips for retirement planning you’d like to share that I may have missed?

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