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The 5 most important retirement questions

These questions are typically the first steps to building a healthy and sound financial plan

Getting (and remaining on) the path to achieving financial wellness and your dream retirement relies much on knowing which questions to ask yourself.

When planning for retirement, of course, you should consider the top questions that investors most often ask their financial advisors.

You also may want to give some thought to the questions that advisers say clients should be asking, but often overlook.

These questions are typically the first steps to building a healthy and sound financial plan.


Here we’ll take a look at the top three retirement questions that clients most often ask advisers, as well as two that advisers say are just as important. Since the pandemic, advisors say that clients have been checking in more often and revisiting their takes on these topics.

QUESTION ONE: How much will I need to retire?

Depending on your own retirement dreams, this could be the $1 million question. Though it could be more, or less, depending on your specific goals, including your needs, wants and wishes, for retirement. In addition to your own goals, it depends on other variables including age, lifestyle and expected income after retirement.


Every financial adviser has heard this question countless times, but each answer is different. According to an example from Fidelity, a good rule of thumb is to have 10 times your final salary in savings if you want to retire by age 67. Fidelity also suggests a timeline to get there:

--By 30: Have the equivalent of your salary saved

--By 40: Have three times your salary saved

--By 50: Have six times your salary saved

--By 60: Have eight times your salary saved

--By 67: Have 10 times your salary saved

Remember, these are only general guidelines. It is never too late to begin saving for retirement. A financial advisor can help you get on track to the retirement of your dreams at any age, regardless of the size of your bank account.

QUESTION TWO: When can I retire?

Answering this question involves considering a list of topics. Begin with this one: When do you want to retire?

For some, the answer is as soon as possible, while others plan to work well into their Golden Years simply because they wouldn’t have it any other way. Still, others may have no choice but to continue working past retirement age, especially given the pandemic’s toll on the global economy.

There is no right or wrong answer. However, knowing your ideal answer can allow you to build the perfect financial plan for you.


Here are some other related topics to consider, from our Retirement Bliss block, an interactive module on the MoneyGuide MyBlocks platform.  This tool aims to enable married couples to plan jointly and have deeper conversations with their financial advisor when planning for retirement:

--Identify expectations and concerns for retirement.

--Examine spending, debt, investments and risk tolerance.

--Consider whether moving or downsizing is the right choice.

--Define the kind of lifestyle you want to live in retirement.

QUESTION THREE: When should I start collecting Social Security?

The short answer: it depends. This question is also highly personal, and there is no one-size-fits-all formula. On the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) website, they break it down into two options: 1) start getting benefits as early as possible with a smaller monthly amount for more years, or 2) wait for a larger monthly payment over a shorter timeframe. The answer will depend on your answers to Question No. 1 and No. 2, as well as your current health, and family longevity history. Our Life Expectancy block helps advisors and their clients explore this topic in depth, covering topics such as:

--How long should I be planning?

--Chances I will outlive my assets?

--Different options for deferring Social Security: pros and cons

Here is an example of what the difference in benefit size can be from SSA’s site: “Let’s say you turn 62 in 2020, your full retirement age is 66 and 8 months, and your monthly benefit starting at full retirement age is $1,000. If you start getting benefits at age 62, we’ll reduce your monthly benefit 28.4 percent to $716 to account for the longer time you receive benefits. This decrease is usually permanent.”

“If you choose to delay getting benefits until age 70, you would increase your monthly benefit to $1,266. This increase is the result of delayed retirement credits you earn for your decision to postpone receiving benefits past your full retirement age. The benefit at age 70 in this example is about 76 percent more than the benefit you would receive each month if you start getting benefits at age 62 — a difference of $550 each month.”

QUESTION FOUR: What should I expect my retirement to look like?

Now we are onto the questions that advisors say their clients should be asking when planning for retirement. You can plan a great retirement, but for it to be realistic and attainable, your plan should also cover what life will be like after retirement. Afterall, many today believe that retirement, as it once was known, no longer exists.

Having a plan in place for things such as what to expect after you stop working full-time, as well as how you should be investing assets in retirement, inflation impacts and other potential sources of retirement income can make all the difference in turning your own vision into reality.


Considering the topics presented for Question No. 2 (When can I retire?) is a great first step in this phase of retirement planning.

Your financial adviser can also help you identify any potential gap that may exist between your “mailbox money” and essential expenses in retirement. This can enable you to plan to cover that gap now – so you don’t have to worry about it then.

QUESTION FIVE: What impact can I have? What do I want my legacy to look like?

Lastly, spending time on this topic now can make sure you make the difference you want to make in the world. It is not often thought of as a fun topic to discuss, but it can be. After all, you can’t take your wealth with you when you die.

In addition to creating a legacy that outlives you, it can make great financial sense to continue making charitable contributions into retirement, especially in light of certain tax laws.

Be sure to discuss this with your financial adviser, as timing can be everything when it comes to building your legacy and planning and living the retirement of your dreams.

The information, analysis, and opinions expressed herein are for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views of Envestnet.

Joe Miller, CFP®, CPWA®, is Chief Operating Officer of Envestnet MoneyGuide. At MoneyGuide, Joe works alongside the President and Chief Growth Officer to advance the organization’s vision, strategic priorities and growth goals. Also in his career, Joe led Financial Planning at UBS, served as Head of Financial Planning at U.S. Bank as well as Executive Director for Wealth Planning at BB&T Wealth. UBS, U.S. Bank and BB&T are MoneyGuide clients.