Documents Needed For Your Retirement Plan

Documents Needed For Your Retirement Plan

In a recent blog post titled, “At What Age Can I Retire,” I discussed the process of visualizing your retirement as the first step towards having a solid retirement plan. So now that you know how you would like to spend your retirement, the next step is to determine if you can afford it. Most folks do not have a good understanding of what their current financial picture looks like not just today, but how things will look in 5, 10 and 20 years. One of the reasons for this is that they typically don’t have financial statements prepared and haven’t done a good accounting of their financial resources in retirement. As a matter of fact, two in five Americans (43 percent) have not spoken to anyone, friends and family included, about retirement planning. What’s more, 21 percent of Americans are “not at all confident” that they will be able to reach their financial goals. Without organizing your entire financial picture, you are greatly increasing the chances of missteps that can cost you in retirement. The biggest reason is that you won’t fully understand all of your obstacles and challenges, making it much more difficult to prepare. By being organized and understanding what your current picture looks like, you will be in position to start planning the retirement that you’ve always dreamed of. Let’s take a look at what documentation you want to collect prior to making any major financial decisions.

Income

Before you can make any decisions, you first need a good accounting of all of your financial resources. One of the biggest resources for most people in retirement are fixed income sources such as Social Security and pensions. You can access your benefit information from the Social Security Administration by visiting their website here. For those of us that have vested pension benefits, you should request a benefit statement from your human resources department to fully understand all of your plan distribution options. Other fixed income sources in retirement can be positive cash flows from rental real estate, annual recurring gifts from parents or grandparents and annuities. You will also want to have a most recent tax return since it’s essentially the master document that summarizes your income and tax liabilities. Understanding every aspect of these income sources is instrumental in determining what income distributions options will be best for your situation. Documents needed:

  • Most recent Tax Return
  • Social Security Benefit Statements
  • Pension Benefit Statements
  • Annuity Illustrations
  • Rental Real Estate Spreadsheets

Assets

Once you have thoroughly identified your fixed income options, it’s time to take a look at what you own and what you owe. In determining what assets you have as resources for retirement, one of the most important factors is to understand how an asset will be taxed upon distribution. For example, taking distributions from a taxable account are subject to capital gains tax rates vs. a tax-deferred account which are subject to ordinary income tax rates.  Details of your investment holdings such as cost basis of securities you own will also be reflected on these statements. Throughout retirement, you will constantly be monitoring the value of these securities as you draw down some of your assets for income needs. You will want to gather these most recent statements:

  • Bank Statements
  • Brokerage Statements
  • Retirement Account Statements
  • Insurance Statements with Cash Values
  • Any other Asset Statements

Liabilities

In addition to your assets, you are going to want to collect statements on all of your liabilities to understand how they will affect your spending needs in retirement. Details such as interest rates, payment amounts, and term of payment will be necessary to know when you begin your analysis. Are there any refinancing or other types of debt consolidation strategies that could strengthen your cash flows? Understanding when amortized debts such as mortgages are paid off will give you a better perspective on how much you can spend during different time frames throughout retirement. You will need the following statements:

  • Mortgage Statements
  • Student Loans
  • Auto Loans
  • Revolving Lines of Credit
  • Personal Loans

Wealth Protection

One of the most common questions I get as a financial planner is how much insurance should one have. Insurance is essentially a transfer of risk to a financial institution rather than self-insuring that risk yourself. We purchase insurance for many types of risks, but it really makes sense to protect yourself against events that have low odds of occurring, but have high consequences. We purchase life and disability insurance to protect against loss of income even though the odds of using these benefits are low. We purchase liability coverage on our homes and autos to protect us against significant personal liability risks. You are going to want to evaluate how much protection is needed from these risks in retirement since these unexpected events can completely derail your retirement plans. You will need to gather:

  • Life Insurance Statements
  • Long Term Care Insurance Statements
  • Disability Insurance Statements if a spouse is still working
  • Auto Policies
  • Homeowner’s and Rental Insurance Policies
  • Umbrella Policies

Wealth Transfer

We all want to ensure that our loved ones are taken care of in the unexpected event of death. If you don’t have a proper estate plan in place, then your assets may be subject to probate, a process where your state determines the distribution of your estate. So having an estate plan and ensuring that all of your accounts are properly titled with the appropriate beneficiary designations is imperative for an efficient transfer of wealth. Some of the documents you want to have in place are:

  • Living Trust
  • Wills
  • Power of Attorney for Health
  • Power of Attorney for Finance
  • Review of all account beneficiary designations
  • Review of life insurance beneficiary designations

While certainly not the most enjoyable part of creating your retirement plan, gathering and organizing all of your documentation is necessary to ensure you have accurate data prior to preparing any of your financial statements. These financial statements such as your Personal Balance Sheet and Personal Income Statement will be crucial in analyzing your financial situation and determining the best strategies in every facet of your financial picture. In my next post, I’ll explain which Financial Statements you will want to put together and how they will help you plan your optimal retirement.



Author: Danny Michael
Danny G. Michael has 17 years of experience as an advisor working with individuals, families and business owners. Danny has also been a Certified Financial Planner™ since 2006 and is also an Accredited Investment Fiduciary.

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