Retirement 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. Now that you know how you would like to spend your retirement, the next step is to determine if you can afford it and what retirement documents you’ll need.
Most folks do not have a good understanding of their current financial picture, let alone how things will look in 5, 10 and 20 years. They typically don’t have financial statements prepared and haven’t estimated their financial resources for 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. You won’t fully understand all of your obstacles and challenges, making it much more difficult to prepare. If you need some help, we’ve got you covered with our Free Retirement Checklist. By being organized and understanding what your current picture looks like, you will be in a position to start planning the retirement of your dreams. Let’s take a look at what retirement documents you will want to collect prior to making any major financial decisions.
Before you can make any decisions, you first need a good accounting of all of your financial resources. You will want to review your most recent tax return since it summarizes your income and tax liabilities. Understanding every aspect of your income sources is instrumental in determining how to create the most the tax-efficient income possible. After all, the less taxes you pay the more you have to spend.
The biggest portion of most retirees’ income comes from 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 with 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 flow from rental real estate, annual recurring gifts from parents or grandparents and annuities. The following retirement documents will contain the information that you need as it pertains to your income sources:
- Most recent tax return
- Social Security benefit statements
- Pension benefit statements
- Annuity illustrations
Once you have thoroughly identified your fixed income sources, 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, 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. So it’s important to understand the details of your investment holdings such as the cost basis of securities you own. 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 the most recent statements from these retirement documents:
- Bank statements
- Brokerage statements
- Retirement account statements
- Permanent life insurance statements
In addition to your asset statements, you will need to collect statements on all of your liabilities. Details such as interest rates, payment amounts, and terms of payment will be necessary to know when you begin your analysis. Are there any refinancing or debt consolidation strategies that could strengthen your cash flows? Understanding when amortized debts such as mortgages will be paid off will give you a better perspective on how much you can spend during different time periods throughout retirement. You will need the following statements:
- Mortgage loans
- Student loans
- Auto loans
- Revolving lines of credit
- Personal loans
One of the most common questions I get as a financial planner is how much insurance one should have. Insurance is essentially a transfer of risk to a financial institution. We purchase insurance for many types of risks, but it makes the most sense to protect yourself against events that have low odds of occurrence, 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 such as litigation. 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
- Homeowners and rental insurance policies
We all want to ensure that our loved ones are taken care of in the event of unexpected 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 of residence determines the distribution of your estate. 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 retirement documents you want to have in place are:
- Living trust
- 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 retirement documents 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. For a complete guide to ensure you don’t miss any important retirement documents, download your Free Retirement Checklist. 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.