By Hagen M. Pruemm
Over the years, I have seen people spend more time planning their summer vacation than planning for the next 25+ years of their lives. Planning for retirement is not very easy, because it is a new and unknown phase of life. You have saved up a certain amount of money and now you need to make sure that it is enough to last throughout the rest of your life. In order to be well prepared for retirement, you should work with a professional who can help you with the transition as well as the setup of a retirement plan. Here are 6 questions you should be asking your retirement planner to assure you are working with an expert you can trust with your savings for the next 25+ years of your life.
1. What designations and licenses do you have?
This will give you some reassurance that the planner you choose to work with went through some very comprehensive training and passed certain exams to receive this designation or certification. For example, Certified Financial Planners (CFPs), Retirement Income Certified Professionals (RICPs) or Chartered Financial Consultants (ChFCs) just to name a few. The licenses they hold will give you information whether your planner can give you advice on securities, insurance products or both. It is also helpful to find out if your planner is a member of The Better Business Bureau (BBB.org) to look up potential complaints.
2. What do you charge for your services?
Some advisors charge a planning fee. If so, you should know how much you can expect to pay for your plan. You should also know whether your planner charges a certain percentage for assets under management, or if they receive a commission for the sale of certain products. Make sure to find out if those are one time fees or if they are ongoing to avoid future issues on this topic.
3. What services does your firm offer?
Some planners only give financial advice on your investments while others offer a more comprehensive approach. Retirement planning is more than just managing ones financial portfolio. Other important aspects for retirement are estate planning, long term care planning as well as finding the right health insurance program. It would be advantageous to work with a firm that can provide you with advice on all aspects.
4. Could I take a look at a sample retirement plan?
Even though there will be differences in each retirement plan this will give you a general idea what all is included. It will be a good indicator on how detailed your advisor is. This is also a great opportunity for you to ask questions on the parts of the plan that you have difficulties understanding.
5. Will I always be dealing directly with you?
The answer to this may be different from one advisor to another. Some advisors like to delegate certain accounts to other members on their team after the initial meeting. Other advisors are always meeting with their clients in person. The frequency of meetings may vary with certain circumstances, but you should at least be able to sit down with your planner once a year. In my case, I have a team of professionals in my office that can also help clients with their insurance needs, and we include them in our annual meeting.
6. Why should I be working with you vs. a different planner?
This question will give you insight in what sets your retirement planner apart from the rest. Not just based on the way you are treated the minute you step into his or her office, but also the level of expertise you can expect. As I mentioned before, retirement planning is a very complex subject and it requires experience in many specific areas. While some planners just keep it at financial advice, others take it to the next level, where they can offer you their expert advice on when and how to claim social security in order to maximize it, or they have access to other professionals in their network that you may need, such as accountants or attorneys or insurance professionals. This can be very valuable and time saving for you, so make sure you ask this during your initial meeting.
Hagen M. Pruemm is a Retirement Income Certified Professional (RICP) and President & owner of SIS Financial Group