You are not obligated to define your retirement in the traditional sense, which usually means retiring from an income-producing job at a certain age. Instead, you can choose to define what retirement means to you. For some, it will mean no longer working, traveling and other activities that they consider fun. For others it may mean starting a new active phase of their lives, which might mean finally being able to start a new business to focus on their true passion. Whether you choose to take any of these or other paths, the key is to work towards living a happy and fulfilling retirement lifestyle.

Assemble Your Retirement Planning Team
As you get closer to retirement age, working with a team of professionals who can help you to effectively manage your retirement goals and objectives becomes increasingly important because there is less time to recover from mistakes and market losses. The following are some of the professionals that should be part of your retirement planning team. Your Financial Advisor
The level of financial advice, guidance and support provided by financial advisors vary. For instance, some may limit their services to managing investments; some also provide general financial services that include helping you with your budgeting needs, choosing your investments and managing your investment portfolio, assisting you with managing your cash flow and helping you to plan for your retirement.

Your financial advisor should be familiar with the rules that govern your retirement accounts, so as to be able to help you avoid mistakes. Alternatively, if your financial advisor is not an expert on retirement accounts, he or she should at least have enough knowledge to determine when it is necessary to get someone with such expertise involved, and have provisions in place to engage the services of such a professional when needed.

Your Tax Professional
Your tax professional can help you to design and implement efficient tax strategies that allow you to take advantage of provisions that minimize the amount of income tax you pay. Services provided by your tax professional generally include preparing your tax return, helping you decide which type of retirement account is the most suitable for you from a tax planning perspective, and identifying opportunities to reduce income and estate tax.

Your Estate Planner/Attorney
Your estate planner can help you to design an estate plan that ensures your estate is disposed according to your wishes, while minimizing estate tax and related expenses. Your estate planner may help you with creating documents such as wills, trusts, power of attorneys and documents that designate who will inherit assets that you leave behind.

Some of these professionals provide services that extend beyond one area. For instance, a financial planner may provide some services that are typically provided by a tax professional and vice versa. In some cases, it is recommended that one professional have expertise in other areas[EJ1], so as to help identify gaps and effectively determine when other professionals should get involved.

Consider interviewing professionals before making your choice to ensure that they have the expertise needed to effectively manage your retirement planning needs. If cost is an issue, it may be economical to work with a firm that provides all of these services, instead of using multiple firms.

If you choose individuals from different firms, ensure that they communicate with each other, so that they are aware of what is being done in each area of your retirement planning, and that they communicate decisions and changes that may affect areas managed by other professionals. For instance, if your estate planner makes changes to your beneficiary provisions for your assets, those changes should be communicated to the financial professional that manages your tax-deferred accounts so they any required changes can also be made to the beneficiary designations for those accounts.

Next: The Complete Guide To Retirement Planning For 50-Somethings: Check Your Financial Status »

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