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Retirement Planner

What Is a Retirement Planner?

A retirement planner is a financial planner who specializes in helping people to prepare a retirement plan and live out their final years financially secure. As implied in the name, these professionals focus on what the client's needs will be once they stop working. That means ensuring not only that retirees have a big-enough pension to live comfortably, but also addressing other requirements such as estate planning and insurance.

Key Takeaways

  • A retirement planner is a professional who helps individuals prepare a retirement plan.
  • Their job is basically to make sure clients have enough money to live on in retirement and are well placed to overcome any challenges associated with aging.
  • Retirement planners can advise on topics such as Social Security benefits, insurance, estate planning, and how to reduce taxation.
  • In most cases, clients will be charged either a one-off flat fee or, for ongoing guidance, a percentage of assets managed.

Understanding Retirement Planners

Thinking ahead to retirement is critical, no matter how far away it may seem.  People are now living longer and defined-benefit plans are becoming rarer, leaving it up to the individual to contribute adequate funds to survive on what could amount to multiple years without income from a job.

Retirement planners—essentially a subset of the traditional financial planner—are specialized in helping people to enjoy a stress-free life after finishing up in the workplace. Their job is to make sure clients have the right tools in place to overcome any challenges that may develop during this phase of life.

Retirement planner is not an official designation or credential, but rather a title used by financial planners to communicate that they specialize in financial matters concerning this critical phase of life.

A decent retirement planner should have a broad arsenal of expertise. Other than giving you an indication of what retirement income you’ll likely have to live on, they are qualified to advise you on matters such as when to take Social Security benefits, whether to opt for an annuity, how to reduce the amount of tax you pay, which type of insurance you may need, and sensible methods to pass down your valuable possessions to loved ones.

Some retirement planners also deal with the non-financial aspects, including how to spend one's time in retirement, where to live, and when to quit work, to name just a few.

Retirement planners rely heavily on client input and retirement-planning forecasting software, so the plans they create are not a complete predictor of retirement spending or income needs.

As with regular financial planners, the relationship generally starts with an introductory chat. During this meeting, the client will discuss their situation and goals while the retirement planner will provide a breakdown of how much they charge as well as some details about how they operate and address client needs.

If the client is then happy to proceed, a more in-depth meeting will be scheduled. Feedback from this conversation will help to shape the retirement planner’s recommendations and form the basis of a bespoke financial plan.

How Much Do Retirement Planners Charge?

Fees vary, depending on the retirement planner and type of service being offered. Some may charge an hourly rate or a flat fee to draw up a retirement income plan and cash flow projection. Alternatively, if you want ongoing advice and someone to manage your plan on a consistent basis, you may be billed an annual fee and/or a percentage of the assets under management (AUM).

It’s important to ask all retirement planner candidates for a breakdown of their charges and, if presented with two fee structures, to think carefully about the one that best suits your needs. You should also consider other expenses paid on top of the advice, including for the financial products you’ve been advised to purchase.

Financial advisors generally charge in the region of $1,500 to $2,500 to create a financial plan or roughly 1% of assets under management for ongoing portfolio management.

Retirement Planner vs. Financial Planner

Retirement and financial planners are tasked with helping clients meet their current money needs and long-term financial goals. Where they differ is in their focal points. Regular financial planners offer their services to people of all ages. Retirement planners, on the other hand, deal with clients in or near retirement.

This distinction can prove important if you are specifically looking for a professional to get your retirement affairs in order. The needs of older clients and younger ones are very different. Traditional financial planners should be well equipped to steer you on the right path, but retirement planners are specialists in the field and so, in theory, even better qualified to help you reach your later-years objectives.

Opinion on when to hire a retirement planner varies. Some suggest consulting a specialist in this area about 10 years before retirement while others say it’s okay to wait until just before you finish working.

How to Choose a Retirement Planner

Anyone can call themselves a retirement planner, which is why it's wise to look for credentials and references before hiring one.

The most commonly held professional designation is the certified financial planner (CFP). CFPs are bound by rigorous requirements set by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board) and have to pass several exams covering taxes, insurance, estate planning, retirement, and so on before earning this badge of honor.

You could also look for a planner with the retirement income certified professional (RICP) designation. This qualification is issued to CFPs,  chartered financial consultants, chartered life underwriters, and other financial experts who complete an accredited training program focused specifically on retirement income planning.

Other notable job titles include chartered financial analyst (CFA), which is awarded to financial professionals who excel in accounting, economics, ethics, money management, and security analysis, and personal financial specialist (PFS), which is issued to certified public accountants (CPAs) with additional expertise in all aspects of financial and wealth management.

When choosing among qualified planners, you’ll want to find one with experience addressing your biggest needs. Retirement is a loose term and requirements within this age group can vary. You could be seeking an advisor to manage your pension and make sure it lasts—or you may specifically be seeking help with estate planning or insurance.

Once you’ve narrowed down the choice, character becomes a key consideration. Meet with a couple of candidates and opt for the one who impresses you the most, both in terms of expertise and personality. You’re going to be entrusting this person with your finances, so it’s important to feel in safe hands and also feel that you will be comfortable working with the planner. A person who speaks in plain English rather than industry jargon is also a major plus.

What Does a Retirement Planner Do?

A retirement planner helps people to plan for their retirement. Typical tasks include making sure your money is well invested, providing a breakdown of how much you will have to spend, considering which insurance products may be beneficial, reducing tax liabilities, and coming up with cost-effective ways to pass your assets on to your beneficiaries without a hitch.

What Is a Good Monthly Retirement Income?

While it’s true that older people generally have fewer expenses than younger people, a decent income is still necessary. You don’t want to be worried about how to pay your bills when you stop working. You also want to be able to enjoy your retirement and the free time you suddenly have at your disposal. Remember complaining before that you never had enough free time to do anything? With enough funds behind you, retirement can represent a perfect time to finally start ticking off your bucket list.

In 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that the average 65-plus household spends $48,885 per year, which translates to after-tax income of roughly $4,000 a month. Everyone is different, though, and needs vary—as does the cost of living in different locations. One popular theory states that the average person requires about 80% of their pre-retirement income to maintain the same lifestyle during retirement.

How Much Do Retirement Planners Charge?

Financial or retirement planner fees can vary considerably. In 2018, RIA in a Box noted that the average cost for regular ongoing financial advice amounted to about 0.95% of assets under management, bringing total fees up to roughly 1.22%. For one-off jobs, such as creating a retirement plan, SmartAsset reckons you could be charged a flat fee of anything from $1,500 to $2,500.

Article Sources
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  1. SmartAsset. “How Much Does a Financial Advisor Cost?” Accessed Nov. 3, 2021.

  2. CFP Board. "The Certification Process." Accessed Nov. 3, 2021.

  3. The American College of Financial Retirement. "Retirement Income Certified Professional." Accessed Nov. 3, 2021.

  4. AICPA. "PFS Credential Handbook." Accessed Nov. 3, 2021.

  5. CFA Institute. "How to Become a CFA Charterholder." Accessed Nov. 3, 2021.

  6. AARP. "How Much Money Do You Need to Retire?" Accessed Nov. 3, 2021.

  7. The Bureau of Labor Statistics. "A Closer Look at Spending Patterns of Older Americans." Accessed Nov. 3, 2021.

  8. RIA In a Box. "2018 RIA Industry Study: Average Investment Advisory Fee is 0.95%." Accessed Nov. 3, 2021.

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