Planning Ahead: Financial Future: 8 Intentional Questions to Ask for Retirement

by Nathan Cherry

Have you ever heard the saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know?” What about, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you?” These pithy sayings remind us that there’s plenty we don’t know. But, unlike the sayings, what we don’t know could actually hurt us.

It’s been said on more than one occasion that asking the right questions is the key to almost anything. If you can just ask the right questions you can avoid harm, or loss, get the promotion, turn a profit, or protect your assets. The question is, “What are the right questions?”

For those nearing, just entering, or firmly in retirement, there’s a set of questions that should be intentionally asked to gain valuable knowledge and resources necessary for a successful retirement. These questions go beyond the typical questions asked by friends and neighbors and get to the heart of being properly prepared for all the twists and turns that come during retirement. 

Here are 8 Intentional Financial Questions for retirement: 

  1. How much can I spend annually each year of retirement? Your annual withdrawal rate can have a significant impact on your ability to stay retired and enjoy the kind of retirement you’ve always dreamed of. You should be reviewing your withdrawal rate annually. 
  2. Will downsizing have a positive impact on my retirement picture? It can often make a lot of sense to downsize your house in retirement. Then again, sometimes it doesn’t make any sense at all. If you have a comprehensive financial planner, addressing the issue of downsizing should be on the table. 
  3. Are my assets properly protected from the numerous risks they face (interest rate, inflation, market, legal)? Your assets are not at risk solely due to market fluctuations. Everything from interest rates and inflation as well as changes in state and federal laws create a level of risk for your assets. When was the last time you discussed your unique and specific risks with a qualified professional?
  4. Are my loved ones protected should my health fade? Everyone thinks they will live forever; it’s human nature. An increasing number of people, however, are experiencing health-related issues requiring ongoing care. If you have not put the right measures in place, your family could face an emergency if you can no longer care for yourself and require professional care. 
  5. Will my assets go where I want when I am no longer here? Most people have very specific family, friends, charities, and organizations they want to leave their assets to. The proper planning can help ensure your assets go exactly where you intend (and avoid places you don’t want them). 
  6. Do I have the right type of accounts set up in light of taxes, legal, and family concerns? Many types of financial accounts and products exist. Some are right for a narrow group of people, while others are helpful for almost everyone. Your circumstances and specific goals play a part in determining the type(s) of accounts you should have established. 
  7. Am I properly insured for now, and the future? Insurance often gets put on the back burner and overlooked year after year. But proper insurance protects assets, leaves a legacy, funds goals, and should be an integral part of a solid financial plan. 
  8. Have all my critical documents and policies been reviewed recently to ensure they are up to date with my wishes and state and federal laws? Documents are put in place and then forgotten. The next thing you know, it’s been 10, 20, or 30 years since they were reviewed. Ex-spouses, siblings no longer living, and kids who didn’t quite grow up are still listed as executors, beneficiaries, and trustees. Critical documents should be reviewed every couple of years (maximum) to ensure they are not outdated or in opposition to newly enacted state or federal laws. 

As you can see, there are many questions needing answers to help create a solid financial plan for you and your family. It may appear overwhelming, but the right team of professionals will be undaunted and easily able to help address each question. 

Don’t wait until a crisis hits, or the situation becomes an emergency, to begin addressing these questions. Work with your team of professionals now while things are easier to address. You don’t know what you don’t know. But what you don’t know can most certainly hurt you. 

Nathan Cherry is a financial adviser and planner with Hicks & Associates in Southern Pines, specializing in comprehensive financial planning and asset management, as well as offering a range of other services. He can be reached at 910-692-5917.