What questions should I ask myself when planning for retirement

Planning your finances in retirement isn’t simply about picking the right product. You need to think about what you want to achieve, your goals and ambitions for your future life, so that you can build a financial future with you which realises those objectives. It’s not always easy to do this, and a financial adviser might well probe and prod your inner thoughts better than you can yourself, but here are some questions to get you started when thinking specifically about your retirement.

What does retirement mean to you?

  • Do you want to stop working altogether, keep working as long as possible, or gradually reduce your working hours?
  • Do you have a specific age in mind?
  • Will you want to sell any assets, such as a business or a property?

How do you want to live in retirement?

  • Are there any once in a lifetime dreams you want to fulfil?
  • Have you any plans to move abroad, or purchase a second property?
  • Do you anticipate living in your current house or downsizing?
  • When will you need to generate retirement income and how much?
  • Will you need your income monthly, quarterly or annually? Does it have to be paid on the same day?

How much risk can you afford to take with your income?

  • Do you need to pay specific bills or regular payments out of this income?
  • Does it matter if some or all of your income fluctuates, and goes up or down? How much?
  • If this income was not paid out how long could you last from other sources? What other income sources or assets do you have available?
  • How important is certainty of income, is there a minimum you need to meet?

How much risk do you feel comfortable with?

  • Would you rather take some risk with this income to see if you can get more even if this means it may go down and you could lose it altogether?
  • Is it important for you to retain flexibility accepting this comes with some additional risk, or would you prefer to make an irreversible decision in return for greater certainty of income?
  • Are you more concerned about the risk of inflation eroding the relative value of your money, or investment fluctuations eroding the absolute value of it?
  • Are you comfortable with retaining an ongoing involvement in managing your retirement income, albeit with professional help, or would you rather make a decision and then forget about it?

Preparing for the worst

  • How healthy are you? Do you have any illnesses or any concerns about how long you might live, or require income for?
  • Do you have any future financial obligations to meet, such as debts?
  • Do you have dependants, such as family, who would be reliant on your income when you die? When if at all, would this dependency end?
  • Do you wish to leave an inheritance?
  • Should you need specialist care in later life, do you have any views on what type of care you would prefer?

Whilst thinking about these questions and your forthcoming retirement, there are also a number of factors that you should consider carefully. The decision you make now in respect of your retirement could be irreversible so please take the time to consider the risk factors below.

Risk Factors

  • Your state of health
  • Whether your pension savings offer any form of guarantee
  • The ongoing needs of your partner and/or dependants
  • The effect of inflation
  • Whether you have considered all the options available to you
  • Whether you  will have a sustainable income in retirement
  • What the tax implications are
  • Whether you understand the charges involved
  • The impact on any means tested benefits
  • Do you have debt – how will taking your pension affect this?
  • Are you aware of pension and investment scams and what they look like?

If you can afford a financial adviser, this is the time to pay for one, and they should be covering off all these issues and more with you. Unlike when you have many years of savings to correct any bad decisions made, getting it right really counts at retirement. Hopefully these questions give you a head start either way.

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