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Financial advisor speaks with his mature clients while reviewing their retirement documents.
Retirement Planning

Use this checklist to help your clients prepare for their annual retirement review

You know that planning for retirement is an ongoing process. Getting your clients started is the most important step, but an ongoing retirement plan review keeps their plan on track. There’s no way to predict how life will unfold, so it’s essential to monitor progress and adjust to inevitable changes and surprises in your clients’ lives.

We’ve identified several key life changes you may need to discuss with your clients during their retirement plan review as they move toward retirement. See why those events are so important, and help your clients stay on top of them with this handy retirement plan review checklist.

Another birthday

With every year that passes, clients are one year closer to retirement. Review Social Security statements with them annually, even if they’re not ready to take retirement benefits. The retirement plan review ensures there are no errors and that clients are not missing out on any survivor, spousal, or other benefits that may be available.

After age 60, it’s time for a closer look at retirement readiness. Find out when it makes sense to apply for Social Security, and discuss whether or not clients intend to keep working indefinitely—employment earnings before full retirement age might reduce their benefits. Also, determine which clients should apply on another family member’s record. Finally, be sure they meet any Medicare application deadlines because applying late can lead to gaps in coverage and higher costs.

Life changes

As circumstances change, there’s a good chance that clients need to update their retirement plan.
During widowhood or divorce, clients’ financial lives can look very different. Find out what Social Security benefits may be available—they might be eligible for a survivor benefit or retirement income on an ex-spouse’s record. Review wills and beneficiary designations, and discuss how options for insurance coverage might change. With a new tax filing status, as well as shifts in household income and net worth, clients need to understand the impacts on their goals and their tax situation.

Health issues can arise at any time. When health declines, clients should take the cue to revisit long-neglected financial matters. Investigate their ability to use Social Security and Medicare benefits, and evaluate all existing insurance coverage (including health insurance and life insurance for loved ones). With higher medical expenses, it’s likely time to revisit client goals and possibly make adjustments. The sooner clients adapt, the less drastic those changes may need to be. Finally, discuss who might be available to make financial decisions if clients lose the desire or ability to do everything themselves, and encourage them to formalize that authority.

Work changes

When clients change jobs, retire or start a business, their finances are bound to change. They’ll need a thorough review of life and health insurance coverage, and they need to understand any tax consequences of their new circumstances. Especially if they take a reduction in income (by investing in a business or cutting back hours, for example), you need to verify if doing so will affect their progress toward personal goals.

Other changes

Life constantly brings surprises. As clients move through life and experience the highs and lows, your job is to understand the financial details. For example, clients might:

  • Sell a home
  • Get married to somebody with a different financial situation
  • Receive stock options or other business interests
  • Inherit assets, including cash, personal property, or real property
  • Take on debt
  • Face additional expenses for any reason

Clients may not know about all of the opportunities and consequences that come with change. Fortunately, broad discussions about your clients’ lives are typically enjoyable—and they help you discover seemingly unimportant events that have a financial impact.

To help clients get in the right frame of mind and understand the value you provide, send this Annual Retirement Plan Review checklist before each meeting.



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