We can all agree that uncertainty is prevalent in life. Preparing for these unexpected moments is important – especially when it comes to your finances and retirement.
That's why having a flexible retirement plan is essential at every stage of your life: For the folks in their 20s who are new to the workforce, for middle-aged workers busy saving for retirement, for those at the end of their working years for whom retirement is on the horizon and for those who have recently crossed the retirement threshold.
What do you need to know to get a plan started? Before drafting a plan, first determine exactly what you want out of your retirement. This is harder than it sounds, as the most successful plans begin with specific, tangible goals. Only when you settle on discernable goals can you move forward.
Second, it's a good idea to meet with an independent financial advisor who can be your objective guide. Their experience and knowledge can at the very least provide you with the honest feedback and advice you need to get started.
Once you specify exactly what you want out of your retirement and decide whether you are going to seek help formulating your plan, there are three steps to get the plan off the ground. These steps generally are applicable to everyone, even when accounting for variables such as age, goals and risk tolerance.
No. 1: Be honest with yourself
When formulating a plan, be totally honest in evaluating your financial health and expectations. If you're married, have this conversation with your spouse. Define exactly what you're looking to accomplish in retirement, why you're motivated to save for retirement and flesh out any concerns or questions. An important part of this process is to be emotionally attached to what you're saying. If you're not passionate and emotionally attached to your plan, success will be much harder to achieve.
No. 2: Be committed
While a financial planner can be a helpful guide up to and throughout retirement, it's ultimately on your shoulders to help make the plan a success. You have to do the work, gather your finances, understand the roadmap and be committed to implementing the plan over time. Expect to spend six to 10 hours of your own time in the initial setup process. If you're setting up a plan solely because someone tells you that you should, you're not going to be satisfied.
No. 3: Live out your legacy
We recommend comprehensive annual reviews at a minimum. In between, take time to ensure your plan is adjusting to personal or global economic changes. Think of your plan as your lawn – what happens if you don't mow it regularly, pull the weeds and rake the leaves?
Additionally, a solid plan should include a stress test for unexpected circumstances. Institute a quasi-contingency plan should something awful happen, such as the loss of a job or the death of a spouse. But if you have an emergency, don't stress. Feel confident that your plan can accommodate change and be flexible enough to adjust. You shouldn't dread figuring stuff out on your own or with your planner.
To recap, no one has a crystal ball and can predict what tomorrow will bring. But as long as you institute a flexible, comprehensive and practical plan, your retirement savings will be better prepared to stay on track – no matter how many curve balls life throws at you.
Nick Scheumann is a wealth partner at Hefty Wealth Partners.
him at firstname.lastname@example.org.