The Five Critical Components of a Financial Plan for Retirees (2024)

If you ask 10 people what a financial “plan” is, you’re likely to get 10 different answers. As a financial planner, my biggest issue with financial plans is that they aren’t actually plans. Plans say what you’re going to do. Most of the financial plans I see from other advisers are just projections to see whether you’ll have enough money.

Here’s a primer on the five necessary elements of a good retirement plan, along with some info on how to get them all in place.

1. Multiple destinations (aka goals)

Imagine your retirement as a road trip from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles. Washington is your retirement date. Sunny Los Angeles is the day you die. You’re probably not going to drive the most direct route — there are places you want to see, people you want to visit, things you want to do. Those are your goals.

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2. Gas check (aka, do you have enough money?)

I drive an electric car, so this is not a good analogy for my situation. However, similarly, if I plug a destination into my GPS, it will tell me if I have enough charge to get there. Ideally, I do. If I don’t, I want to figure that out before leaving home so I can juice up. See where I’m going here?

You want to make sure you have enough money before you retire. I advise retirees to look at this at least once per year in retirement, too. If it looks like you are going to run out, you can adjust your goals or go back to work to gas up, hopefully.

3. An income plan

This one is so obvious, but it’s a major gap I see with many prospective clients. You not only need to know you have enough money, but also where it is going to come from. Are you going to pull your money from a bank account or IRA first? When will you claim Social Security? Which pension option will you elect, and how does that impact your spouse? You get the picture.

In this analogy that even I’m sick of at this point, this is the step-by-step route you are going to take. It will and should change as life goes on, goals evolve and tax laws change.

4. A tax plan

The last two components have to do with those two certain things — death and taxes. Pretty much every money move you make in retirement will show up positively or negatively on your tax return. There is a lot of upside and downside opportunity here. In general, you should approach the tax plan the way you shop at the grocery store. A year with low income is like a sale. Pay your taxes by withdrawing or converting funds from pre-tax accounts into a Roth IRA. When you have a high-income year, treat it like eggs at the end of 2022: Do anything you can to avoid buying them. In other words, defer taxes in high-income years.

Think of this like driving an aerodynamic car on your trip. You get no added benefit from paying more than you have to in taxes, just as you would get no benefit from having an inefficient vehicle on your trip.

5. A death plan

This is a depressing way to wrap things up, but I think this terminology more appropriately illustrates the need to have a plan in place for when you pass. Think of this like your car insurance.

As you age, accumulate assets and pay down debts. Your need for life insurance and disability insurance will diminish. Often, this part of your plan should entail figuring out if you’re overinsured and if you’re “right-sizing” your policies for your current stage of life.

Your estate documents also deserve attention. As a general rule, your estate plan should be reviewed every five years, or whenever your situation changes. Proper plans can illustrate how your assets would pass based on what your documents and accounts say.

The how

In my early years, I would print out the 100-page financial plans that would go from the back seat of the car to the junk drawer and then, finally, the trash. I think of these printed, now completely outdated plans, as MapQuest directions. They are good for that one moment in time when you press print. You would be insane to use them instead of a GPS. Good financial planning software, like a good GPS, can easily adapt to current conditions and new destinations. Here are the two options to obtain your plan:

Pay someone. The Financial Planning Association (FPA), CFP Board and XY Planning Network all have good tools to find CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professionals who are educated to build plans like the one above. Beware of other listing services, as many are just pay-to-play endorsem*nts.

Build your own. There is no shortage of free software at this point, but it still isn’t usually the same caliber as what an adviser will use. Both Fidelity and Empower (formerly Personal Capital) have good tools to answer the basic questions of “Do I have enough?” and “Will it last?”

In the adviser world, the three most common software programs are eMoney, Money Guide Pro and RightCapital. Here is a free link to a more limited version of RightCapital that you can use to try building your own plan.

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This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

I'm a financial planning enthusiast with extensive expertise in retirement planning. Over the years, I've encountered various perspectives on what constitutes a sound financial plan, and I share the sentiment expressed in the article you provided. Now, let's delve into the five key elements outlined in the article and explore the concepts involved:

  1. Multiple Destinations (Goals):

    • The analogy of a road trip from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles is apt. Retirement is the destination (Washington), and death is the endpoint (Los Angeles).
    • Goals during retirement are akin to stops and experiences on the road trip – places to visit, people to see, and things to do.
  2. Gas Check (Financial Sufficiency):

    • Comparing financial sufficiency to checking the charge in an electric car or ensuring enough gas for a journey.
    • Regular assessment, at least annually in retirement, to ensure you have enough money. Adjust goals or consider going back to work if needed.
  3. Income Plan:

    • Emphasizes the need to know not just if you have enough money but where it will come from.
    • Decision points such as when to claim Social Security, which pension option to choose, and the source of funds (bank account or IRA).
  4. Tax Plan:

    • Acknowledges the impact of every financial move on tax returns.
    • Advises strategic tax planning, treating low-income years like a sale and deferring taxes in high-income years.
  5. Death Plan:

    • Acknowledges the importance of planning for the inevitable.
    • Compares it to car insurance, emphasizing the need for a plan as you age, accumulate assets, and pay down debts.

The article also touches on the tools to create a financial plan:

  • Financial Planning Software:

    • Recommends using modern, adaptable software akin to a GPS.
    • Mentions options like eMoney, Money Guide Pro, and RightCapital used by financial advisers.
  • Options to Obtain a Plan:

    • Hiring a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional through reputable associations like the Financial Planning Association, CFP Board, or XY Planning Network.
    • Building your own plan using free software, acknowledging the limitations compared to professional-grade tools.

In conclusion, a comprehensive retirement plan involves setting clear goals, ensuring financial sufficiency, establishing an income plan, strategic tax planning, and preparing for the inevitable. Utilizing advanced financial planning software or seeking professional advice are crucial steps in creating a robust plan that adapts to changing conditions and goals.

The Five Critical Components of a Financial Plan for Retirees (2024)


The Five Critical Components of a Financial Plan for Retirees? ›

Retirement planning should include determining time horizons, estimating expenses, calculating required after-tax returns, assessing risk tolerance, and doing estate planning.

What are the 5 components of a financial plan? ›

5 Essential Elements of a Comprehensive Financial Plan
  • Investments. Investments are a vital part of a well-rounded financial plan. ...
  • Insurance. Protecting your assets—including yourself—is as important as growing your finances. ...
  • Retirement Strategy. ...
  • Trust and Estate Planning. ...
  • Taxes.
Feb 9, 2024

What are 5 factors to consider when planning for retirement? ›

Retirement planning should include determining time horizons, estimating expenses, calculating required after-tax returns, assessing risk tolerance, and doing estate planning.

What are the components of retirement planning? ›

Planning for Retirement entails preparing for your future so that you can continue to achieve all of your objectives and dreams. Setting your Retirement goals, calculating how much money you will require, and making investments to increase your Retirement savings are all included in this.

What are the elements of a retirement plan? ›

A good plan isn't just about the size of your nest egg. It's also about how you manage these three things: taxes, investment strategy and income planning.

What are the 5 key components of a financial plan and what are their purpose? ›

The main elements of a financial plan include a retirement strategy, a risk management plan, a long-term investment plan, a tax reduction strategy, and an estate plan.

What is the step 5 of financial planning? ›

Step 5: Monitor and evolve your financial plan

Review your personal financial plan every year or so. Start at the first step to get a snapshot of how your finances are doing, and make any necessary changes to the rest of your plan.

What are 5 key tips for retirement savings? ›

Business | KNOWLEDGE CENTER: 5 key retirement strategies — how to ensure you won't outlive your retirement savings
  • Start Early, Contribute Consistently and Wisely. ...
  • Understand Your Risk Tolerance and Diversify Strategically Across Asset Classes. ...
  • Consider Your Time Horizon. ...
  • Periodically Review & Rebalance Regularly.
Apr 2, 2024

What is the golden rule of retirement planning? ›

Embrace the 30X thumb rule: Save 30X your annual expenses for retirement. For example, with annual expenses of ₹25,00,000 and a retirement in 20 years, aiming for a ₹7.5 Cr portfolio is recommended.

What is the $1000 a month rule for retirement? ›

One example is the $1,000/month rule. Created by Wes Moss, a Certified Financial Planner, this strategy helps individuals visualize how much savings they should have in retirement. According to Moss, you should plan to have $240,000 saved for every $1,000 of disposable income in retirement.

What is the most important step in making a retirement plan? ›

Consider basic investment principles

How you save can be as important as how much you save. Inflation and the type of investments you make play important roles in how much you'll have saved at retirement. Know how your savings or pension plan is invested. Learn about your plan's investment options and ask questions.

What is the 4 rule in retirement planning? ›

The 4% rule limits annual withdrawals from your retirement accounts to 4% of the total balance in your first year of retirement. That means if you retire with $1 million saved, you'd take out $40,000. According to the rule, this amount is safe enough that you won't risk running out of money during a 30-year retirement.

How many pillars are there in a retirement plan? ›

Along with those core components, there are some other key elements to consider in the blueprint, which we refer to as the five “pillars” of retirement planning: Income Planning, Investment Planning, Tax Planning, Health Care Planning and Legacy Planning.

What are 10 things people should do when planning for retirement? ›

10 Ways to Properly Plan for Retirement
  • Calculate How Much Money You Need to Save. ...
  • Save Early and Consistently. ...
  • Find the Right Balance in Your Portfolio. ...
  • Get Help With Retirement Planning. ...
  • Understand Social Security Benefits. ...
  • Know and Live By Your Risk Tolerance. ...
  • Create a Retirement Budget.
Jan 26, 2024

What is the 3 rule in retirement? ›

What is the 3% rule in retirement? The 3% rule in retirement says you can withdraw 3% of your retirement savings a year and avoid running out of money. Historically, retirement planners recommended withdrawing 4% per year (the 4% rule).

What are 3 things to consider when planning for retirement? ›

Here are five factors to consider.
  • Picture your overall lifestyle. ...
  • Keep your family and friends in mind. ...
  • Don't forget about healthcare. ...
  • Get involved in the community.

What are the five 5 financial statements prepared in accounting? ›

For-profit primary financial statements include the balance sheet, income statement, statement of cash flow, and statement of changes in equity. Nonprofit entities use a similar but different set of financial statements.

What are the 7 areas of financial planning? ›

What is Financial Planning?
  • Basics of Financial Planning. Mastering financial, economic and cash flow/debt management concepts.
  • Investment Planning. ...
  • Retirement Savings & Income Planning. ...
  • Tax & Estate Planning. ...
  • Risk Management & Insurance Planning. ...
  • Psychology of Financial Planning.

What are 7 categories of a financial plan? ›

The plan should include details about your income, expenses, savings, debt management, insurance, taxes, investments, retirement, and estate planning.


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