The Retirement Planning Process

The retirement planning process is intense, and we have people contacting us all the time asking about it. After all, you want to do everything you can to secure your retirement with as few hiccups along the way as possible.

In our recent podcast, we took an in-depth look at the retirement planning process with an A-Z guide on the topic.

We brought our team together to outline everything you need to do in the midst of planning your retirement. Grab a cup of coffee, tea – or whatever you’re drinking – and allow yourself 10 – 20 minutes to go through this guide.

Visit 1: Preparing for a Personalized Introduction Meeting with Our Team

First, we will send over a financial snapshot document to you via email. This is an important document that has a lot of questions about:

  • Current employment
  • Level of income
  • Estimated or current Social Security benefits
  • Pension (if you have one)
  • Expenses

If you’re not ready to share all of your information with us, we understand that you can be apprehensive about giving a stranger all of your financial info. However, for us to provide you with sound advice, we need to know where you stand financially.

We do want to mention that as Certified Financial Planners, we must operate under a fiduciary standard. What this means is that we need to put our client’s best interest above our own. If there’s a property that someone doesn’t want to tell us about or another source of income, it is a major red flag for us.

We can’t do the following without you providing us with a full financial disclosure:

  • Make proper recommendations
  • Understand your true financials

Aside from basic information about yourself, we’ll need information on a lot of your accounts. 

Data Gathering and the Accounts You’ll Be Submitting

Some of the many accounts that we’ll need information on are:

You should understand and provide us with the account information and the specific type of account that you have, such as a Roth or Traditional. We will need to also know your tax status.

We have a three-appointment process.

During your initial sit-down with us, we will need to have a general understanding of your financials and the accounts above. The first visit is a baseline visit where we both determine whether we’re a good fit for each other.

However, we’ll also need some information about your income.

Income Information We’ll Need from You

We need to know what income you have coming in every month, and this will include:

  • Salary, if you’re currently working
  • Social Security benefits (if you are retired and claim them) or what the benefits would be based on your plans
  • Pension 
  • Any other forms of income (sale of a business, rental income, etc.)

On top of your income, we also need to understand what your current expenses are, too.

Expense Information We’ll Need from You

We know the income that you have coming in, but we need to complete this financial picture by also understanding your expenses. Some of the information that we’ll need includes:

  • Mortgage
  • Credit cards
  • Current living expenses
  • Auto loans
  • College expenses for kids, grandkids
  • Goals in retirement
    • Travel
    • Home renovations
    • Purchase a second home
    • Donating to charity

Knowing your inflows and outflows every month is crucial to the retirement planning process. When a lot of clients come to us, they’re close to retirement and are earning good money. Many times, a lot of people don’t know the dollars that are going out of the door.

When you retire, you go from the accumulation phase of life to having to live off of the money you’ve saved.

Often, clients will then start to categorize their expenses and really sift through them. They may even stop paying for things that they’ve been holding on to that they don’t use.

Additional Information We’ll Need from You

We’re still in the snapshot phase right now, and we’re almost ready to move forward to the fun stuff. However, we do need to gather some more data from you, including:

Estate Plan

We’ll need to know if you have an estate plan, a will or a trust. We’ll also need to know where these documents were drafted for you.


Do you do your own taxes or work with a tax planner? 


What are your goals in retirement? Perhaps you have a trip planned around the world or you want to pay for your grandkid’s retirement? We need to know all of this information, too.

During the first visit, we worked to build a retirement-focused financial plan, which is why we need all of this data from you. Once we have this information down during the first appointment, we’ll then move on to the second visit.

Visit 2: Preparing for Your Second Meeting

If you’re a good fit for us and we’re a good fit for you, we’ll move on to our second visit. The second visit does require a bit of preparation, too. However, there’s good news: most of the prep is on our end.

We will need some information for our team, such as:

  • Most recent account statements for your assets
  • Most recent tax returns

Ideally, you will provide us with your most recent tax return and account statements for your 401(k), IRA and so on. Once you hand this over to Taylor, she’ll then start to go through the account statements to:

  • Verify the balance of accounts so that we can make appropriate recommendations
  • Review your account holdings to know exactly what you’re invested in so that we can prepare an analysis of your holdings, along with a risk assessment

Taylor will use the data she gathers to analyze them further to meet your risk goals. We’ll also look through your tax statement to see if there are ways to plan for your taxes better and save you money.

We use a secure portal that allows you to upload all of these documents to us.

Taylor researches this information behind the scenes, but what you see is your:

  • Entire financial plan
  • Step-by-step review of your plan
  • Income and expenses

We’ll have all of this information in our software, where we can instantly make adjustments and also run you through different scenarios. For example, we can visualize what will happen to your retirement accounts if you do buy a vacation home or renovate your home.

Part 1 of the Visit

Our team will walk you through each step of the process, and then at the end of the meeting, we can print or send you:

  • The entire plan
  • Scenarios we went through

We create an in-depth plan that helps answer all of the questions you may have, such as:

  • What happens if you retire early?
  • What happens if you need to enter long-term care?
  • What happens if you live to 95 – 100+?

You’ll receive a lot of value during this second visit, and you’re not even officially working with us yet.

Part 2 of the Visit

Risk exposure is what we cover in the second part of the visit, and there is a questionnaire here, too. The questionnaire is different from what most people have experienced before because it truly makes it clear for people to understand what risk they’re really willing to take with their retirement.

One question we have for you is: would you be okay with losing 10% of your retirement?

When people with $1 million in retirement hear this question, they often think: it’s not that bad. However, how would you feel losing $100,000?

Between our first and second visits, we’ll create a full analysis of your accounts so that you know what your risks are currently.

We’ll also walk you through what the risk is based on investments that you may want to dabble in and then show you:

  • Risk in your current investments
  • Risks we can tame back

At the end of this visit, you go home with your financial plan and the data we collect. We will then come back for a strategy meeting. 

Visit 3: Strategy Meeting

After the second visit, we take some time and then come back for a third meeting, which is all about strategy. You’ll be given a bucket sheet, and this breaks everything down into:

  1. Cash: The amount of cash that you feel comfortable holding. Some people want to have a lot of cash and others do not. 
  2. Safety: The safety or income bucket includes a few different products which will provide safe and reliable income during retirement.
  3. Growth: Money that is in growth buckets will grow during retirement. The funds in this bucket will be liquid, but the goal is to avoid touching this money as much as possible.

Using the three-bucket strategy does one thing easily for our clients: it brings clarity. When we show you all three buckets personalized to you, it will help you visualize your retirement in an entirely new way.

You’ll have a clear view of what money you’ll need in retirement, how your growth bucket will grow and how long your money will last.

For many people, it’s easier to visualize three buckets rather than a 40 – 50-page plan that you never look through. Year after year, we update and adjust these buckets for you so that you can visualize your retirement in a new and exciting way.

At this point, you’ll have a great idea of your retirement and it’s truly just the start of the process.

Now, the next step is to decide if you want to become a client or not.

In an additional episode at the end of next month, we’ll go into more detail on this topic, including what comes next and how we’ll initiate the plan that we put in place.

Click here for our 4 Steps to Secure Your Retirement video course.