More often than I’d care to think, couples forfeit tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars by not coordinating their Social Security benefits or claiming them too early. I understand the instinct to grab the benefit and run with it early. However, that typical baby-boomer, gratification-now impulse will in time be costly in forfeited benefits and maybe even higher taxes.
Finally, we might just want to revise our idea of what a financial planner is and the value a good one could bring to clarifying the perspective on our financial future. All too often, many of us see financial advisers as folks who manage our money for a fee. Some do manage money and always there is a fee. But if we’re looking for clarity about the path we’re on toward retirement and want to be sure our money will last, then investing alone will not be our answer. So we may wish to stress finding a planner.
In the 20-plus years I’ve been advising individuals and couples, the greatest value I’ve offered is a plain, simple, easy-to-implement retirement road map. So, those daunting piles of indecipherable investment statements ... what’s in them or not in them may not be as important as our spending and savings habits and an understanding of the non-investment risks to a well-planned retirement, to a comfortable retirement.
So, this season, as working our taxes may possibly stir uneasy thoughts about our financial future, let’s avoid the risk to escape to Florida before we’ve made the decision to work on a way to build more financial confidence in ourselves. Let’s avoid letting another year pass before taking a hard close look, with professional help or on our own, to define what we want financially and determine whether our current assets and habits will get us there.
Donald E. Askey, a fee-only financial adviser and planner with offices in Newburyport and Boston, can be reached at email@example.com.