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What’s Included in a Comprehensive Retirement Plan?

4 Min. Read
Couple speaking with a financial advisor about retirement

The goal of a comprehensive retirement plan is to ensure you have sufficient resources to enjoy a comfortable retirement. A comprehensive retirement plan looks at all aspects of your assets and obligations. Projecting your expenses in retirement is the first step in retirement planning. You will also want to analyze what you currently have saved or invested to confirm that you’ll have enough money to fund the lifestyle you desire. Inflation is another factor to be considered in any retirement plan to help ensure you don’t outlive your assets. 

Typical elements of a comprehensive retirement plan include:

  • A retirement savings account (401(k), IRA, and/or pension) 
  • Investments 
  • Social Security 
  • Insurance 
  • Medicare 
  • An estate plan 
  • Real estate 

Here are some things to consider as you take a closer look at each of these components of a retirement plan. 

Retirement Savings 

Typically, one of the most significant assets to be drawn on during retirement is an employer-sponsored retirement account. These are monies that can’t be tapped into until age 59½ without penalty, but after that, they serve much like a bank account, available for withdrawals as needed. Money that remains in the account(s) has the potential to continue growing. 

Investment Accounts

Individual investment accounts can include stock or bond ownership, mutual funds, index funds, and many other investment vehicles. Unlike retirement accounts, they can be accessed and used to cover expenses at any age and are typically funded with post-tax monies.  

Real Estate 

Real estate, such as your primary residence, a vacation home, or an investment property, is an asset that can provide rental income or can be leveraged to provide income through a reverse mortgage.  

“Leading research indicates that the use of home equity in retirement will increase the probability of portfolio survival and increase the legacy to loved ones. HECM loans or reverse mortgages have been called the Swiss army knife of retirement planning since they can be utilized as part of many diverse retirement planning strategies,” says Lynn Toomey, founder of Her Retirement, based in Leominster, Mass. 

To reduce the cost of homeownership in retirement, Christy Matzen, CFP, director of financial planning at New York-based Zoe Financial, recommends looking into whether your state offers a reduction or partial exemption on property taxes owed. She explains that some states, like Texas and New York, offer reductions for people over age 65. 

Social Security 

Social Security is another source of retirement income, which can start to pay out as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. Explains Matzen, “The later you start, the larger the benefit will get. However, starting at age 70 isn’t always the best option because that is a shorter timeframe to receive the income. 

Insurance Coverage

Although many Americans have life insurance to provide for their heirs after they’re gone, it’s health and long-term care insurance that may make the biggest difference in retirement.  

“Many fail to consider aging and chronic illness when planning for their retirement years,” says Chris Castanes, president of Surf Financial Brokers in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. 

According to Castanes, retirement planning is more than just saving until you reach a finish line. “I tell my clients that there are three stages of retirement—the go-go years, the slow-go years, and the no-go years. Long-term care and short-term home healthcare are important pieces to the puzzle.” 

Medicare 

As life begins to slow down in retirement, it’s important to be prepared for the medical expenses that will follow. Many people may not realize it, but according to Matzen, “health care costs are typically the fastest growing expenses in retirement. Medicare premiums are typically deducted from Social Security benefits, so retirees don’t ‘feel’ the expense as much.” 

Still, those premium increases are real and will impact the cash benefits Social Security recipients receive. 

Estate Planning

In addition to providing retirement resources, a comprehensive retirement plan should also include plans for how you will transfer any remaining assets to your loved ones on your passing, ideally with as little tax bite taken as possible. 

By pulling together all of your assets and obligations, along with plans to provide for your healthcare, into one comprehensive retirement plan, your odds of enjoying a comfortable retirement improve significantly. To make the process easier, it’s a good idea to consult with a financial professional, tax advisor, and estate planning attorney to ensure you cover all your bases.