If your retirement strategy rests on winning the lottery, your odds of success may be low but at least you can easily gauge where you stand. Saving and investing for retirement—now that’s where assessing your progress gets hard. Thankfully, there are many approaches to help you figure out if you’re on track with your retirement goals.
Establish—Or Revisit—Your Goals
You know from your real estate business that you can’t measure progress toward a goal you haven’t defined. Simply wanting to retire someday isn’t specific enough. Consider the age you plan to stop working, the retirement lifestyle you want to lead (and the costs associated with it), the current size of your retirement nest egg, income streams that will continue when you stop working, projected expenses in retirement, and how long you think you may live.
The more details you define, the easier it is to measure your status. And you’ll need this information whether working with a financial planner, using a retirement calculator, or simply talking with your family about your future.
Do You Like to DIY?
If you have the time and interest, you can find a wealth of online retirement information and advice. There are countless articles about determining how much money you need to retire, pros and cons of various strategies to build your nest egg, and so on.
General web searches on phrases that include the word retire or retirement will get you started. Keep in mind that rules of thumb may not apply to you depending on your goals and situation.
Crunch Some Numbers
You can access a wide range of online retirement calculators, most of which are free. Some calculators give you a general idea of your situation after only a few inputs, while others require you to enter dozens of detailed answers before spitting out results.
The more thorough calculators show your chances of reaching your retirement goals and may display year-by-year balances of your nest egg. Some calculators run a Monte Carlo simulation, putting your figures through thousands of hypothetical scenarios to determine likely outcomes for many different market conditions.
One of the most helpful ways to use retirement calculators is to modify your inputs to see how changes affect the outcome. For example, shifting the year you retire or adjusting your savings rate can significantly improve or diminish your chances of meeting your retirement targets.
Many large financial firms (mutual fund companies, stock brokerages, financial planning firms, etc.) offer online calculators that anyone can use—not just their clients.
Hire A Professional
As in real estate, there are professionals who can help you sift through the information and help you achieve your goals. Make sure you understand a financial planner’s credentials. Anyone can call himself a financial planner, but there are designations and certifications that require extensive training and testing.
Also find out if a planner subscribes to a code of ethics and whether that person is a fiduciary. As a real estate license holder, you understand that your fiduciary duty means you must place your client’s interests first. Not all financial advisors are fiduciaries. Those who aren’t must only ensure an investment is suitable for you rather than put your interests above their own.
Finally, inquire about how the advisor charges. Common arrangements include commissions on financial products you buy, a percentage of the total amount of your account under management, flat fees, or hourly fees. If all you want is someone to assess your situation and provide a plan for the future, a flat or hourly fee may work best.
Get Some Tech Help
Automated investing tools have grown in popularity over the last decade. These “robo-advisors” apply algorithms to your situation to try to optimize your investments. After answering questions about your financial situation and investing goals, the robo-advisor performs tasks like building a plan, rebalancing your portfolio, choosing investments, and even making trades.
Fees for robo-advisors tend to be lower than working with a person, and some large financial firms offer hybrid models that combine automated and human advice.
Don’t Forget Social Security
When to start taking Social Security—especially if you are married—can be confusing. There are advisors and calculators that specifically help you work through various Social Security scenarios.
Don’t let long timelines or seemingly unattainable savings goals dissuade you. Planning for retirement and charting your progress will pay off in the long run.