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RETIREMENT PLAN INVESTOR

Use your plan ID (available on your account statement) to determine which employer-sponsored retirement plan website to use:

IF YOUR PLAN ID BEGINS WITH IRK, BRK, 1 OR 2

Visit americanfunds.com/retire

IF YOUR PLAN ID BEGINS WITH 34 OR 135

Visit myretirement.americanfunds.com

Retirement Planning
Retirement planning with clients in 4 simple steps

7 MIN ARTICLE

Retirement has changed. You may have noticed firsthand with retirees you work with, but new research from Capital Group confirms it. No longer a time for slowing down or just sitting around, today’s retirees describe being in the midst of a dynamic modern midlife: a time of reinvention, renewed vitality and deep introspection. They see the future as unwritten and full of opportunity. 


This retirement evolution presents a great opportunity for financial professionals to differentiate themselves, add value and support the goals of their clients. But it may take a bigger-picture view and willingness to delve into new areas of planning. 


Our retirement planning workbook can help. Based on our latest research and feedback we at Capital Group receive from the thousands of advisors we work with each year, our investor-facing workbook, My Best Retirement can be used to start the conversation with pre-retirees and help you gather important information. It’s based on a framework containing four crucial aspects of planning:


Graphic representation of retirement planning framework shows four icons: social, health, legacy and financial. Under the social icon are the words life planning and three questions: What’s most important to me? Where will I live? Whom with I spend time with? Under the health icon are the words health and wellness, and three questions: How will I stay healthy? Where ill I get health care? How do I pay unexpected medical bills? Under the legacy icon are the words values and legacy, and three questions: How do I want to be remembered? How will I give back? What will I give away? Under the financial icon are the words financial planning, and three questions: How much will I spend? How much do I have? When will I take Social Security?

Along with being a planning tool for existing clients, the workbook can be used as an educational tool for prospects. Here’s an overview of the workbook and how to walk through it with investors. 


The only rule: Don’t be afraid to think big and to take some time with this work. Encourage a full, rich discussion rather than simply checking boxes. In fact, the workbook begins with some thought-provoking questions. What do you want more and less of in your life?


Image of first two questions from the My Best Retirement workbook. The first is what provides me with the most meaning in life today? There are spaces to list five things you want more of. The second question is which obligations are least fulfilling in my life today? There are spaces to list five things you want less of.

1. Life planning

Start with the area that often gets planned for the least: daily life. It’s easy to think that everything will fall into place when we don’t have to get up for work each day. But adapting to unstructured time can be a challenge. For those people who derive a good amount of their personal fulfillment from work, or who spend a lot of nonworking hours socializing with co-workers, retirement may feel like an abrupt change of pace. 


To help investors prepare for it, get them thinking specifically about three key questions: What do they want to do, where do they want to live, and whom will they spend time with?  


Image of checklist from workbook titled What’s most important to me? Responses include: stay busy, kick back and relax, have plenty of alone time, be near family, spend time with partner, keep in contact with friends, spend time on hobbies, travel and see the world, have more spiritual time, spend time volunteering, spend time with kids and grandkids, try something completely new, always be learning, continue to work a bit, not work at all, start own business, start own nonprofit.
Image of workbook checklist titled Where will I live? I see myself… The responses include: staying where I am, possibly downsizing, upsizing, relocating (space is left blank to add where to), and not sure.
Image of workbook activity titled Whom will I spend time with? Graphic shows large circle labeled My social circles, with seven smaller circles around it. They are labeled partner/spouse, family/kids/grandkids/siblings, friends, former co-workers/colleagues, fitness buddies, spiritual counselor/parishioners, and other. Each circle has lines where individuals can fill out whom they plan to spend time with in each circle. The source is Capital Group.

Source: Capital Group

Another useful tool is a simple blank calendar. What does a typical year look like in retirement? What are the big-picture plans? And then, getting even more specific, what does a typical day look like? Many retirees in our survey set up rules or routines to keep things lively – and attempted to keep busy calendars full of social events and activities.


By understanding where individuals plan to focus their time and where there are gaps, you can help shore up the retiree’s social and professional circles of support. You don’t have to be an expert in any one area, but you can have a point of view — and a list of names ready to take referrals. Think of yourself as a retirement concierge, someone with connections that extend beyond traditional centers of influence. This may include real estate advisors, mortgage brokers and movers, personal trainers or athletic pros, spiritual advisors and community groups, and more. 


You can also become an expert in thinking like a retiree, by reading the latest books, listening to podcasts, or staying on top of resources that are designed for the modern midlife demographic. For example, the Retirement Wisdom podcast focuses on the changing nature of retirement and the non-financial aspects involved. The Retirement Manifesto blog and book, “Keys to a Successful Retirement,” by Fritz Gilbert, focus on staying happy, active and productive in your retirement years. And resources such as Encore.org and Roadscholar.org cater to modern midlifers looking for purpose and learning. There are many such resources available, and relatively easy to find.


2. Health and wellness planning

Even a small amount of information about your clients’ general health status can provide insight into longevity and Social Security considerations, along with other implications for the financial plan. But if you don’t feel comfortable asking about personal health, helping clients consider general health issues and plan for health care costs can be a valuable service offering. 


One positive finding in our survey is this generation of retirees may be more energetic, active and engaged. Frank, a 66-year-old retiree, put it best: “Biologically and physically, I’m doing things other people can’t do. I run marathons and cycle for long distances. This fills my EVP index – energy, vitality and passion.” 


Our checklist expands on this idea, offering examples of healthy habits that might be included in an “EVP index.” You can review them with clients to see which are most appealing, or which might be a struggle. Aim for a commitment to at least three.


Image of workbook checklist titled How will I stay healthy? Intro text asks individuals to think of retirement in terms of your “EVP” index: energy, vitality and passion, and select three or more you can commit to. Under Energy, the list includes eating whole foods, balanced social choices, sufficient sleep and stress management. Under Vitality, the list includes regular movement/exercise, portion control (eat to 80% full), mental stimulation/agility and positive thinking. Under Passion, the list includes daily activity and routines, social connections, work, volunteering or group activity, and continuing education.

Clients often have questions about health care in retirement: Where will it come from, and what will it cost? The next questions are good reminders of some of the considerations before retirement. 


Even higher net worth individuals need to understand how their current insurance benefits compare to Medicare at age 65, as well as any transitional retirement benefits through the employer or through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). A high-level understanding of Medicare basics is also handy when advising clients approaching age 65. 


Factoring in health care costs is likely part of the retirement planning you do for clients. A few savings and insurance options are highlighted in the workbook: health savings accounts, Medicare supplement plans and long-term care insurance.


Image of workbook checklist titled How will I pay for unexpected medical costs? Introductory text reads: It can be difficult to estimate medical needs and expenses, because future ailments are unknown and the cost of medicine is ever rising. If you’re concerned, consider the following… The list include three items with explanations for each: Do I have a health savings account (HSA)? HSAs let you set aside and invest pretax money, which accumulates over time to pay for medical expenses like deductibles, copayments and coinsurance. Will I get Medicare supplement (“Medigap”) coverage? This insurance, sold by private companies typically for a monthly fee, is designed to fill gaps in Medicare coverage and help pay for costs such as copayments and deductibles. Have I considered long-term care (LTC)? LTC insurance is designed to cover the cost of getting help with daily self-care, like bathing and cooking. But not all LTC polices are the same. Talk to your advisor about existing plans or those you are considering.

All of these plans are better approached with professional advice in mind. Be prepared to have some of these talking points at the ready.


3. Values and legacy planning

This part of the plan lives somewhere between traditional retirement planning and planning for modern midlife. The idea is to define what’s important, and then find ways to support those causes through charitable and estate planning. And defining what’s important starts with a few more “big” questions about how you want to be remembered.


Image of two questions from workbook. The first question is How do I want to be remembered? Three words I want used to describe me are… There are three spaces listed for answers. The second question is What do I have left to do? I will have lived a truly great life if I… There are five spaces listed for answers.

For many people, the answers lie in giving back, either through charitable giving or nonprofit work, community involvement and volunteering. Particularly among individuals who feel they have benefited from a good life, giving back can be a truly rewarding experience. With our simple list of potential opportunities, you can gauge interest in the level of planning the individual might need, where to start or where they may have questions.


Image of checklist from workbook titled How will I give back. Introductory text asks if you can see yourself involved in a charity in the future, what would that be? Would you donate money, time or both? Check all giving opportunities that might work for you. The options listed are charitable donations, donor-advised funds, community involvement/volunteering, and starting your own nonprofit.

Then there are estate tax considerations. More than $11 million as of October 2021, the estate tax exemption is set to fall to about $5 million (as adjusted for inflation) by the end of 2025, and there is talk in Washington that it could happen sooner. This major shift could impact a great deal more of your clients in the future. 


In the workbook, we offer tools individuals can use to transfer a certain amount of assets out of the estate under the lifetime exemption from the gift and estate tax.


Image of list from workbook titled What will I give away? Introductory text explains: Under the lifetime exemption from the gift and estate tax, individuals can transfer a certain amount of assets without being impacted by the 40% estate tax. More than $11 million as of October 2021, the exemption is set to fall to about $5 million (as adjusted for inflation) by the end of 2025, if not sooner. If you want to give assets as part of an estate plan, here are some tools. List includes:   Annual exclusion gifts: Separate from the lifetime exemption as of October 2021, you can give $15,000 per year, per person, without being impacted by the gift or estate tax, making this a convenient way to move assets from the estate. 529 plans: Save tax-deferred to pay for future education costs. As of October 2021, annual maximums exceed $500,000 in some states, but you can save $15,000 per spouse, per beneficiary, under the gift tax exclusion — and fund five years at once. Withdrawals from these accounts are tax-free as long as they are used to pay for qualified expenses. Trusts: Certain irrevocable trusts can be structured to remove the asset from your estate. Roth IRA conversions: Some investors convert traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs, which allows you to pay income taxes now and avoid tax on qualified withdrawals later, including distributions to beneficiaries. Review beneficiary designations: Because retirement assets and insurance policies are distributed by beneficiary designations, it’s crucial to review them regularly.

Anyone giving away assets in an individual retirement account (IRA) should make sure beneficiaries are up to date. This has become more important under the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act, as the stretch provisions for many inherited retirement accounts have been eliminated and replaced by the so called "10-year rule." That means instead of being able to stretch out the distribution of the account over their life expectancies, many beneficiaries will now be required to withdraw the entire account within ten years of the account owner’s death. 


4. Financial planning

To be sure, the financial aspects of retirement are where most advisors excel. Our workbook helps bring individuals into the conversation, first by considering their spending, then listing assets and savings, and figuring where Social Security and other income fits in.


Even a very simple budget can be enlightening. Rather than listing everything you might need or spend, start by thinking of what’s spent today and try to estimate if it will be more, less or the same in the future.


Image of workbook table titled How much will I spend? Introductory text explains: Budgeting can help you get specific about your income needs, and factor inflation and shifting necessities and “nice to haves.” Use this rudimentary estimator to get started. If you think today’s expense will be more or less in the future, note that as well. Table is split in two columns: On the left is What I currently spend each month on average. Listed underneath are essential expenses (such as home, food, utilities, insurance) and discretionary expenses (such as travel, dining, luxury, gifts). There are spaces to fill in expenses next to each. The column on the right is What I plan to spend each month in retirement. Listed under this are simple checklists with four options: more, less, same and not sure.

To help individuals think about a portfolio withdrawal strategy — and about living without a steady employer paycheck — encourage them to pull together a full picture of their assets. As an advisor, you may not always have full access to this information that’s so crucial to building a complete plan. This is one way to start a conversation about asset consolidation.


Image of workbook table titled “How much do I have?” Introductory text explains: To get a sense of where your retirement income will come from, list all personal retirement assets below for you and your spouse or partner. Again, even rough estimates can be used to help provide a clearer overall financial picture. Not sure? Note that here as well. Table lists savings and investments by account type: Company retirement plans (401(k), 403(b), 457, SIMPLE, ESOP, etc.), Individual retirement accounts (IRA, Roth IRA, SEP IRA, rollover IRA, etc.), Investment accounts, Personal savings accounts, and other. There are two columns that can be filed in for each type: Where it lives and Balance. At the bottom is a space to tally total retirement savings and investments.

Of course, it’s also important to consider other reliable sources of income that individuals can expect to receive in retirement. Listing these can help you identify gaps in income or expectations as you plan the future of the retirement investment portfolio.


Image of workbook table titled “What are my reliable income sources and benefits?” Introductory text explains individuals may also have guaranteed sources of monthly income through an annuity or even an employer pension. If you know you have the following sources of income, provide estimates in the table. If you are not sure or don’t know, mark that here as well. Table shows two columns: expected monthly benefits and beginning at age, with spaces for individuals to list their own assets. There are three sources listed: pensions, annuities and Social Security. At the bottom, there is a place to tally total predictable monthly income.

To help put all of the pieces in place, an understanding of Social Security can enhance the service you provide to clients. You can provide facts about the timing of when to begin, how divorce and remarriage factor in, how to weigh longevity versus immediate benefits, and other crucial questions investors have about Social Security.


Chart titled “When will I take Social Security and how much will it be?” Introduction explains you can start taking Social Security as early as age 62, but you will get less in monthly income benefits. You receive full monthly benefits if you begin at full retirement age (FRA). FRA is around 66 for those born before 1960, and 67 for those born after. Wait until age 70 to begin and you’ll get even more — an increase of 8% for each year you wait. Chart illustrates this point based on a hypothetical example of someone with an FRA of 66. At the first eligible age of 62, the individual would receive 25% less than at full retirement age.  At age 63 it’s 20% less, at 64 it’s 13.3% less and at 65 it’s 6.7% less. At full retirement age the individual receives 100% of full benefits. At age 67, they could receive 8% more. At age 68, it’s 16% more. At age 69, it’s 24% more. At age 70, the individual would receive maximum benefits, which is 32% more than what they would receive at full retirement age. The source is SSA.gov.

Source: SSA.gov

Finally, remember to share this workbook with both members of a couple, and encourage them to each complete it individually and possibly together. It helps when couples enter this new phase feeling like a team. While divorce rates are currently at a 50-year low, they are rising among the over-55 set. In fact, about 43% of divorces occur in the 55+ age group, according to recent U.S. Census Bureau data. A shared vision or mutual expectations for retirement may help mitigate some of this marital discord, and identifying any rifts now can only help make the plan stronger. 


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