Last week, in Retirement Planning Risks, I discussed six risks associated with retirement planning in general. In order to understand and appreciate the value and importance of retirement income planning and its associated strategies, let’s take a closer look at retirement asset planning.
As was presented in The Retirement Planning Paradigm Shift – Part 2, the focus of retirement asset planning is on the accumulation and “spending down” of one’s assets. The accumulation phase is common to various financial planning areas, not just retirement, including house purchase planning and education planning, to name a couple. With most types of planning, you’re typically designing a plan for the purpose of accumulating funds for either (1) a single expenditure at some specified, or target, date, in the future, e.g., a down payment on a house, or (2) a series of expenditures for a limited and specified series of target dates, e.g., a four-year college education.
With all types of financial planning, there are two major stages: (1) design, and (2) funding, or plan implementation. Similar to an architect, a financial planner, after consultation with his/her client(s), designs a financial blueprint, or plan, for achieving a particular goal, or series of goals. Assuming that the client approves the recommendations, the plan is generally funded with a single lump sum or a series of payments over a specified period of time, depending on the plan’s goals, the client’s current and projected resources, and various other factors.
With most types of financial planning, when you reach the plan’s target date, you immediately, or over a limited number of years, e.g., four in the case of college education, see the results of your plan. What distinguishes retirement asset planning from other types of planning and adds to the complexity of the plan design and funding strategy is the “spend-down” phase.
Unique to retirement asset planning, the timeframe of the “spend-down” phase is undefined. It can last for less than a year and, although it is unlikely, it can go on for as many as 60 years, depending upon when it starts and a host of many variables.
Unlike most types of financial planning where you get to see the results of your plan after reaching a specified target date, this is not the case with retirement asset planning. As a result of all of the risks discussed in last week’s post, there’s an inherent uncertainty associated with retirement asset planning. Even if you’ve done an excellent job of accumulating what appear to be sufficient assets for retirement, you generally won’t know if this is true for many years.
While retirement asset planning can provide a solid foundation for a successful retirement plan, unless it is accompanied by a customized retirement income plan at the appropriate stage in your life, there is a higher likelihood that your retirement income will fall short of your needs and that the plan, itself, may not succeed.