Invest Retirement

The Ultimate Retirement Planning Checklist

Mark Berger  |  March 13, 2021

Check all of the boxes on our ultimate retirement planning checklist, and you’ll be well on your way to a successful, worry-free retirement. 

We talk about preparing for retirement here A LOT. And why do we do that? Because we can’t stress enough the importance of preparing for the biggest financial burden of your life starting right now, no matter what age you are with our ultimate retirement planning checklist. (Yes, even you, Gen-Z.) 

It takes a ton of time and detail to construct a complete financial plan — a simple “how much have you saved” no longer suffices. So, let’s take the first step to a better future, together. Here’s our comprehensive retirement checklist that will help you head into your golden years stress-free. 

Social Security:

Social Security is a well-designed safety net that’s one of our most important retirement assets, but it can also be very complicated, especially for women. Recently, HerMoney sat down with Marcia Mantell, author of “What’s The Deal With Social Security For Women,” to find out how to translate challenging retirement concepts into everyday language. Take a listen here

One of the most important things you need to ask yourself about Social Security is: What age will you claim your benefits? This can range from age 62 to 70 under normal circumstances, but You could end up earning as much as 30% less if you claim too early. The longer you wait to claim, the more you’ll earn per year, but everyone’s situation is different. Talk to your financial planner or a representative from your local Social Security office to find out what you should do. Also, keep in mind that Social Security has historically received a cost-of-living increase, which is hugely important in financial planning for 10, 20, or 30 years in future. 

READ MORE: Are High-Yield Savings Accounts Even Worth it These Days?

Rate of return on investments:

One of the most impactful pieces of your retirement savings is the investment return on your portfolio, so make sure to check that box in your retirement planning checklist. The difference between a 3% rate of return and 9% rate of return can mean more than a decade between possible retirement dates. The most difficult aspect reveals itself when looking at long-term rates of return on investments such as stocks and bonds.

Over 20-30 years, these can be surprisingly predictable, and a good estimate can be made. But there can be 15-20-year droughts in the stock market that will create minimal rates of return over most of someone’s retirement. In other words, retirement cannot be gambled on the timing of the stock market performance, even within a 15-20-year period. Yes, this is frustrating, because you want to earn as much as you possibly can for your retirement, but you can always plan around market dips and fluctuations with the right investment structure. 

Increasing life spans:

People are living longer, and the human life expectancy is continuing to accelerate. This is great, but in retirement planning, an extra unplanned 15 years of life can mean financial hardship if those years aren’t accounted for in your planning.

Investing in a good financial planner who can help walk you through exactly what you need to do to successfully plan for those extra years is a great move, but ultimately, this piece of the puzzle is hardest to account for since none of us have a crystal ball. 

And then there’s life insurance — a great tool to protect your beneficiaries against loss of income if you unexpectedly pass away. But, by the time most people retire, they no longer have high levels of expected income. This is why people buy into a life insurance plan during their working years, but cancel that subscription once they retire. This will free up a few extra bucks in retirement and lower your insurance costs beforehand. Cross that off your retirement planning checklist. 

READ MORE: How Many Bank Accounts Should I Have?


The cost of goods and services hasn’t inflated much in recent years, which has created a historically low inflationary environment. But this can change very quickly. Between 1965 and 1981, prices roughly tripled. If you’re living off of a pension that doesn’t have a COLA (cost of living adjustment) then you may find that in another 20 years, $1 will only be able to purchase, say, $.50 worth of goods. In that case, you’d need to generate much more income than expected in order to live comfortably.

Historically, we’ve seen things like hyperinflation in certain emerging nations, and high inflation driven in the 70’s and 80’s by energy prices in the US. Oftentimes, too much government spending can lead to inflationary pressure as well. It’s important to note that certain types of investments can weather inflationary storms, but others are high risk. Talk to your financial planner about what your “perfect” mix may be as you age. Because while you can’t plan for the price of milk in 30 years, you can definitely block out a budget that will keep your spending in check, and ensure you’re always continuing to save. 

READ MORE: 5 Shrewd Secrets From Women Who Have Fixed Credit, Paid Debt, And Made Fortunes


Many people think they have an idea of how much they spend. In reality, most guesses are significantly off. Numerous expenses – home repairs, streaming service expenses, property taxes – aren’t even considered when someone adds up their total spending picture, but all of these are crucial in a useful financial plan. The best way to calculate spending is by looking at your total income and subtracting major expenses such as your mortgage payment, savings rate, and property taxes. The amount left is your lifestyle expense. 

Measuring lifestyle expenses before retirement helps create a significantly more accurate financial plan. Although it’s commonly said that you’ll spend less in retirement, most people don’t, which is why it’s so important to recreate as much of your income from your working life as you possibly can. 

Financial Planning: 

When in doubt, look to hire a financial planner who can walk you through all the ins and outs of what your long-term and short-term retirement strategies should be. Our clients at Berger Financial Group find that sharing a relationship with their individual financial planner before and after retiring provides ease of mind and lower stress long-term… And less stress is something we can all agree is a good thing, no matter what we want our retirement years to look like! 


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