The Ultimate Retirement Planning Checklist

The level of detail required to construct a truly complete financial plan is surprising to most people. A simple “how much have you saved?” is not enough to get you ready for retirement. We’ve put together a comprehensive checklist to focus on the most important aspects of assumptions that need to be made before you can retire in luxury.

Social Security

It comes as a shock to many people that Social Security is actually very complicated. The two main assumptions that most people need to make are:

1: At what age are you going to claim your SS benefits?

This can range from age 62 to age 70 under normal circumstances.

2: What types of increases might occur in the future?

Social Security has historically gotten a cost-of-living increase most years. Furthermore, the types of increases that might occur are hugely important in financial planning.  Everyone’s personal assumptions about government deficit, politics, and increasing longevity all impact the future of Social Security income and must be thought about in financial planning.

Rate of Return on Investments

One of the most impactful assumptions that needs to be made relates to the investment return on someone’s portfolio. The difference between a 3% rate of return and a 9% rate of return can mean more than a decade of difference between possible retirement dates. The most difficult aspect of this is that we can analyze long-term rates of return on investments such as stocks and bonds.

Over 20-30 years, these can be relatively predictable, and a good estimate can be made. However, in reality, there can be 15-20 year droughts in the stock market that lead to very minimal rates of return over most of someone’s retirement. Retirement cannot be gambled on the timing of stock market performance, even with a 15-20 year period. While frustrating, it is easy to properly plan for and can be worked around with the right advisors in your life.

Increasing Life Spans

Thanks to modern medicine, people are living longer. This is a great thing, but when it comes to retirement planning, an extra, unplanned 15 years of life can mean financial hardship if not accounted for in your financial planning.

There are ways to manage this risk, such as investing in a good financial planner, but ultimately, this assumption must be accounted for—especially as it continues to change when compared with historical norms.

How to Use Life Insurance in Your Retirement Planning

The basic purpose of life insurance is to protect your beneficiaries against loss of income if you happen to pass away unexpectedly. By the time most people retire, they no longer have high levels of expected income after that point. Therefore, many people should use life insurance during their working years but may not need to keep expensive coverage in retirement. This can increase spendable income in retirement and lower insurance costs beforehand.


The cost of goods and services each year has not gone up by a very large amount, and because of this, we have been in a historically low inflationary environment for a long time now. Many people don’t realize that this can change very quickly. Between 1965 and 1981, goods and services roughly tripled in price. For a person that lives with a fixed pension in a time when $1 can only buy $.33 worth of goods, this doesn’t bode well. It means that someone might need to generate much more income than they expected in order to live comfortably.

Historically, we’ve seen things like hyperinflation in certain emerging nations as well as high inflation driven by energy prices in the US in the 70s and 80s. Oftentimes, too much government spending can eventually lead to inflationary pressure as well.  Certain types of investments can weather the storm of inflation, but others are very much at risk. What to expect in the future is a fundamental unknown, impacting retirement planning greatly.


It’s amazing what answers you get when asking about budgets. Many people think they have an idea of how much they spend. In reality, we find that nearly every guess is significantly off. Many expenses are simply not thought of: home repair, streaming service expense, property tax, and more. A useful financial plan thinks of this assumption. One of the best ways to calculate spending is by looking at total income and then subtracting major expenses such as mortgage payment, savings, and property tax. The amount left is referred to as lifestyle expense.

Measuring lifestyle expense before retirement helps create a significantly more accurate financial plan. Most commonly, we see that people do not spend less post-retirement—therefore, planning to re-create enough income is a vital task.

Financial Planning

In terms of Minneapolis retirement planning, Berger Financial Group has offered valuable guidance and expertise for nearly four decades. Our clients find that sharing a relationship with their individual financial planner both before and after retiring not only provides more peace of mind, but also decreases stress in the long run. A proper financial planner will discuss the items on this checklist with you and help to construct a more comprehensive and intentional outline of what is ahead in retirement. Learn more about how we can help you by filling out the form below.

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