A simple Google search for “retirement plan” or “retirement calculator” will provide thousands upon thousands of results.  The number of websites that promise to provide retirement or financial guidance in a short amount of time are plentiful.  The real question is, are they accurate?   As with anything in life, the devil is in the details.  A comprehensive understanding of your personal situation cannot be done in a 5-minute Twitter level analysis.  It does not make sense to have a cursory glance at something as important as retirement.  When considering retirement planning and whether to go alone or with an advisor, please consider the following points:

Are the Plan Results Really Correct?

  • Have you ever heard the saying, Garbage In, Garbage Out (GIGO)? This is more important than anyone realizes when talking about retirement plans spanning 30+ years.   A slight miscalculation can mean the difference between a successful plan and low spending in retirement.  Simple online retirement calculators are high level estimates and should not be used to make major life decisions.

Advanced Scenario-Based Analysis

  • Modern financial plans have moved far past standard Excel models and back-of-the-napkin calculations. Not only should the retirement plan be flexible and easy to update, it should also run many simulations and stress test the results looking at downside scenarios.  This is not something that can be done easily through a quick calculator or fixed rate of return model.

Emotions

  • The biggest impact on financial and retirement planning has nothing to do with analysis. Emotions and personal experience can heavily weigh decisions as retirement approaches.  Having an unbiased and objective resource can prevent costly mistakes.   Emotions are also amplified the few years around retirement because of the shifting mindset from saving to spending from your portfolio.

Framing

  • Another factor that a financial advisor can provide is the framework for good decision making. What decisions need to be made now?  Which decisions have the biggest impact?  Financial planning, like life, is not black and white.  What advisors do is to help you frame your decisions so that you are able to make the best decision for you.

Missed Opportunities

  • Your financial life is filled with several complex topics including investments, savings, debt, taxes, college savings, Social Security, pensions, etc.  Understanding the relationship between all of the topics is far more complicated, and because of this there are often missed opportunities.  Look to an expert to help you capture those opportunities.