Clients looking over their retirement plan with advisor
Clients looking over their retirement plan with advisor
Financial Health
October 17, 2017

4 questions to ask in every retirement plan

The newly released 2017 Wells Fargo Retirement Study confirms the importance of planning today to ensure future financial security.

As the head of Wells Fargo Retirement and a longtime financial services veteran, I have dedicated much of my career to helping others succeed financially.

However, it wasn’t until my children got older and I was confronted with a challenge many people face — juggling kids in college and helping aging family members — that I really started considering a retirement plan for myself. This involved putting pen to paper and working with a financial advisor to figure out a budget for retirement and create a strategy to make that budget a reality.

Determining how much I would need on a monthly basis in retirement really made me think about how important it is to understand the continued needs I’ll have when I stop working. Every year, during National Save for Retirement Week, we release the findings of our annual Wells Fargo Retirement Study. This year, we asked people in our survey what they’ve considered as part of their retirement planning process.

The results are a mixed bag — and really, they tell me that people aren’t always sure what they need to consider, and many face conflicting financial priorities and demands. The good news is, this means there are opportunities to help people plan for and enter retirement from a well thought out position.

Here are a few questions to consider as you start mapping out your own retirement plan:

When can you afford to retire? It’s important to consider the scenarios based on several possible retirement ages, because even a few years can make a big difference. About a third of the people Harris Poll surveyed for the 2017 Wells Fargo Retirement Study haven’t done this yet.

Earlier this year, I wrote about how planners have the edge in retirement saving, and noted online calculators and other resources available to test various age scenarios and make other planning and saving decisions. The cost of waiting to save for retirement is too great to ignore.

What is your budget for living in retirement? Fifty-one percent of current workers haven’t actively considered developing a retirement budget, but this is an important step to determine what’s needed for expenses and income in retirement, and perhaps even inform when someone can afford to retire.

Almost half (45 percent) of those we surveyed who are employed said they haven’t factored health care expenses into their retirement planning. Considering that 50 percent of retirees found they’re spending more on health care than planned, you may want to examine that cost closely in your budget.

When should you start taking Social Security? Of our respondents, 47 percent said they have not figured out when to start taking Social Security in order to maximize their benefits, but this is a very important date to plan for. Deciding when to start can determine what monthly retirement income will look like, since Social Security funds factor into an overall retirement strategy. In general, start withdrawing from taxable accounts first, and delay Social Security as long as possible.

The Social Security Administration website provides a quick and easy way to explore these questions and estimate monthly Social Security benefits based on different retirement age scenarios.

How will you develop steady, monthly retirement income from your investments? About four out of every 10 (44 percent) respondents in our study haven’t even considered this as part of their retirement planning. But think about this: When you retire and have a nest egg to start drawing from, how much monthly income can you withdraw, and for how long?

Still wondering how to get started with your retirement planning? Visit the Retirement Income Plan Review section of

2017 Wells Fargo Retirement study results infographic