Retirement planning: Ten numbers you need to know


Brad Weber, Regional Director, Retirement Plan Services

When investors or financial planners talk about a retirement number, often it is the amount that you should try to save.

As this year’s National Retirement Planning Week comes to a close, it is an appropriate time to take a closer look at ten important numbers to consider when contemplating your retirement.

  1. Your current retirement account balance. This is the amount you’ve saved-to-date that is just for retirement and excludes illiquid assets.
  2. The number of years you expect to work before retiring. Do you think you will be working another six months or six years?
  3. The amount of money you plan to set aside each year you remain employed.
  4. The number of years you can expect to live. While no one can accurately predict this number, your average life expectancy is a critical variable in retirement planning. According to the Social Security Administration, a man reaching age 65 today can expect to live until age 84, while a woman of the same age can expect to live until 86. Tools such as the Living to 100, or the more simplified LifeSpan Calculator from Northwestern Mutual, will generate a prediction based on your responses to lifestyle type questions. The point of this exercise is less about trying to predict when you will die than it is to help you prepare for the reality of a retirement of unprecedented length.
  5. A projected rate of inflation throughout your retirement. As Roddy Marino explained in his recent blog post, even mild inflation over a 40-year span can erode your purchasing power and negatively impact your standard of living. Retirees must continue to invest in risk assets that they can reasonably expect will outpace inflation to retire comfortably.
  6. The amount of retirement income you expect to receive, from all sources, including social security, income on rental property, pension payments, and annuity income.
  7. Your anticipated monthly expenses in retirement. A good rule of thumb in thinking about future expenses is to take a hard look at your existing expense structure. While some may disappear or decrease significantly, you may find them being replaced by other expenses. For example, instead of daily commuter costs you may take longer trips so overall transportation expenses may not fluctuate that much.
  8. The percentage of stocks vs. bonds in your portfolio. You should know your portfolio allocation, and its associated level of investment risk. Throughout your retirement, your portfolio will have to provide both income and growth to maintain your purchasing power and support your lifestyle. It’s helpful, however, to know where you stand so you can assess whether your portfolio mix will help you achieve your retirement goals.
  9. The amount of financial support you will likely supply to your loved ones. Care for loved ones can play a significant role in shaping your retirement experience. As John Solomon, EVP of our Wealth Advisory group, points out in a recent blog, the number of adult children who provide personal care and/or financial assistance to a parent has more than tripled in the last 15 years. Currently, 25% of adults, mostly Baby Boomers, provide some care to a parent.
  10. Your anticipated medical expenses. Like predicting longevity, it is hard to know how much you will spend on medical expenses in retirement. According to recent estimates by Fidelity Investments, the average American couple spends nearly $260,000 in retirement on health-related expenses, excluding monthly insurance premium costs.

While all of these numbers play a critical role in shaping your retirement experience, probably the most important one you should know is the telephone number of a financial advisor.

An experienced financial advisor can help you manage your retirement portfolio to meet your preservation and growth objectives, establish an income strategy matched to your spending needs, and track your spending versus assumptions. Regardless of the situation, you know that your trusted financial advisor understands your financial history and can help make decisions that are in your best interests.

For over 10 years, Brinker Capital Retirement Plan Services has worked with advisors to offer plan sponsors the solutions to help participants reach their retirement goals. When plan sponsors appoint Brinker Capital as the ERISA 3(38) investment manager, this allows them to transfer fiduciary responsibility for the selection and management of their investments so they can focus on the best interests of their employees.  This fiduciary responsibility is something that Brinker Capital has acknowledged, in writing, since our founding in 1987.

For additional information on National Retirement Planning week from Brinker Capital, please review Frank Randall’s blog debunking common retirement myths.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

You’re Scared to Bring it Up

weber_bioBrad Weber AIF®, Regional Director, Retirement Plan Services

A 2004 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association says that 73% of Americans name money as the number one factor that affects their stress level. Number one. The New York Times reports that couples who reported disagreeing about finance once a week were over 30% more likely to get divorced than couples who reported disagreements a few times a month.1 So, in addition to being stress-inducing public enemy number one, money is also highly implicated in whether or not we stay married. It’s no wonder then that we tread lightly around retirement or don’t bring it up at all!

The most common behavior in response to the overwhelming anxiety of preparing for three decades of not working is that we may ignore the conversation entirely. After all, we erroneously suppose, “If I ignore it maybe it will go away.” As anyone who has ever put off a project can attest, it never goes away and anxiety is only compounded as a deadline approaches. In college this may have been as inconsequential as pulling an all-nighter and receiving a subpar grade. With retirement planning, it could quite literally have disastrous personal consequences.

A recent study by the American Institute of CPAs2 found that speaking to children about money to children was among parents’ lowest priorities. In fact, money issues were trumped by good manners, sound eating habits, the need for good grades, the dangers of drugs, and the risks of smoking in terms of perceived importance. Our reticence to talk about money is certainly not out of lack of need. An Accenture report states that Baby Boomers will leave $30 trillion to their children in the next 30 years. This doesn’t even take into account the almost $12 trillion that MetLife predicts that Boomers will receive from their parents. The fact is, money will be changing hands within families at an unprecedented rate in the years to come and we are ill equipped to make the exchange.

There are a number of reasons why talking about money may be so difficult. One is that there has been a vitriolic reaction against the wealthy in the wake of the Occupy Wall Street movement and the global financial crisis. This sentiment was illustrated quite vividly in the September 24, 2016 Fortune magazine cover article, “Is It Still OK To Be Rich In America?” Another reason for this taboo may have a higher source.

The Bible, the best-selling book of all time and a foundational text for a majority of Americans, mentions money no less than 250 times. While not all Biblical references to money are negative, there are certainly enough references to “filthy lucre” to give pause. To a nation founded on Protestant ideals about work and morality, the notion of wealth as potentially corrosive is one that is deeply embedded in the collective American consciousness.

John Levy, a counselor to people who have recently inherited money found the following reasons for the money taboo among his clientele (as cited in O’Neil, 1993):3

  • Good taste – “It’s just not done.”
  • Fear of manipulation – “It will give them power over me.”
  • Concern for spoiling children – “They will never make anything of themselves.”
  • Embarrassment – “I don’t deserve to be so much better off than others.”
  • Fear of being judged – “All they can see is my money.”

Perhaps some of the reasons above are resonant with your personal situation and perhaps not, but it seems difficult to deny that money is a subject that puts us all on eggshells. Consider a handful of your best friends. No doubt you could tell me much about their lives; joys and struggles, highs and lows. But I doubt if you could tell me their exact salary, savings or other relevant financial indicators, because we simply don’t talk about them. While this is fine in polite company, this tendency toward silence can extend beyond the cocktail party circuit. Conversations about money tend to be emotionally fraught and tinged with shame and as such, are best handled by professionals adept at de-stigmatizing and reorienting our sometimes misguided thoughts about preparing for our financial future.

Solution: Begin a dialogue around retirement preparedness today with a professional at your place of employment or through a trusted financial advisor. Just as silence leads to greater inaction, a simple conversation can lead to life-changing progress.

For 10 years, Brinker Capital Retirement Plan Services has been working with advisors to offer plan sponsors the solutions to help participants reach their retirement goals.  The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.


1 “Money Fights Predict Divorce Rates,” Catherine Rampell, The New York Times, December 7, 2009.

2  “Money Among Lowest Priorities in Talks Between Parents, Kids,” AICPA, August 9, 2012.

3 “The Paradox of Success,” John O’Neil. New York: Putnam, 1993.