The Retirement Jigsaw Puzzle

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As a child, I loved jigsaw puzzles. When put together correctly, all those colorful pieces made a beautiful picture.

The trick is knowing how those pieces went together, and I always found that working from the outside in, building the frame, so to speak, made it easier to make the whole puzzle come together.

One analogy I use when sitting with clients who have come to me for help is when it comes time to start the distribution phase of retirement.

We have two puzzles to put together for retirement planning; the first one is accumulating the wealth and making that money work the hardest to compound and build upon itself, and the second is taking that asset and making sure that the money is working hard to last you a lifetime and at little risk. The second puzzle is where my forte is.

When using the jigsaw puzzle analogy, I ask my clients what their dream retirement looks like, so I have a picture of their puzzle. I ask them what is most important to them, i.e., what the puzzle frame should look like. Most often, it is the preservation of their asset and having a stream of money guaranteed to last them a lifetime. When I ask them what else is important and to rate their answer, I know what a priority is and what would be nice to achieve, but it isn’t absolute.

Once I know those essential puzzle pieces, I can then start putting together the pieces. The framework would be putting some of the assets into a Fixed Indexed Annuity; this gives them the frame to hold the rest together. This is money they can never lose despite what happens in the market, a protected, precise, predictable stream of income that they can never outlive.

The other pieces that might be included in their puzzles might be developing a plan to help pay for long-term care expenses or perhaps an account that can grow with the market while being protected against loss to help take care of rising health care costs and inflation.

Other pieces may include plans to help take care of final expenses, setting up an account to help pay for college for the grandchildren, when and how to take Social Security, a plan to lower their taxes on Social Security, and a legacy plan.

Each puzzle is unique, and every piece must be carefully considered; that is why it is so important to put together a distribution plan with someone who understands the nuances and complexity of planning for a retirement income stream so that none of your pieces are lost. Your puzzle can be put together and secure.

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