We are in our 50s, living in California, and have $2 million in retirement savings. We want someone to tell us whether we can feasibly retire — what’s our best bet there? 

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Question: We are a single income couple in Southern California, ages 56 and 54. We are looking for a fee-only financial adviser to assess our financial situation and provide a one-time consultation regarding retirement feasibility. House is paid off, kid’s education also largely paid off, roughly $2 million in retirement savings plus sizable other assets/non-retirement savings. (Looking for a financial adviser too? This tool can help match you with someone who might meet your needs.)

Answer: Many advisers offer a retirement readiness consultation for a fee — though how this will look and what it will cost will vary. You may want to look for a certified financial planner who works on a per-project basis, using sites like LetsMakeAPlan.org, Garrett Planning Network or XY Planning Network.

One example of how a retirement-readiness consultation might look comes from certified financial planner David Edmisten of Next Phase Financial Planning. He says that at his firm, for initial engagements, you’d start with a 20-minute phone call, which allows their planning professionals to understand the important questions you need answered. This session doesn’t delve into the nitty gritty components of your personal financial picture, rather it serves as more of an educational overview of what the adviser and their company can offer someone in a situation like yours.

Then you’d have two more meetings: “Our first meeting will then be up to an hour, virtually or in person, and we’ll meet to get a precise understanding of your goals, hopes, fears and resources for your ideal early retirement. We’ll explain the documents we need from you to build your plan, and we’ll use the information you share with us to build a customized retirement guide map for your retirement,” says Edmisten. During a second meeting, you’ll receive a unique financial plan that spells out the exact steps the advisers recommend, including action around Social Security, retirement income, tax reduction, investments and other pertinent issues.

While the cost of a comprehensive financial plan varies depending on a variety of factors, certified financial planner Elyse Foster at Harbor Wealth Management, says you can likely expect to pay between $4,000 and $5,000 for a planning-only engagement — though sometimes they are less.  “A flat amount usually makes more sense than hourly as hourly can get expensive,” says Foster.  Though, to be fair, you may want to talk to the adviser about the ability to add on hourly help in case you run into snafus when you are trying to implement their plan.

The fees Foster references are for a comprehensive financial plan, which should include: a net worth statement, cash flow analysis, casualty insurance overview, sustainability analysis regarding retirement income with one or two varying projections for flexibility, additional comments on company benefits and pension choices, a written summary of the plan findings and an implementation schedule for taste coming out of the planning process as well as implementation meetings. (Looking for a financial adviser too? This tool can help match you with someone who might meet your needs.)

All that said, one-time consultations should be treated as a snapshot in time, says certified financial planner Bruce Primeau at Summit Wealth Advocates. “As tax laws change, portfolios go up and down, and retirement plans may need to be adjusted. A one-time consultation can help someone get a good feel for where they stand now but there are likely multiple strategies to consider moving forward,” says Primeau.

Moving forward, Primeau says it’s important to consider whether Roth IRA conversions should play a role in retirement. “Other things to consider include the timing of drawing from pensions or Social Security and how you should be drawing down assets from your portfolio. My point is financial planning is changing on a continual basis,” says Primeau — who notes that you should ask yourself whether you want to be your “own adviser and stay on top of tax law changes, estate law changes, rebalance their own portfolio” or weather you want to “delegate this responsibility to a professional.”  (Looking for a financial adviser too? This tool can help match you with someone who might meet your needs.)

Before committing to a one-time consultation, Primeau recommends getting an initial assessment and having a financial plan prepared. “This will give you the lay of the land and perhaps some recommendations as to what you can do differently. From there, you can decide if the adviser you’re working with can provide enough value to continue working with them on an ongoing basis. Otherwise, you can take the plan and implement it yourself,” says Primeau.

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