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Take stock today to plan your retirement: Marchand

By Tony Poland, AdvocateDaily.com Associate Editor

Taking stock of how you live today can help you develop a plan for your retirement years, says Dawn Marchand, vice-president of marketing, product and direct distribution for Lawyers Financial, which offers insurance and investment products to lawyers, their families and staff.

“You have to look at how you spend today to determine what you’re going to need in retirement,” says Marchand. “We’ll spend weeks picking out a new TV or car, go to four different stores to pick out a new pair of shoes, but we don’t spend much time looking at our own finances, and it's because we don’t want to. Many find it daunting.”

She says lawyers usually don’t give much thought to their retirement plans until they are in their 40s or 50s.

“And, most lawyers will likely have a need for high income in retirement to maintain their lifestyle and family obligations,” Marchand tells AdvocateDaily.com.

Like most people, those in the legal community should start planning early because their “needs before and after retirement could be vastly different,” she says.

“The reality is people think they need a whole bunch of money but really haven’t looked at what they realistically might require,” Marchand says.

She says Lawyers Financial can help steer lawyers and legal staff on the right path to planning for retirement. And the first thing she recommends is figuring out your present expenses and what you would like to do at the end of your career.

“What you want to be able to do is go to your adviser with some idea about how much you spend today and how that might change in retirement. Your adviser can point out a number of things that will probably change in retirement that you hadn’t thought of,” Marchand says.

“A lawyer’s most valuable asset is time, and so in order to really nail this, you’ve got to invest some time to figure out your current situation.”

She explains that it’s human nature to put retirement in the back of your mind since “you’re busy living in the moment.” However, it’s important to take stock of your current fixed and flexible expenses.

“You want to start thinking what would be different in retirement, what are some of the potential cuts to my expenses, and what are some of the potential adds,” Marchand says. “What do you see yourself doing in retirement? Do you see yourself travelling the world? Volunteering close to home? There are many different questions you should ask yourself before meeting with your adviser and say, ‘OK, here’s what I know.’”

She says the question many people struggle with about retirement is how much money they will need annually.

“There are some questions you can’t answer. For example, nobody knows how long they’re going to live. I think another concern for people is figuring out what health-care costs are going to be. That’s why it’s good to talk to an adviser,” Marchand says.

She also recommends discussing retirement with your peer group.

“It’s good to talk to other people in your social circle. Nobody likes discussing money, but people will talk about retirement because everybody is wondering the same thing,” Marchand says.

“They’ll all have the same questions. We tend to hang around with people who are like us, so you can get an idea about how much they think they’re going to need in retirement. Just go around the table and see what people are thinking.”

She says it’s not only a matter of accumulating wealth, but it’s also important to consider how you are going to spend it in retirement to maximize your savings.

The first thing Marchand suggests is taking “six to 12 months of bank statements and credit card statements and use a highlighter to identify different categories and how much you spend in each.”

“I would suggest going as granular as you can. It’s a one-time exercise, so let’s really see what you spend. Essential expenses would be housing, food, transportation and clothing. Variable expenses are things like cable, streaming services, and gym memberships,” she says. "And don't forget extra expenses such as travel, golf, and charitable donations."

Next, Marchand suggests considering how spending might change after you retire.

“Am I going to have two cars after retirement? Am I going to still have a gym membership? You would expect your clothes budget to go way down, especially if you’re a Bay Street lawyer. You’re not going to need that wardrobe anymore,” she says.

“Once you have this picture, you can meet with your adviser to develop a plan to ensure that your savings are sufficient to fund the kind of retirement that you want and deserve,” Marchand says.

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