15 Essential Questions to Ask Your Financial Advisor at a Retirement Meeting

Are you ready to take charge of your financial future? Retirement is a milestone we all strive for, but it can also be a time filled with uncertainty and confusion. That's why finding the right financial advisor is crucial in ensuring your golden years are as comfortable and worry-free as possible. To make the most out of your retirement meeting and ensure financial security for the future, we've compiled a list of eight essential questions that will help you navigate this important conversation with confidence. From safeguarding your investments to maximizing Social Security benefits, get ready to unlock valuable insights from your financial advisor and pave the way towards a worry-free retirement journey!

Introduction to Retirement Planning

If you're approaching retirement, or are already retired, it's important to have a clear understanding of your financial situation and what steps you need to take to ensure a comfortable retirement. Meeting with a financial advisor is a great way to get started on the road to financial security. 

Your financial advisor should be able to help you understand the different options and make recommendations based on your specific situation. Here are some questions to ask your financial advisor about retirement planning:

Asking these questions will help you get a better understanding of what's involved in retirement planning and how it can impact your overall financial strategy.

1. What are the different types of retirement plans?

There are various types of retirement plans designed to help individuals save for their future financial needs. These plans cater to different employment scenarios and personal preferences. Employer-sponsored plans include 401(k)s, which allow employees to contribute a portion of their pre-tax salary, often with employer matching contributions; 403(b)s, commonly used by employees of public schools and nonprofit organizations; and SIMPLE IRAs (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees), suited for small businesses. Government employees often have access to 457(b) plans. Traditional IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts) and Roth IRAs offer individuals the flexibility to contribute directly from their income. SEP IRAs (Simplified Employee Pension) are favored by self-employed individuals and small business owners. Pensions provide fixed retirement payments based on factors like salary and years of service. Annuities offer guaranteed payments over a specified period or for life. 

Each plan has distinct features, contribution limits, tax implications, and eligibility requirements, allowing individuals to choose the one that aligns with their financial goals and circumstances. Make sure to ask your advisor what the different eligibility requirements are and the benefits of each plan. 

2. How much should I contribute to my retirement plan?

Determining the ideal contribution amount for your retirement plan involves considering a variety of factors that shape your financial situation and long-term goals. Generally, contributing around 10-15% of your pre-tax income is a prudent guideline to aim for, ensuring a steady buildup of savings while maintaining your current lifestyle. If your employer offers a match, it's wise to contribute at least enough to capture that benefit. Age is also a crucial factor – the earlier you begin saving, the more your investments can grow over time. 

For those aged 50 or older, catch-up contributions provide an opportunity to accelerate savings. Balancing retirement savings with other financial priorities, such as debt repayment and emergency funds, is crucial. Forecasting retirement expenses and seeking professional financial advice can help you tailor your contribution strategy to match your specific needs. Regularly reviewing and adjusting your contributions based on changes in income, expenses, and goals ensures that your retirement plan stays aligned with your evolving circumstances. 

3. What Investment Strategies Does Your Firm Use?

When it comes to investing, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The best investment strategy for you will depend on your individual circumstances, goals, and risk tolerance. That's why it's important to ask your financial advisor about the specific investment strategies they use and how they would apply to your situation. 

Some common investment strategies include:

  • Buy and hold: This strategy involves buying stocks or other securities and holding onto them for the long term. The goal is to ride out market ups and downs and ultimately achieve capital appreciation.
  • Active trading: This approach involves buying and selling securities more frequently in an attempt to take advantage of short-term price movements. Active traders typically have a higher tolerance for risk and are more hands-on with their investments.
  • Index investing: This passive strategy seeks to track the performance of a particular market index, such as the S&P 500. Index investors typically have a lower tolerance for risk and are looking for long-term growth potential.

Your financial professional should be able to explain their investment strategies in detail and how they would fit into your overall retirement plan. If you're not comfortable with the level of risk involved, be sure to voice your concerns so that adjustments can be made accordingly.

4. What Are the Fees Associated with Your Services?

There are a variety of fees that may be associated with the services of a financial advisor. These can include:

  • Asset management fees: These are typically charged as a percentage of the assets under management, and can range from 0.5% to 2.0% or more.
  • Financial planning fees: Some advisors charge a flat fee for their services, while others charge by the hour. Planning fees can range from $500 to $5,000 or more.
  • Commission-based fees: Some financial advisors receive commissions for selling certain products, such as insurance policies or investment products.
  • Transaction-based fees: If you engage in transactions through your financial advisor, such as buying or selling stocks, you may be charged a transaction fee. These fees can vary depending on the type of transaction and the financial institution involved.

5. How Do You Monitor and Report on Investment Performance?

Your financial advisor should have a system in place to track and monitor your investments on an ongoing basis. They should also provide you with regular reports detailing the performance of your portfolio.

Be sure to ask your financial advisor how often they will provide you with updates on your investment performance. You should also inquire about the format of these reports, as well as how easy it is to understand them.

It's important that you feel comfortable with your financial advisor's process for monitoring and reporting on investment performance. If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to raise them during your meeting.

6. What Is Your Approach to Managing Risk?

There are a few key things to look for when it comes to risk management. First, your financial advisor should have a clear understanding of your overall financial picture and goals. They should also be able to identify both short-term and long-term risks that could impact your ability to reach those goals. They should have a plan in place to help you manage those risks.

The best way to manage risk is to take a holistic approach that looks at your entire financial picture. This includes looking at both your current situation and your long-term goals. Once your financial advisor has a clear understanding of where you want to go, they can help you identify the risks that could impact your ability to get there. From there, they can develop a plan to help you manage those risks. This might include diversifying your investments, buying insurance, or creating a budget.

7. What Are the Tax Implications of Retirement Income?

Understanding the tax implications of your retirement income is important for proper financial planning and to help avoid common retirement mistakes. Here's a breakdown of how different sources of retirement income may be taxed:

Traditional IRAs and 401(k)s involve contributions made with pre-tax dollars, reducing your taxable income in the year you contribute. Any withdrawals in retirement are taxed as ordinary income, meaning they are taxed at your regular income tax rate for the year.

Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s involve contributions made with after-tax dollars, so you don't get a tax deduction in the year you contribute. Qualified withdrawals (which are distributions from Roth accounts that meet certain requirements) are generally tax-free and penalty-free, although it’s best to consult a tax advisor for professional advice. These requirements may involve holding the account for at least five years and being at least 59 and a half years old.

Social Security benefits: You may see up to 85 percent of your benefits taxed depending on your provisional income (which is your combined income from other sources like pensions and investments). A single filer with a base amount (your total income including Social Security) between $25,000 and $34,000 may have up to 50 percent of their benefits taxed. For married couples filing jointly, this may increase. 

Pensions are generally taxed as ordinary income, although there may be some exceptions depending on your specific pension plan.

Capital Gains and Dividends: Investments that are held outside of retirement accounts are taxed on capital gains—profits from selling investments—and dividends, which is income from stock ownership. Long-term capital gains (meaning they’ve been held for over a year) are taxed at lower rates than ordinary income. Qualified dividends may also be taxed at lower rates than ordinary income. (There may also be a 3.8 percent Net Investment Income Tax imposed on investment income exceeding a certain threshold.)

8. What Happens to My Retirement Account if I Die Before I  Retire?

The future of your retirement savings account after you die depends on who you choose to inherit the accounts as your beneficiary. Designating a beneficiary means they receive the funds directly. Spouses may get special treatment with traditional accounts, potentially delaying taxes. For Roth accounts, qualified withdrawals may be tax-free for beneficiaries. 

If you do not designate a beneficiary, your 401(k) automatically goes to your spouse. If you’re unmarried and don’t have a beneficiary, then your retirement account may become part of your estate and can go through probate, which is a legal process to distribute assets once you die.

It’s advised to designate a beneficiary while you’re alive, keep your information current, and consult a financial advisor to align beneficiary designations with your overall estate plan.

9. What Type of Clients Do You Typically Work With?

This answer will vary from advisor to advisor based on a number of different factors, including location and specialty. The important thing to know is that when choosing a financial advisor, consider their compatibility with your financial situation and goals. 

For example, a retirement planning specialist might say they work with individuals nearing retirement who want to secure their financial future. Some might be happy to guide beginners, while others prefer clients with more complex financial knowledge. Their response should help you determine if their approach aligns with your financial needs and investment comfort level.

10. Do You Have Experience Working With Clients in My Situation?

Everyone’s situation is different and if an advisor does have clients in a similar situation as you, they may acknowledge that. But it won't be just a simple yes or no answer. Instead, they'll give you a response that builds trust and shows their expertise. They may connect your experience with similar client concerns and offer anonymized examples of how they helped past clients. You’ll want to consider their answer when it comes to solutions to your situation because you’re ultimately there for your financial well-being.

11. How Do You Stay Current With Changes in the Financial Industry and Economic Trends?

Every financial advisor stays up-to-date in their own way. They may actively follow industry publications, attend conferences, or complete courses to stay updated on new regulations, products, and planning strategies. Market research is important, so advisors may follow data analysis, subscribe to reports, and monitor economic indicators to understand market movements and risks.  

12. What Are Your Qualifications and Credentials?

This answer of course depends on your financial advisor’s unique position but they’ll likely share any important certifications—like being a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER®, or CFP®)—how long they’ve been in business, and ways they keep up with current trends to show they’re up-to-date on the best strategies to help you.

13. What Technologies Do You Use to Manage My Investments and Financial Plan?

Your financial advisor may use certain software tools that differ from another advisor, but here are some tools that you may find in their answer:

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software, which helps advisors stay organized and manage client information.
  • Financial Planning Software that enables advisors to create forecasts, analyze investments, and generate reports tailored to your goals.
  • Portfolio Management Tools to help track your investments, monitor performance, and help with portfolio rebalancing.
  • Document Management Solutions to facilitate secure storage, transmission, and retrieval of important financial documents.

These are just a few that financial advisors may use, but hopefully this gives you an idea of how the industry uses technology in their practice.

14. How Do You Secure My Financial Information?

A financial advisor would likely reassure you that security is first and foremost. They may explain their adherence to data security regulations, outlining how client information is safeguarded, and what technology they use to protect your data. If they have employees, they may highlight their employee training on data security protocols and limited access controls to your information. 

15. Can You Provide Examples of How You’ve Helped Clients Achieve Their Financial Goals?

Answers to this question may vary from advisor to advisor, but an example of a potential answer could look like this: the financial advisor may describe a client with a clear financial goal—like saving for retirement or buying a home—and showcase the specific strategies they implemented. Such strategies could include personalized budgets, investment recommendations, or debt consolidation plans. 

You may want to pay close attention to the quantifiable results—the amount saved, the debt paid off, or the impressive growth in the client's portfolio. But be prepared for the answer that each individual is different and as such, their approach to clients is tailored, not a one-size-fits-all.


Your financial advisor plays an integral role in guiding your retirement journey, helping you work towards your financial and retirement goals. As you engage in discussions around retirement planning and pose these essential questions, you not only gain clarity but also collaborate effectively with your advisor to tailor a comprehensive retirement strategy. If you’re not ready to engage with an advisor quite yet, attending a retirement workshop can also be beneficial. By proactively addressing these aspects, you lay the foundation for a secure, comfortable, and fulfilling retirement phase.