Money Matters

A Guide to Comprehensive Retirement Planning

A comprehensive retirement plan includes the financial and mental preparation required to fulfill your post-career life. However, to achieve the retirement you imagine, you must consider several factors, especially if you plan to retire in San Diego

Retirement planning can help provide financial confidence and remove some of the stress of transitioning into this new life stage. Let’s outline what’s involved in a comprehensive retirement plan.

How Soon Should I Begin Saving for Retirement?

While it’s never too early to start saving for retirement, there are instances when it may be too late. We recommend implementing a consistent savings strategy as early as possible and taking advantage of opportunities throughout your prime-earning years, such as contributing to an employer-sponsored 401(k) program.

Waiting too long to begin saving could extend how many more years you must work or affect your spending and lifestyle.

Is it Worth Working with a Retirement Planning Professional?

Whether you have significant assets or are still accumulating wealth, working with a financial advisor for retirement planning advice has several benefits. A CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional can help you build a financial plan and retirement strategy to manage your income, your portfolio assets and to implement an efficient withdrawal strategy through various economic and market conditions.  All of these strategies can  affect your lifestyle in retirement.

Financial planners also consider planned and unplanned events to optimize adaptability. With the unpredictability of life, your plan may veer off track with events out of your control. A financial planner can help you stay the course or adjust with your total financial picture in mind.

How Do I Find a Good Financial Planner?

When it comes to your finances and long-term goals, it’s important to partner with someone you trust. When choosing a financial planner, here’s what to consider:

  • Are they a fiduciary? Fiduciaries uphold ethical standards, acting in the best interests of their clients, which means fewer conflicts of interest.
  • How are they compensated? CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals and registered investment advisors can be compensated in many ways. We prefer fee-only planners who don’t receive commissions or incentives for selling certain products and services.
  • How will the relationship work? Discuss your preferences such as frequency of communications, access, and investment philosophy.

Retirement Income Planning

The end of a consistent  paycheck may be challenging for retirees to get used to. A financial planner can help clients determine how much income they will likely need and develop strategies with their post-career assets.

What is a Realistic Retirement Budget?

Unique to everyone, how much you will need to retire and in retirement is entirely dependent on your total expenses and desired lifestyle, which is why tracking and being fully aware of your expenses is critical throughout your life.

We help clients ensure they can meet their regular living expenses while considering changing insurance needs, new goals, spending choices such as an annual vacation or downsizing their home, and taxes. Once we know projected expenses, we can develop a retirement income target to help manage cash flow and achieve objectives.

Do I Have Enough to Retire?

If you do not have a comprehensive retirement plan guiding your spending and saving, there comes the point where you may not have enough to retire traditionally. To maintain your lifestyle and close the gap in your income, you may need to continue working in some capacity. 

What are the Different Types of Retirement Income Sources?

We encourage clients to build several tax-advantaged retirement income streams. Below are common sources.

Social Security Retirement Benefit

Most employees will pay Social Security tax, a portion of their income deducted from their paycheck that contributes to the Social Security retirement benefit. If you’re 62 and have paid into Social Security for ten years or more during your working years, you will qualify for Social Security benefits. There are many strategies to obtain the highest cumulative lifetime benefit.  Consider these questions with a retirement planning professional:

  • When should I claim my Social Security?
  • How does my Social Security affect my pension?
  • Can I qualify for Social Security using my spouse’s work record?
  • Will my Social Security be affected if my spouse passes away?

If you plan to retire in San Diego or another area with a high cost of living, you will likely need additional sources of income to meet your needs.


Pensions are employer-based retirement savings accounts in which the employer contributes to a fund on behalf of an employee for future payments. Many government employees, such as teachers, military members, and first responders, receive a pension as part of their retirement benefits and may not pay into Social Security. A financial planner can help you determine how your pension will affect your Social Security benefit and if there are strategies to help you maximize your income.

Retirement Accounts

Retirement accounts are generally the most significant sources of retirement income. From traditional 401(k)s to Roth IRAs, there are several different types, each with its own tax and withdrawal considerations. For example, withdrawing from pre-taxed retirement accounts will typically come with a tax liability. 

Seek retirement planning advice to determine when you should withdraw, required minimum distribution (RMD) strategies, and how new taxable income could affect your financial roadmap, such as the cost for Medicare.

Stock Options

Many publicly traded companies offer stock options as part of their employee benefits. In San Diego, with its many biotechs and startups, many employees of these companies have stock options and/or grants. Strategies for managing your benefits can play a critical role in lowering your taxes and should be discussed with a retirement planning expert to optimize opportunities and avoid costly tax mistakes.

Working Income in Retirement

In addition to an income source, continuing to work full time or part time can come down to the mental aspect of retirement, in which retirees seek structure, community, and purpose

Real Estate

Real estate, especially in San Diego, can be a significant source of retirement income for retirees who own rental properties. With the high cost of purchasing a home, many residents seek rental options. In addition to income, real estate (including your primary residence) can also be a backup fund for the unexpected, such as a long-term care event. For example, retirees can choose to sell a property and downsize or leverage the equity in their primary residence  through a reverse mortgage or other means.

Converting Savings to Income

Converting portfolio assets to cash for retirement income is another option with various tax-planning considerations. Whenever you withdraw from your portfolio or retirement accounts, it’s important to understand how taxable income and capital gains when selling assets can affect your overall finances and tax obligations. We recommend working with a financial planner who can offer investment advice related to your retirement goals.

Retirement Tax Planning

Tax planning in retirement is a significant part of  managing your finances and lowering your tax burden. For example, suppose you have several different retirement accounts, stock options, and portfolio assets. In that case, you may have more flexibility to time withdrawals and lower your taxable income when needed. Therefore, the more financial buckets you have, the more options you have to use tax-advantaged strategies.

At CCMI, we frequently work closely with our clients’ tax and accounting professionals to review tax scenarios and identify every possible tax-saving opportunity available using a holistic planning approach. 

Estate Planning in Retirement

Integral to comprehensive retirement planning, an estate plan includes components to manage your assets and carry out certain actions on your behalf according to your wishes leading up to and following your death. This is a critical step in distributing your assets, outlining medical care directives, and reducing stress for your heirs. Without an estate plan, you risk delegating it to the state at its discretion. Here are some components of an estate plan:

Living Wills and Power of Attorney

A living will authorizes life-saving medical treatments if you’re mentally incapable of making a decision. A power of attorney allows an appointee to make medical, financial, and legal decisions on your behalf. Both documents should be discussed and drafted with the assistance of an attorney and trusted loved ones.

Different Types of Trusts

Trusts involve transferring the ownership of the grantor’s assets to a trustee to manage and distribute to beneficiaries. You should work with an attorney to understand the terms and complexity involved when changing or dissolving a trust. Different trusts hold different benefits, such as tax savings, avoiding legal costs, and confidentiality. Here are common trusts: 

  • Living and Testamentary Trusts: A living trust includes terms you’ve outlined while living, while a testamentary trust is created following your death according to your last will. Because living trusts are owned by a trustee, they generally avoid probate, which are the lengthy and sometimes costly legal proceedings heirs must undergo during the distribution of your assets. 
  • Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts: Revocable trusts include terms that can be altered and managed while you’re living and generally avoid probate. Alternatively, you cannot change the terms of an irrevocable trust without the agreement of the listed beneficiaries, but it may offer protection from creditors in some cases.

Charitable Donations and Gifting Strategies

Building an impactful charitable giving strategy within your estate plan can help you fulfill philanthropic goals while offering tax benefits. If you have a significant estate, donating via a donor-advised fund, cash, or appreciated assets, or making gifts to loved ones while living and following death, can help reduce your taxes in many cases.

  • Reduce your taxable income. Before or during retirement, you may be able to reduce your taxable income by making a donation, which may be deductible on federal and state returns. If you experience a windfall, you can also “bunch” your gifts by giving to several charities in one year, minimizing your tax liability.
  • Reduce your capital gains taxes. If you anticipate high capital gains, you can reduce your capital gains tax by making a charitable donation using appreciated assets. 
  • Mitigate estate and gift taxes. 
    • Estate Tax Exemption: The 2023 estate tax exemption subjects estates worth more than $12.9 million per person to estate taxes. With a higher exemption limit, many people will not have to worry about paying an estate tax. However, if that changes, you will want to find ways to help reduce your estate taxes. 
    • Lifetime Gift Tax Exemption: The lifetime gift tax exemption—the total amount you can give over your lifetime without paying estate taxes—is also $12.9 million. Giving while you’re still alive can help you reduce your taxes on a sizable estate.

Risk Management and Insurance Planning in Retirement

Part of retirement planning involves managing your risk by protecting yourself and your family. For example, there are several types of insurance you can consider to mitigate risk before and while in retirement.

  • Life Insurance: Life insurance can be used for income replacement from a deceased spouse or partner’s lifetime income or used for estate liquidity in the event that you have a estate subject to estate taxes.
  • Disability Insurance: Disability insurance is critical in covering costs if you experience an injury or illness during your working years.
  • Long-term Insurance: Both having and declining long-term insurance can be costly. If you don’t have a long-term insurance policy, consider contingencies such as selling a property you own if you experience a long-term care event.

How Much Insurance Do I Need?

We can help you determine the amount of insurance you may need based on your life stage and needs and refer you to reputable insurance professionals to finalize a policy. Other considerations include:

  • The amount of insurance you secure should cover your loved ones’ (including your dependents) financial needs if you pass.
  • Ensure you have good health, house, natural disaster, and other insurance coverage. 
  • List your beneficiaries on your accounts and policies so your heirs can receive assets quickly.

The Emotional Side of Retirement Planning

In addition to preparing for retirement’s various financial factors, we assist clients in navigating its mental aspects. We want our clients to have the peace of mind to enjoy their post-career chapter, forming a community, pursuing a passion, or spending their hard-earned money, for example, knowing they’ve created a solid financial plan. 

CCMI is specially equipped to help clients through the emotional side of financial decision-making, which may feel stressful or overwhelming to those transitioning from full-time work. Please contact our team to learn more about how we can help you build a comprehensive retirement plan.


PLEASE SEE IMPORTANT DISCLOSURE INFORMATION at https://myccmi.com/important-disclosures/

CCMI provides personalized fee-only financial planning and investment management services to business owners, professionals, individuals and families in San Diego and throughout the country. CCMI has a team of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professionals who act as fiduciaries, which means our clients’ interests always come first.
How can we help you?

As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, Tina guides clients in investment and financial planning to achieve their personal goals and objectives. With an extensive background working with registered investment advisors, Tina holds a wealth of knowledge in portfolio strategy, investment selection and best practices, competitive analysis, and building complex financial plans. She has also obtained her Behavioral Financial Advisor designation.

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