Limiting surprises in retirement, understanding taxes, and getting beneficiaries right

retirement questions

“How much money do I need to retire?”

That’s one of many retirement questions we hear the most when helping clients with retirement planning. With retirement itself undergoing so many drastic changes, it’s not surprising that more and more retirees are trying to quantify their retirement needs and plan accordingly.iTunes Between Now and Success

On today’s show, we tackle this and other common retirement questions submitted by you, our clients and listeners. We do our best to provide expert analysis on the challenges and opportunities facing retirees.

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Insights from Today’s Podcast on Retirement Questions

As with most financial planning, there are no easy, fill-in-the-blank answers to the types of retirement questions we typically receive. Fortunately, the podcast format allows us to take a little deeper look at retirement questions we deal with daily at Keen Wealth Advisors. Analyzing these situations can help you structure a personalized financial plan that fits your specific needs and prepares you for an ongoing happy retirement.

1. Try to avoid (and be prepared for) surprises.

When you transition away from that reliable paycheck and into retirement, it’s important to limit surprises as much as possible. You’re no longer living off a regular income from employment, you’re living off investments, whether that means an IRA or after-tax investments you have accumulated or Social Security which you’ve most likely been contributing to for as long as you’ve been working. You may find you have to be deliberate and thoughtful about your spending plan, maybe for the first time ever. You may find yourself paying more out of pocket for health care now that you’re no longer on a corporate insurance plan. That variable-rate mortgage that seemed manageable when you were working might open you up for an unnecessary level of uncertainty about how much it may increase your monthly expenditures should interest rates rise. 

Refinancing that variable-rate mortgage to a fixed rate is one way to keep your finances worry-free and predictable. If you have the means to pay off a mortgage before retirement, that’s great. But a lot of retirees simply budget for that monthly, fixed mortgage payment without any problems. If you set a spending plan and stick with it, you’ll be prepared to make adjustments if an unexpected expense, like a home or car repair, or an unexpected windfall, like an inheritance, change your financial picture.

2. Taxes don’t get any easier.

You made your financial plan, you spent decades paying into a 401(k), an IRA, and Social Security, you made a down payment on that vacation house in Florida, and now that you’re retired, those investments and assets are right there, waiting for you.

Unfortunately, so is the IRS.

Once you start putting your investments and assets to work, your tax picture changes. Drawing from an IRA to pay off your mortgage might sound like a smart idea, but the tax hit can be enormous. If you are selling a home after being away on an extended work assignment, if you inherit money from a loved one, or if you’re a new widow or widower filing as an individual, your taxes may change yet again. These situations aren’t always pleasant to think about, but sound financial planning and the advice of a reliable financial advisor can make these adjustments as painless as possible.

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3. Make decisions now so your beneficiaries won’t have to.

We see it all the time: rather than make detailed plans for their estates, way too many retirees pass everything onto “the good kid,” the most responsible beneficiary, and trust that person to make fair decisions about who gets how much of what. Assuming that “good kid” doesn’t break bad and fly off to the Bahamas with everything (believe me, it happens!), dropping a full inheritance in one heir’s lap can have unintended, negative tax consequences on your loved ones. And if what “the good kid” thinks is fair doesn’t seem fair to the rest of your friends and family, or if you put your trust in the wrong beneficiary, things can get messy in hurry. Setting up a trust with detailed provisions sounds complicated, but it’s a lot easier on your beneficiaries than the tangle of taxes, hurt feelings, and potentially poor judgement that can be associated with redistributing an inheritance on the fly. Take the time to sit down with a professional financial advisor who can help you think through these issues.


 Bill Keen on taxes…

“Sometimes what looks obvious isn’t obvious. When you’re talking about financial decisions and thinking about your future, we have to make sure that we’re looking at all the angles.”

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Got a question or comment? Email it to me and we’ll get back to you or call our office at (913) 624-1841. 

About Bill

Bill Keen is a Chartered Retirement Planning Consultant® and independent financial advisor with more than 24 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit

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30 Minute
Strategy Session