Ask an expert - JAMES FLANAGAN, FINANCIAL PLANNER
Last updated 4/26/2023 at 4:43pm | View PDF
How should people plan for retirement?
James Flanagan, owner of Bentron Financial Group in Downers Grove, identifies three main categories when it comes to retirement readiness.
"Nearly 60 percent of people don't plan at all," he said. "Less than 10 percent are navigators who have managed their finances for future outcomes. The majority of the rest are troubleshooters who have been able to plan because they've overcome hardship like divorce or job loss."
Flanagan will provide guidance on retirement planning and preparedness in his talk "Can You Afford to Retire?" at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 3, at the Hinsdale Public Library (see Page 24 for details).
He offered a foretaste of the "10 Critical Questions" he will cover as part of the presentation.
"The biggest thing that people have to come to grips with is how long do you really expect to live," said Flanagan, citing the fact that America's average lifespan has increased by 30 years over the last century. "It's influencing societies all over the world. People over age 85 are the fastest growing segment of the population."
A professional financial planner for 35 years, Flanagan earned a master's degree in gerontology from the University of Southern California in 2016 and doctorate with a concentration in leadership and gerontology from Concordia University Chicago in 2019.
"I work with dementia-friendly movements," he said. "The longevity bonus has produced a society where many are only dying from chronic conditions for which there is no cure. People who live over the age of 80 have a 50 percent chance of experiencing cognitive decline. I want to get people to think long-term: live long and die short."
He cited clients from early in his career who predicted a short post-retirement life.
"I'm still working with them today. I know now they were wrong," Flanagan related.
Not everyone has the wherewithal to purchase long-term care coverage, he acknowledged. That doesn't preclude doing one's due diligence.
"Every family needs a strategy, but not necessarily a policy," he said.
Flanagan also address will matters and nuances concerning Social Security.
"One of the biggest misconceptions that people make is claiming too soon," said Flanagan, advising patience. "Your benefits only compound off that lower number for the rest of your life."
With pensions being largely relegated to the past in favor of 401k plans, Social Security is one of the last vestiges of guaranteed income until death.
"You have to maximize those benefits and give yourself the best potential for a positive outcome," he said.
Another question to ask concerns finding purpose and meaning in life, Flanagan offered.
"How are you investing in friendships and community and activities to engage in and keep you moving?" he said. Flanagan recommended his talk for anyone age 45 or older, and especially those at or near retirement.
"You can a get a perspective on your readiness and do a self-assessment based on what planning you've done," he said.
- by Ken Knutson