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Investing Specialists

The Best Resources for Retirement Planning: Reader Favorites

Morningstar.com readers swap tips on where to turn for advice when crafting a retirement plan.

Where did retired or soon-to-retire Morningstar.com readers turn for a helping hand when they were creating a financial plan for retirement? 

We recently posted that question on Morningstar.com and obtained a range of valuable insights. Some readers said they sought the advice of a financial advisor, either on a formal, for-hire basis or informally; others said they turned to the counsel of financially savvy friends and family members. Numerous retired and soon-to-retire investors looked to the greats for guidance: Bill Bernstein, Jack Bogle, and Burton Malkiel, to name but a few. 

Other retirees and pre-retirees used that big-picture guidance in conjunction with online retirement-planning tools and calculators. Some readers said that they couldn't find precisely the retirement-planning tools they were looking for, so they crafted their own. 

In all, the thread was chock-full of resources for anyone who would like to retire one day. (Note that the recommendations cited in this thread are readers' own views; they should not be construed as a Morningstar endorsement.) To read the complete thread or chime in with your own thoughts on where to go for in-retirement guidance, click here

'We're as Ready for Retirement as We Can Be Now'
While some posters said they had eschewed the advice of financial advisors, others said they had found such guidance extremely valuable when it came to retirement readiness. 

For recordman, retirement was an impetus to seek professional help. "I felt I was getting older and my decision-making would not be as sharp as it once was and at this critical time I wanted an 'unemotional' advisor to assist. Also, the accumulating phase of investing seemed to be a lot easier than the 'trying to make it last' phase." 

Ditto for CautiouslyOpt, who wrote, "Three years ago (at age 57) we met with a local fee-only certified financial planner (found at letsmakeaplan.org) whose excellent guidance helped us to reduce fees and reduce risk. We're as ready for retirement as we can be now." 

Mailload looks back with thanks on guidance from a financial advisor who counseled on the virtue of sticking with an asset-allocation plan. "I followed that advice for many years and am extremely thankful I did. He reasoned asset allocation was more important than the funds I was invested in." 

Retiredtaxmgr had a good experience consulting with financial planners at investment houses. "Since I have accounts with Fidelity and Vanguard, I contacted both for help. The CFP I met [at Fidelity] was very knowledgeable and understood my situations well. Vanguard's CFP answered my questions and concerns on the phone without pushing for any products. Both CFPs helped me to know my financials better." 

While BMWLover is mainly self-directed, he wrote, "I have a friend who is a CFP who I talk with regularly that has given me some very valuable advice. If I move on before my wife, she knows to consult with him on how to deal with our estate."

Jacks11 consults with a planner infrequently to get a second set of eyes on the plan. "About every 10 years we go to fee-only advisors for second opinions, too, but they don't inspire changes."

W004dal didn't have to look too far to find a good source of advice. "I always turn to my dad for help with my investments. He started teaching me investing starting when I was 12 years old. The most helpful thing he has done is to remove confirmation bias (looking for information to justify a position)," this investor wrote.

'It Has Been Invaluable for the Many Useful Suggestions'
Other posters said that they relied on the writings of great investors to help them form of philosophy about investments and/or retirement planning.

Darwinian cited a stellar lineup of influences as well as the lessons he learned from each. He named Burton Malkiel's A Random Walk Down Wall Street, Bill Bernstein's The Intelligent Asset Allocator, and financial planner Bill Bengen's landmark retirement research as influential.

AviOren was also influenced by Bengen, noting, "I have followed William Bengen's articles in the Journal of Financial Planning since 1994, and his 2006 book Conserving Client Portfolios During Retirement." 

For Ridg0008, the current crop of retirement-planning gurus has been especially influential; this investor's short list includes Wade Pfau, Michael Kitces, Morningstar Investment Management head of retirement research David Blanchett, and Larry Frank. All have authored or co-authored valuable retirement-planning research papers over the past decade. 

Financial educator and advisor Paul Merriman also received several shout-outs; his website includes much valuable information. Glebbb, whose thinking on retirement has evolved over the years, enthused, "Paul Merriman was probably the most influential teacher for this phase of my portfolio, after attending his lecture, then reading his books, articles, and online tutorials. Also, my wife finally started understanding our portfolio and our plan after reading Merriman."

Jbrassaw's retirement plan was influenced by Jane Bryant Quinn. "I read Jane Bryant Quinn's book Making the Most of Your Money many years ago when I was still working (there is an updated edition since then). It has been invaluable for the many useful suggestions. I just recently purchased her latest book, the just-published How to Make Your Money Last, which is a wonderful guide for the retired. 

Several posters said they rooted their retirement plans in the common-sense, cost-conscious investing approach advanced by Vanguard founder Jack Bogle and his disciples, the Bogleheads. In addition to reading Bogle's books and other writings, LFremount counts "others that are consistent with Bogle and his philosophy of indexing, simplicity, and cost control," as major influences. 

'A Ritual That Has Paid Off'
Among posters who said they took a do-it-yourself approach to retirement planning, several said they used the insights of the aforementioned authors to develop an investment philosophy, then looked to tools and other resources to help implement and monitor their plans. Bogleheads.org and Morningstar.com received repeat mentions.

ColonelDan wrote, "Since 1974, I've been doing the research myself, so when I reached retirement transition, I employed that same approach. Although there were others, my primary resources were tools, information, and books made available through Morningstar and Vanguard."

JHAsheville and partner followed a similar tack. "We dreamed of retirement plans (but we're already ahead by being big savers) and then got serious by reading as much as we could find but focused in on books by John Bogle and by joining Morningstar online. We used a variety of calculators (Vanguard/T. Rowe Price) and just did our own hard math, budgeting and forecasting." 

Glebbb has found value in insights from fellow Morningstar Discuss forum participants. "Morningstar Discuss was most helpful," this poster wrote, "as I listened to withdrawal ideas from JWR, ElLobo, cnortbert, T, bilperk, Sirschnitz, cliff, and so many others."

WOODJ also cited Morningstar's Discuss forums as influential. "Several Morningstar forums such as Investing During Retirement, Personal Finance, and especially the diehards (Vanguard) forum was where I found the most help. Plus, I was able to make posts to help others, which is rewarding."

Khollingshead wrote, "I clarified many questions and filled in details with numerous searches at Morningstar.com, along with links to useful past articles." Several posters cited my articles on bucketing as useful as they approached retirement. (Aw, shucks.) 

For others, Morningstar has been especially valuable as an ongoing resource for data and monitoring. Bruce911 wrote, "Checking in with Morningstar (probably more often than needed) is a ritual that has paid off." 

Darwinian also cited Morningstar.com as his go-to resource for year-to-year portfolio management, writing that "there is no peer." 

'There Aren't Any Hidden Assumptions'
Posters cited several tools, calculators, and other sources of retirement guidance, many of them free.

Khollingshead relied on Vanguard's suite of retirement-planning tools, while Roadking enthused about the free Portfolio Rebalance Calculator. "I've used it for years to rebalance and it works great, simplifying the process," this investor wrote. Farhorizons cited a few tools, including robo-advisor Wealthfront. "I could go into a coma for 25 years and know my assets are in good shape when I come out," this poster wrote.

Several posters wrote that, unable to find retirement calculators that perfectly matched their needs, they had crafted their own. 

After experimenting with several off-the-shelf calculators, jjdenver decided to create a retirement-planning spreadsheet to incorporate and adjust assumptions. "I decided to focus on the tax side of things so that I could compare various Social Security strategies and IRA/Roth withdrawal strategies. I created my own spreadsheet that has evolved over the years. I can see and tweak all of the assumptions so that there aren't any hidden assumptions to foul things up."

Finally, cgajowski was philosophical in offering guidance to would-be retirement planners. Despite a plethora of resources to assist with investment and retirement planning, less is usually more--simpler is usually best. "After trying to learn as much as I could, it hit me that at my level, simpler usually works better--or just as well. ... Over time, amassing useful guidance has been more a process of culling out the bad stuff out there."