Chapter 1: Gather Information

Table of Contents

The first step in creating a retirement-income plan is to gather personal information. Use the following checklist to help organize your information:

  • Current age
  • Age you hope to retire
  • Your Social Security benefit
  • Last year’s gross wages
  • Pension benefits
  • Current balance and annual contributions of investments including, but not limited to:
    • 401(k)s                                           
    • 403(b)s
    • 457(b)s
    • SEP IRAs
    • Executive bonus plans
    • Qualified pre-tax plans
    • IRAs
    • Roth IRAs
    • All after-tax investments that are earmarked for use during retirement
  • After-tax value of business(es) and/or real estate
  • Rental-property monthly net
  • Earned-income during retirement
  • Value of expected inheritance


Age you hope to retire: Financial-estimator calculators typically require you enter a range of ages, such as 60-70.

Social Security benefit: This is available on the Social Security website www.SSA.gov.

Once on the home page:

1. Scroll down until you find and click on the “Retirement Estimator” link.

2. Scroll down until you find and click on the blue “Estimate Your Retirement Benefits” box. This will take you to a page where you must answer a variety of personal questions (Figure 1.1) in order to be located in the Social Security database. Then you can begin your retirement estimation (Figure 1.2).

Figure 1.1 Social Security website—Verify Your Identity

Figure 1.2 Social Security website—Retirement Estimator

3. Input your gross wages from last year. If you weren’t employed, this number is zero.

4. Select the closest year to your retirement age by selecting “add a new estimate” from the options available.

5. Select the age closest to your retirement age.

Once all of your information is entered, the system will average your future earnings and update your estimates accordingly. Note, the Social Security website does not factor in future cost-of-living adjustments nor does it factor in spousal, divorced spouse, or widow’s benefits. To get an even more accurate estimation, see the section titled Social Security Analysis in Chapter 2.

Pension Benefits:This is provided by your employer’s human resources or benefits department and is typically paid as a monthly-annuity or as a lump-sum benefit. Your benefit provider may offer an online estimator for you to estimate your pension benefits.

Investments: Determine the balance of, annual contributions to, and/or amount of your employer-matched benefits. You’ll need this information for each of your individual retirement accounts and each of your employer-sponsored plans.

After-tax value of business(es) and/or real estate: Estimate the after-tax value of your business(es) and/or real estate, if you plan to use the proceeds towards retirement. The after-tax value is the amount you’re left with after commissions, fees, taxes, and other expenses regarding the sale have been subtracted. In other words, enter the actual amount of money you will have left to invest.

Rental property: This is typically reported as your net monthly rent less monthly expenses (rent received – rental expenses = net monthly rent).

Earned-income during retirement:Maybe you and/or your spouse plan to work part-time during retirement. If so, estimate your expected income and the number of years you plan to work.  

Value of expected inheritance: If you expect to receive an inheritance, estimate the value of it and when you expect to receive it.

Chapter 2: Tools