We’ve all seen the terms recently – unique, unprecedented, even surreal or seismic. Whatever you call these pandemic times, most of us can agree that they often require equally anomalous ways of dealing with them. Depending on how close you are to retirement, that could apply to your retirement planning too.
I was excited to see that Michelle Singletary, personal finance columnist for The Washington Post, has introduced a retirement planning bot to “see us through the coronavirus pandemic and beyond”.
If you aren’t familiar with bots, they are software applications which are programmed to complete certain tasks. In this case, the bot collects information about your financial situation and retirement plans and makes recommendations relative to both. I had the opportunity to run through the bot program and see first-hand some of their suggestions.
The good news is that this is all completely anonymous. While they ask specific questions about your finances, they don’t know who you are, and they don’t save any of your information. Along the way, you can hear advice and commentary recorded by Michelle. I’ll be candid: I didn’t always find them helpful, but I thought they were good reminders and could offer a little effective guidance, particularly for some people who may be early in their planning.
On the downside, the program doesn’t factor whether you’re planning as an individual or a couple. That can make a huge difference when they ask for retirement or bank account balances and earnings. The bot also doesn’t ask your expected retirement age. It just makes the assumption that you will retire as soon as you reach the age for full Social Security benefits.
The best thing about this particular retirement planning bot is that it provided a step-by-step guide with as much hand holding as you can expect from a robot program. And there is a little encouragement along the way provided you are doing something to fund your retirement. They even have some FAQs at the end.
A couple important things to focus on:
- This is not a replacement for your professional financial advisor. A single source of information is rarely enough for something as important as retirement planning.
- You may not agree with the assessment of your financial situation and your retirement plans. That’s okay. It doesn’t mean you are doing a bad job of funding your retirement.
I think the best way to view this tool can be found in their own description:
“We may not be able to capture everything about your financial situation, but it’s a place to start”.
Many people are very concerned about their financial situation right now regardless of when they plan to retire. This retirement planning bot may help relieve some of the stress as you think of future plans. Who knows? You may just be better off than you think. And, if not, you could get some ideas on how to get back on track.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Fort Lauderdale, FL