The Check Off the Basics Approach to Retirement Income Planning

Check Off the Basics is a simple retirement planning approach that focuses on covering the various essential expenses people often need to cover in retirement, including things like a mortgage, utilities, groceries and transportation. And you decide what’s essential. You might not have a mortgage in retirement, for example, but you might have rent, condominium fees or home maintenance costs.

Your basic expenses could also include medical expenses, car loans or leases, gas or other  travel expenses, insurance premiums or credit card payments. For some people, these expenses could also include things like a club membership, weekly round of golf or a monthly visit to family or friends, so it’s really up to you and what you consider essential. 

What are the benefits of the Check Off the Basics approach?

Check Off the Basics differs from the traditional approach to retirement planning, which focuses on simply saving a lump sum of money for retirement. With Check Off the Basics, you first determine your essential monthly expenses in retirement, then create a plan to ensure those basic expenses are covered. With these costs taken care of, you can focus on pursuing your passions. This approach is a great starting point for retirement income planning and helps break down the overall process into easier-to-understand steps. You’ll feel more secure and less stressed knowing you’ll be able to cover your essential expenses. 

How can an annuity help?

An annuity provides protected income throughout your lifetime, typically through monthly payments you can always count on. With those basic expenses covered, income from your other retirement savings and investments can be used for all of the other things you want to do in retirement. Remember, annuities, pensions and Social Security are the only sources of protected lifetime income.

Approximately how much will I need to save for retirement to secure my essential expenses?

It’s impossible to know how much to save unless you know how much you’ll need in retirement. Use the Check Off the Basics approach by focusing first on ongoing essential expenses you expect to have in retirement. That’s how much you need. Now work with a financial professional to develop a plan to match those expenses with sources of protected income, like Social Security, a pension or an annuity.

How can I determine how much retirement income I’ll need?

You can start by writing down how much you spend currently for these expenses. Then consider whether these costs will go up or down in the future. Your financial professional can help here. The Check Off the Basics approach is the first step in creating a retirement income plan.

Calculate your essential expenses and sources of protected lifetime income in more detail by using the Retirement Income Security Evaluation (RISE) Score.TM

Connect with your financial professional to learn if an annuity is right for you.

Read more about lifetime income and annuity solutions


The extent to which Protected Lifetime Income is guaranteed will depend upon the claims-paying ability of the insurer that issues the annuity.

Product guarantees are subject to the claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company. Annuities are long-term investments designed for retirement purposes. Partial withdrawals reduce the cash value and certain benefits, such as the death benefit amount. Early withdrawals may be subject to withdrawal charges. Earnings, when withdrawn, are subject to federal and/or state income tax, including a 10% tax penalty for withdrawals before age 59½.

Some income guarantees offered with annuities take the form of optional riders and carry charges in addition to the fees and charges associated with annuity products.

There is no guarantee that any investment will achieve its objectives, generate positive returns, or avoid losses. Investments in annuity contracts may not be suitable for all investors.

Northern Lights Distributors, LLC, a FINRA/SIPC member, has been retained to facilitate FINRA review of the material in order to meet certain requirements of its business partners. Northern Lights Distributors, LLC is not affiliated with The Alliance for Lifetime Income.

AIG is a founding member of the Board of Directors for the Alliance for Lifetime Income.

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