Questions to make sure that you're on track for retirement
How do you know if your financial goals are on track? What is the one thing you should ask your financial advisor right now to make sure you reach those goals?
It would be great to sit down with some top advisors to find out what is in their playbook and what moves they are suggesting their clients make right now. I led an advisor roundtable discussion Tuesday to do just that.
All certified financial planners with decades of experience, these three advisors discussed issues ranging from retirement savings to investor sentiment. They agreed that consumers and investors are ultimately in the driver's seat and must determine their financial course.
To help you do that, here are three questions to ask your financial advisor now:
1. How do I know if I am saving enough?
Your employer-sponsored retirement plan likely is going to be your primary source of income in your 60s and beyond, so you need to ensure you're putting enough in it to have the retirement lifestyle you want.
"Make sure that you're really on a path to self-funding your retirement," said Richard Coppa, managing director of Wealth Health, in Roseland, NJ. When it comes to your company's 401(k), "you want to at least put in enough money to get your company match" if there is one, he said.
(Read more: Are you making the big 401(k) mistake?)
"But even if your company doesn't match, this is an opportunity for you to save pre-tax dollars," Coppa said. Start saving early, putting as much as you can into your retirement plan, he added.
In addition to talking to a financial advisor, take advantage of online tools and employee financial education seminars and webinars. While a professional can make investment and financial planning suggestions, "you really have to take the bull by the horns," Coppa said. "No one else is going to be doing it for you."
(Read more: Financial advisors tips for year-end planning)
2. This is what worries me the most about my financial future. How can you help?
Avoiding major financial questions and not talking to an advisor are among the biggest mistakes you can make, said Geri Pell of Pell Wealth Partners in Rye Brook, NY.
"Everybody is so busy. We're working on being experts at raising our kids. We're working on being experts at our jobs ... but we're cheating ourselves if we don't look at the long term in what we're doing ... for our own retirement," Pell said. "You need to stop avoiding talking to a financial advisor ... and figure out if you're doing the right thing for your family."
3. How can I gain control over my financial life?
Advisors don't have a crystal ball to see what is going to happen with the economy, tax rates and markets. But they can provide scenarios and guidelines to help you direct your decisions. They should also help you gain more control over own finances. Ask your advisor how he or she plans to do that for you and how it has happened for other clients.
Tim Maurer, vice president of the Financial Consulate in Hunt Valley, Md., said the process should start with career planning alongside financial planning.
"I think this is an area where financial advisors can and need to be actually applying more work," he said, "because this is how the vast majority of our clients fund their retirements."