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Kim Fleming knows how complicated planning for retirement can be.

As the head of a Downtown wealth management firm, Fleming discusses it with clients every week. And they talk about more than just where to invest money.

Fleming, 55, of Mars is chairwoman and chief executive officer of Hefren-Tillotson, Inc., which has six offices and 200 employees. The firm offers financial planning and investment advisory services for individuals, foundations, trusts and qualified retirement plans. But discussions with clients go can go beyond specific investments and involve larger life questions.

Fleming spoke with the Tribune-Review about the questions working adults need to consider and mistakes to avoid as they look to retirement. Here are excerpts.

Trib: What are the most common questions you get from people who are seeking retirement planning advice?

Fleming: I would say the No. 1 question is, 'How much money do I need to have when I retire? Once that question is asked, really we start questioning how much money someone actually needs to spend to maintain their lifestyle will determine that. People are then concerned about having an investment strategy and a plan for receiving income from their investments once theyre in retirement.

Trib: How do you go about figuring out much money someone needs for retirement?

Fleming: We run a lot of analyses and scenarios. But its really trying to be conservative in the assumptions on rates of return the money will have, and talking to people about their own plans for retirement and whether leaving an inheritance is important or not. Because if leaving an inheritance is important, then people will need more money. And if people feel that they are comfortable spending down principal, then theres not as much of a need. So its really based on their need for income, their plans for inheritance for their funds and the lifestyle that they maintain.

Trib: How does retirement planning change with age? Im sure that your strategy is much different for a 25-year-old, from a 35-year-old or a 55-year-old.

Fleming: I guess anytime were working with someone, we like to know where they are in their life and what their needs will be. Sometimes peoples needs will change over time. Were strong advocates of getting people to plan for retirement early. People that are younger typically can take more risk because they have a longer period of time, especially in their retirement accounts where they wont be drawing from them until retirement. So, at 45, we would say not to invest too conservatively, to always stick with quality, but to be putting as much aside in savings as you can. If someone is 55 and getting closer to the point where they want to retire, then being more conservative with the investments can become important. But again, not too conservative. I know many 90-somethings that are healthy and active, and havent seen much change in their income needs.

Trib: What are the most common mistakes people make when planning for retirement?

Fleming: I think the biggest mistake is not planning for it soon enough. Just waiting. Its really hard to start late in life, to save what you need to have a comfortable retirement.

Trib: How are you planning for retirement?

Fleming: Its funny, I dont know if Ill ever retire. Number one, I love what I do. But, in my planning, whether its retirement or maybe having a different pace at some point. Most important thing for me is I want to have an active healthy lifestyle, and I want to have the ability to do things that I like to do, not to travel. Just planning to stay healthy and making sure that, at this point, Ive put enough aside so that I can feel comfortable with retirement whenever that time comes. For me, probably one of the most important things as the chairman of this company is succession planning and just being sure that theres a good plan for the leadership of the company in the future.

Trib: Are there other things that people should be considering about retirement?

Fleming: I think one of the most important things for a successful retirement, beyond financial, is that people really have to be thinking about what they want to do in retirement. Ive seen people with a lot of money who have not been very good in retirement, and theyre not really happy. Knowing that you have an interest in other areas or that you have a sense of what youll do with your time, having discussions about it.

Chris Fleisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7854 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..