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Helping Clients Redefine Retirement

Updated on

September 2, 2014Beverly Flaxington Retirement

by Beverly Flaxington

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.


Dear Bev,

How can I help clients get a better idea of what they want to do with their retirement? I don’t view retirement as a chance to play golf and travel, so I don’t want to assume that my clients are thinking this either. Sometimes I fear they do not know what retirement will look like to them and so planning for it, financially or otherwise, is challenging. It’s why I believe they need an advisor, but I want to be sure I am doing the best I can for them in these discussions.

Robert D.
Dear Robert,

YES! I am thrilled to read this question and read about your desire to truly help your clients understand what they want. I have spent a lot of my career in the retirement space, so this area is of particular interest to me. The pictures of the beach and the sailboat simply do not capture many people’s dream retirements. Personally, I always feel sorry for those who have retired because I love my work so much.

That said, you could do a few things to help your clients achieve clarity about what they care about in a later life phase, which this will help you invest for them now and in the future:

  1. Explain your philosophy about retirement. You can use this as part of your own story – how you work with clients to get a better understanding of who they are, and what they care about. Tell them you don’t want to assume anything nor do you want them to assume what retirement is or could be for them.
  2. Ask them to engage in a visioning exercise. As a certified hypnotherapist, I know the power of imagination. In meetings, ask your clients to close their eyes and describe a “picture” of what they want to do after that last paycheck. If they don’t visualize well, ask them to draw pictures or write down words that evoke ideas about what matters to them. Once they start to describe ideas, probe for why those ideas matter or what components are important to them.
  3. Prepare a list of options in retirement. Embark on a second or third career? Turn a hobby into a business? Take up a hobby there has been no time for previously? Live out of a trailer and travel the country? Become a coach or mentor to inner-city kids? There are so many things that people do once they get past their corporate paycheck years .Create a list and have the client prioritize what would matter to them.
  4. Have clients create plans. Work with them as a coach before you work as a financial advisor. Help them develop the steps necessary to meet their goals. What do they need to do now to prepare? What steps will they need to take, and what are the associated timelines? What costs will they incur? Help make it clear so they can see what’s coming and how they want to approach “retirement.”
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