Adding a new dimension to retirement planning discussions: How to start a conversation about what’s next
Dr. Sandra Timmerman
Clients who are transitioning to retirement need professionals to help them develop a financial plan. And they also need someone to talk to — a neutral party — about the new life stage they are about to enter.
As a financial professional, this may not be in your comfort zone, but you are in a perfect position to begin a broader conversation about clients’ more intangible expectations in retirement. You can serve as a sounding board and develop a deeper relationship with your clients by helping them figure out what will be interesting, fulfilling and most meaningful to them once they leave full-time work. What they tell you may have financial implications, too.
Here are some suggestions on beginning the conversation with your clients about what they expect to do in retirement and how they will add meaning and purpose to their lives. It’s a perfect time to do it, as clients have been sheltering in place because of COVID-19 and have more time to reflect on what’s important now and in the future.
1. Ask if they plan to work after they retire
Continuing to work as a consultant or part-time is often part of a client’s vision for retirement. To open the discussion, ask them if and why they want to work and encourage them to talk about what working means to them psychologically, as well a financially. You will gain insight to their thinking about what’s important to them.
2. Find out if they have ever thought of starting a business
Entrepreneurship might have an appeal to retired clients who have business ideas they want to pursue. First, find out what they have in mind, and talk to them about the financial ramifications. Then you can move into their motivations, and the satisfaction and sense of purpose they might gain.
3. Talk about what they plan to do if they don’t continue working
Most pre-retirees are looking forward to being freed from the daily grind and having more leisure time. Spend a few minutes asking what their plans are. It’s easy for them to talk about traveling or playing more golf, but most haven’t thought much beyond that. With just a little prodding, you may be able to get them to go deeper, finding out what they will miss about their job and whether they have any ideas about what would engage them for the long haul.
4. Find out if being with their children and grandchildren is top of mind
A conversation with your clients about their children, grandchildren and friends will offer clues about how important it is for them to spend more time with loved ones. Many retirees, with more time available, find purpose and meaning by helping their family with childcare, traveling together and paying for extras.
5. Explore their local community connections
People who are busy working, commuting and raising families often don’t have the time to establish local networks of friends or to get involved in their communities. You might start the conversation by asking your clients if they plan to stay where they are currently living. It’s a perfect segue to talk about what they like (or are looking for) and their interests in giving back by volunteering or being active in local politics.
6. Practice good communications skills
Financial professionals are used to solving problems. To get a discussion going about what’s next, it’s about asking the right open-ended questions and then listening without the temptation to provide a solution right away. Be patient; don’t jump to conclusions and use good counseling techniques, picking up cues and playing them back so clients feel comfortable and are able to be honest and feel they are not being judged.
7. Plan on having multiple conversations over time
These conversations are often awkward at first for both the client and the financial professional. Generally speaking, men are less used to discussions like this than women. Armed with this information, don’t try to cover everything all at once. It may take time to build a different kind of relationship and establish trust. It’s important to keep conversations going, as they will get deeper and more meaningful.
8. Partner with retirement coaches and life planners
Financial professionals can only go so far in helping their clients with their personal life planning. Let them know there are retirement coaches they can consult with and consider forming an alliance with one or two. That way, you can start the conversation and the coach can take it from there. Aligning with a retirement coach may also result in referrals for your business. Find one through the Retirement Coaches Association (RCA) or Retirement Options.
9. Gather resources to give clients
You can be helpful to clients by providing information about websites, organizations and other resources they might use as they plan ahead. For example, if a client is business-oriented, you might suggest they look into volunteering at SCORE, the largest network of business mentors. Or, if they want to read up on retirement, refer them to books and articles you have found.
10. Suggest clients develop their own purpose plan
It may seem strange at first, but encourage your clients to develop their own “purpose plan” along with their financial plan. It can include a statement of their life philosophy, and what is and will be most important to them as they move through their retirement years into old age. For many people, conscious thought about what really matters will make their retirement years more fulfilling and meaningful.
Summing up, by broadening your conversation with your clients and talking with them about the financial, as well as the non-financial aspects of retirement, you will be able to deepen your relationships and provide a real service to them.