When it comes to life in retirement, certain things can hold clients back. Some things discolor relationships, and others present inevitable challenges they must face as their life shifts from the workplace to their own space. Advisors who help prepare clients to break free of these chains, clean-up their relationship stains, and alleviate the pains of retirement provide a solid track for clients to hit retirement in full stride and to make the most out of every moment.

The chains of retirement are things that limit or inhibit a client’s successful transition from work to home. As you might expect, one of the strongest and most difficult retirement chains to break is a client’s link to the things that the workplace provides. For many retirees, work was the main source for their friendships, daily physical activity and even self-esteem. Therefore, it’s important for advisors to help clients recognize the need to have these same things outside of work.

When it comes to relationships, I have found that men struggle the most with continuing their work friendships out of the workplace. They may hang out with the same group of guys for years, but never see or plan something outside of work that fosters a relationship beyond what takes place between 9 to 5.  Then they retire and realize they no longer have lunch buddies or pals to commiserate with, ultimately becoming overly dependent on their spouse and her friends or the couch and TV.

Advisors can create awareness around this workplace issue by simply identifying it as a concern, or as an obstacle to a successful retirement. Most soon-to-be retirees have no idea how this is going to impact them. Whenever I broach this subject in my Naked Retirement workshops, attendees unfailingly remark that they’ve never thought about this kind of stuff. For guys, I encourage them to find a car show or high-school sporting event to invite a work friend to. For women, inviting a work friend to a dinner out or shopping seems to work well as a relationship ice breaker. It’s not rocket science, or something advisors need extensive knowledge about. It’s just a matter of addressing the reality of leaving the workplace, suggesting that it can be an issue, and recommending clients start looking for opportunities to break the chain that tied them to their work.

There’s also a work chain related to a person’s physical activity and self-confidence. Whether it’s a long walk in from the parking lot, climbing stairs to a meeting, or a busy schedule that doesn’t allow time for snacks, people often rely upon work for exercise and to limit calories. If new retirees fail to break this chain of reliance, they can quickly find themselves carrying more weight and huffing and puffing after something as simple as getting the mail.

Regular deadlines, sales calls and annual reviews kept a lot of formerly employed clients disciplined and accountable. That chain too needs to be shattered, and a new framework structured, so that retirees can continue to feel good about themselves and the value they bring to the world. Simply asking a client, “What are you going to retire to?” empowers them to create some structure and goals to work towards instead of allowing the three most dangerous aspects of retirement to take root: boredom, laziness and loneliness. 

The stains brought to retirement are situations, events and feelings that inhibit or discolor our relationships with family and friends. Whether it's guilt, shame, anger or sadness, people tend to carry these stains with them into retirement instead of removing them and starting retirement with a clean slate.

Again, advisors don’t need to become therapists or rehash a client’s psychosocial history. Instead, they just need to provide some insight, some framework, for clients to use and grow.

To help people identify stains they may be carrying into retirement, ask clients, “What’s the one thing you hope no one ever finds out about your retirement plan?”  Or, “What retirement conversations are you avoiding?”  Ask the questions rhetorically, suggesting it’s a simple way to pinpoint some of their biggest concerns they have heading into retirement … and that retirement by itself will not take it away or make it any better. Clients need to understand that there’s nothing magical about retirement (see my FA Video on the topic). Problems -- especially complex feelings -- don’t just go away. In fact, they’re likely to get bigger and worse because a retiree has more time to dwell on them, and less distractions to keep them at bay.

To help clients manage retirement stains, I simply share one of my own valuable life lessons. Years ago I received some wise counsel that forgiveness and relationship healing begins when you let go of your need to change the past. That’s a very empowering definition that can help clients stop analyzing the past and seek solutions going forward. 

Breaking work chains and removing relationship stains is important to a client’s overall well-being … and they are also solid foundations for dealing with retirement pains.