As financial professionals we juggle a variety of retirement planning assumptions, including inflation, rates of return, tax brackets and even life expectancy. However, an emerging set of assumptions, if left unresolved, can have a negative impact on a client's retirement and your relationship with them.
A recently retired client was running behind for our meeting. His wife however, arrived on time and was noticeably irritated. I invited her back to my office, poured some coffee and asked, "So how are things going?"
That simple question unleashed a barrage of complaints, illustrating her sense of frustration over how her husband was managing his time and routine ... and thus their relationship. Our conversation ended abruptly, but without closure, when he walked into the room. It wasn't the first time I'd encountered this situation, but also I knew it was necessary to address the issue now instead of inviting similar comments into future meetings.
The reality is, everyday life in retirement comes with its own assumptions and stereotypes. People often create mental thoughts and plans regarding it, yet they aren't always effective in communicating them, which is exactly where the danger lurks. If, for example, assumptions such as when you'll wake up, if you'll eat every meal together, how often you'll watch the grandkids, and household responsibilities aren't discussed before people retire, they can become points of contention and cause conflict later on.
Many of these potentially damaging assumptions and stereotypes can be resolved by encouraging clients to have proactive discussions with each other, family members, and friends regarding their specific day-to-day retirement plans. By doing so, clients will strengthen both their communication skills and the relationships that will nurture them during retirement-two major attributes that are often overlooked and typically not planned for.
The following are ten questions advisors can share with clients to help them initiate retirement conversations, gauge expectations, eliminate what remains unclear, and build more meaningful relationships.
1) What does your perfect day and a perfect week in retirement look like? Consider what time you will wake up and go to bed; if you'll eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together; what errands and household responsibilities need to be done each week and who will do them; and discuss how much alone time each of you may want and need.
2) What does your job provide that you will miss in retirement? Think about the mental, social and physical aspects of your work that are important to you and what steps you can take to either maintain or replace them.
3) How will you identify yourself during retirement? Reflect on the last time you were introduced to a retired person. How did they identify themselves? What was your first impression of them?
4) What will you do with your time during retirement? Assess whether or not you will need to maintain a structured schedule or if you can effectively go with the flow. Be mindful of the fact that too much structured time can lead to the dark side of retirement including addiction and depression.