There I was, sitting in a bank conference room with a client who just sold his business for eight figures. 

He was jovial and talkative, but not for the reason you might expect. 

“I’m glad to be leaving the manufacturing business,” he exclaimed. “I’m sick of meeting with new company vice presidents and engineers who show up at our plant with no clue as to how to read a blueprint, and no idea on how the manufacturing process really works.”

Despite the hefty payday he was receiving, this was a grounded, blue-collar guy who obviously didn’t shy away from colorful language. He was passionate about his work and genuinely concerned about the future of his industry.   

“They waste my $#@! time,” he continued on emphatically, “and never listen. They come to the shop floor with their perfect drawings and precise calculations but within five minutes I spot several problems. So I tell them, ‘If you machine the part that way, it’s going to leave a burr on the edge. Then you’ll have to remove the burr in a separate process or you won’t get the seal you need.’”

As his voice grows louder he raises his hands in disbelief, crying, “And then you know what they do?” 

Pausing for effect, I shrug my shoulders and shake my head no.

“They look at me like I have no idea what I’m talking about. I mean, what the hell do they think,” he chuckles sarcastically, “that the problem will just magically work itself out?”

He ranted on for several minutes about burrs and other problems that most people never worry or think about. I came to learn that most burrs are minuscule, beyond the scope of the naked eye … that they’re technically defined as a raised edge or small piece of material remaining attached to a workpiece after a modification process. It’s an unwanted piece of material that cannot be completely eliminated simply because a tool can’t enter or exit the machining process without leaving a mark. 

There’s a definite parallel between this manufacturing process and the retirement planning process. Many clients start out with a fancy blueprint and a series of precise calculations that they expect will get them to retirement but, along the way, burrs pop up and need to be smoothed out in a separate process. After all, retirement could be considered one of life’s biggest modification processes and, as you might imagine, it’s pretty common for a few raised edges or left over issues to remain after one leaves the work place.

The problem for advisors and financial services companies is that it’s not simply about a nut, screw or bolt that fails. It’s about a client’s overall life satisfaction and well-being. Factors not always easily recalled or retooled for.

Advisors need to realize the significance of these issues and understand that retirement burrs aren’t just going to work themselves out over time. Retirement can be like an additive or compound that actually magnifies problems during this next phase of life.