Will you remember me, Dad?” asked my third-grade son, Drake, from the backseat of the car.

I had no idea what he was thinking … but I was heartbroken as I looked at him through the rearview mirror. In that moment, he seemed a million miles away.

I thought to myself, “What on earth would cause him to ask if I would remember him?”

I quickly turned to him, grabbing the back of the passenger seat to try and inch myself closer, and said, “Oh Drakey, you’re my son, I will always remember you. How could I ever forget you? I will always be there for you and want you to remember that, OK?”

In that moment, I felt a deep despair. I was a failed parent and honestly didn’t know what to do.

As my mind began to wander about the situation, Drake called out, “Knock, knock?”

Initially, I was caught off guard but was quick to reply, “Who’s there?” hoping his joke would change the mood.

That’s when he started to laugh and remarked, “Hey Dad, I thought you were always going to remember me?”

I laughed out loud, understanding that I had just been duped by an 8-year-old. “That was a good one buddy, you definitely got me … good job!”

It’s a funny situation in this context, but that’s not always the case when it comes to retirement. You see, many people can’t answer the same knock, knock question when it comes to their life after work. They simply don’t know “Who’s there?” once they lose their work title, role, career, friendships and schedule.

Truth be told, it’s not uncommon for people to confuse who they are with what they do. As a result, they get to retirement and can feel lost and out of sorts. This is a problem because they have been duped into believing that retirement is this holy grail phase of life where everything is easy and stress-free. And I’m not saying it can’t be an amazing time, but it takes time, energy and planning to get there.

Retirement can be stressful and even at times cause clients to feel like they are failing at it. This is why I continue to emphasize the need for a concrete, written plan that addresses all of the five key areas of a successful retirement transition: the mental, social, physical, spiritual and financial.

Research supports it. I have been offering a retirement priorities quiz for several years, and more than 19,000 people have taken it. What we have found over the years is that less than 20% of boomers have a plan for what an ideal day and week will look like in retirement and 45% of the same respondents don’t have a hobby or passion that defines them outside the workplace.

Furthermore, only 37% of the group say they participate in four or more social events each month.

Therefore, it’s not enough to just tell clients about it. Awareness is not the key here. Advisors need to not only have access to tools and resources but professional training and a fresh perspective to help clients see the need to replace their work identity.

We need to guide, encourage and ultimately be in a place where we can show them how to do it because the whole idea of complete reinvention in retirement sounds like a daunting task that should be put off for as long as possible. This monumental project seems sort of like setting a whole bunch of New Year’s resolutions for the rest of your life—and then slowly but surely failing at all of them.

No thanks, right? This is why I think it’s so important for advisors to have strategies to help shift clients’ perspective on this and other non-financial topics.

For example, the idea of replacing one’s work identity can be much more engaging and doable if you look at the process in the same way Michelangelo carved his statues. His philosophy was that God had already created the statue within the marble and it was his job to get rid of the excess.

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