My wife recently bought front-row tickets for the local high school’s performance of The Wizard of Oz.  She was excited to take our daughter and 6-year-old niece out to dinner and to the show. Dinner was great, but after they were ushered to their VIP seats, a major problem popped up. When our niece sat down, it became painfully obvious that she couldn’t see the entire stage. The height of the stage behind the orchestra pit was just tall enough to cut off her vision of the full depth of the stage.

This was obviously a first world problem and meant my wife would be holding her for part of the show while she sat on her knees for the rest of it. The point I am trying to make is that sometimes our view of things can be cut off, even if we pay up for the premium seats.

This is definitely the case when it comes to financial professionals who have a front-row seat to the world of retirement. Quite frankly, our profession gives us something very few people ever see or get. We have VIP, all access to people who are just starting to plan for it, people who are in the throws of the transition, as well as clients already living in it. We get to see how they accumulated their savings, what their plans are for life after work, and how the transition impacts them both personally and financially. It’s definitely an interesting script we get to see play out.

However, similar to the issue with my niece, many professionals only maintain a partial view of retirement, sometimes disregarding the value and importance of the backdrop and what scenes may be playing out in the background of retirement. They simply stay focused on what they know and see about the financial portion of the retirement show. In other words, they focus on the star or stars of the show who are standing out in front but reality is, there’s no show or stars without a supporting cast.

To further illustrate my point, I want you to think about a play or musical you have seen. It’s amazing how you start out knowing that you are in a theatre and you’re about to watch a group of people pretend to be someone else in a costume but then, within minutes, you can be swept away and transported to another place or time. That’s how I see and feel about retirement. When you really take a look at everything, particularly things that are going on in the backdrop, you get a very different, often times, award-winning experience.

I recently had a situation with a couple that was dealing with a forced retirement. The husband was getting let go from his career after a 25-year run, but he wasn’t mad about it. Instead, he was grateful for the opportunity to move on to something else because he was only 60 and wasn’t financially capable of retiring yet. So, as we discussed his transition, he discussed several opportunities he was considering and the financial ramifications of them.

However, after a few minutes, I asked him and his wife, “What are your favorite things to do when you’re not working and on weekends?” They rattled off a short list of things and talked about some upcoming events they had planned and then I said to them, “Well I think you just eliminated a few of those job prospects.”

Turns out, Thursday night was their big date night out and they enjoyed volunteering and attending church on the weekends. With one simple background question it became clear that two of the four new opportunities would reduce or eliminate those key times together for them. Which can serve as a wedge in their relationship. Less quality and planned time together may cause them to grow apart, to resent their decision to make the change, and potentially add stress to the situation again in the future if the husband has to change jobs again.

They tried to make money and benefits the star of the new show, and don’t get me wrong, that’s important, but if I would have stayed in my financial advisor seat with a limited view, I might not be managing their joint account in a couple years.

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