Financial advisors are on the frontlines of the longevity revolution and should consider a withdrawal strategy recommended by the Stanford Center on Longevity to help clients have enough money for the rest of their lives, says a Stanford consulting research scholar.

Steve Vernon, the author of many books on how to live well and be financially secure in retirement, explained his ideas to advisors during a presentation at the Financial Planning Association’s annual conference in Chicago.

“I can state with confidence that the vast majority of older workers today in America are not going to be able to retire at age 65 at their preretirement standard of living. They don’t have enough savings to retire full time,” Vernon told the audience. “They are either going to have to work longer or reduce their standard of living, or some combination. You as financial planners are in the perfect position to help people through these issues. Because what I am saying is this is going to cause some soul searching among these boomer workers as they are approaching their retirement years.”

The boomers he was referring to are those who have saved $2 million in assets or less. “If you’ve got millions of dollars in savings, this isn’t quite as much of an issue, and those could be some of your clients,” he notes. “I’m discussing those with under a million dollars in savings or somewhere between $1 million and $2 million. Those are the folks that are really going to be impacted by the decisions they’ll make.”

People are living longer, and often when they hit their 50s or 60s they are tired of what they are doing and want a change. Integrating financial strategies with lifestyle strategies is part of the solution in planning for financially secure, happy later years.

“The secret is paying attention to motivation and inspiration,” Vernon says. “The strategies are straightforward to understand, but they’ll take discipline and hard work to implement. And that’s where you play a key role. To help inspire, and motivate and persist, and to encourage your clients. A lot of people skip right to the solution before actually motivating people on why they should be doing this.”

Advisors can help by discussing not only facts and figures, but ideas motivating clients’ behavior, ideas that might not be well thought out. One story Vernon has heard from clients is this one: “None of the men in my family live past age 75.” He says clients use that kind of an idea to justify making shortsighted decisions. Research actually shows that what you inherit isn’t necessarily the genes but the habits of your family, he maintained.

In fact, genes only impact longevity by between 25 percent and 50 percent, while lifestyle decisions have at least a 50 percent influence on how long one will live, Vernon says. “We now know that diet, exercise and some medications can delay or completely stop the emergence of some diseases.”

People need to lengthen their planning horizon and recognize there is a second phase now of middle age where they can still be productive. However, Vernon disagrees with observers who say that the word “retirement” should be “retired,” that retirement is an outdated concept. “Because I think no matter how healthy and vital you are in your 60s, and maybe even your 70s, and for the lucky few who can work that long, you are still going to have a period of time when you are too old, or too frail, and you’re not going to be able to work. And we’re still going to call that retirement.”

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