Did you know that the world record for a domino line was 15,524 dominos? It took a group of artists two days to set up and just five minutes for all the dominos to fall.

A similar phenomenon happens when clients spend years lining things up for retirement, assuming everything will all stand up for a while, only to see it quickly topple.

The reality is that retirement planning can have a domino effect too. It’s something that can create either a positive or negative chain reaction, especially during the crucial first three to six months, otherwise known as the honeymoon phase.

I remember a valuable encounter I had several years ago with a client who had recently retired. He walked into my office, and I reached out to shake his hand. He quickly pulled his hands back, raised them in the air and said, “I’d love to shake your hand, but I have a bunch of chain grease from my bike ride this morning.”

I was intrigued because this guy had just retired, and our meeting was starting on time at 8:30 a.m.

“I meet a group of guys from the Optimist Club a couple times a week at the local metro park for a 10 mile ride at 6:00 a.m.,” he said. When I said I assumed he’d be taking it easy for a while, he looked at me with a smirk and said, “Well, I retired from work, not from life.”

It was an eye-opening moment. I assumed that once you retired, you took a few weeks or months to do nothing and then picked it all back up again when you were ready and rested.

Another time I met with a client couple, including a husband who was about 30 days into his retirement. They had some questions and things they wanted to go over. And they asked for my opinion about using some of their savings for a kitchen remodel and possibly to purchase an RV. Neither subject had come up in retirement conversations before.

For me, this is usually a sign of boredom and a desperate attempt to create some noise. When people don’t have other things going on or ways to be engaged, they create distraction by spending money.

“Well before we get to all the numbers and details,” I said, “tell me about your retirement so far. How is it going and what are you doing with your new free time?” The husband offered the common response: “Well you know, pretty good, keeping busy with some projects around the house and such.” His response lacked conviction and detail, and it was pretty easy to see the dominos falling.

Before they spent a year’s worth of retirement income on these projects, I thought we should have more dialogue. I asked, “Are you missing anything from your work life?” That’s when the door really opened and I realized what was going on.

“Well,” he stammered, “I guess the one thing I miss is having some goals and big projects to work on. None of the things I am doing at home are all that important, and I spent so much time focused on turning things around at the community center that I miss some of that.”

I asked if he had connected with anyone at work recently for lunch or coffee. “No,” he said. “I’ve just been sticking around the house.”

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