These have become sweet words of success when discussing retirement planning with both clients and prospects. They are profound because they illustrate what every advisor wants and needs to be able to do:  Add value and differentiate themselves.

Traditionally, advisors are great at telling clients what they need to hear regarding their savings and ability to live a certain lifestyle in retirement.  But are we great at telling clients the other things they need to think about and prepare for in retirement?  Are we helping them relieve the anxiety of transitioning into this new phase of life and are we able to provide valuable insight into how clients can be proactive toward it before they make the big commitment? Advisors not only have the influence to provide such beneficial guidance, we have a responsibility to deliver it.

Addressing some of these retirement anxieties and concerns starts with having real conversations with clients and, for some advisors, shedding their perceptions and ideas about retirement. A couple years ago I asked a recently retired client how he was managing all of his newfound time in retirement. I asked if he was bored, making up stuff to do to keep busy, longing for work, drinking more to pass the time, or filling his days easily? 

He quickly put my questions at ease. He said, "I sleep in now until 9 a.m., at which time I get up, read the newspaper and check my e-mail. Then I usually have some regular chores or things to do around the house with a small amount of time left before lunch. Then, depending on the day and weather, I might have an errand to run, household or auto need, or project that I want to work on, such as consolidating my music collection onto my computer. After that, I might have a couple more hours to fill before 5 p.m., after which my evening progresses like any other when I came home from work. Essentially, I only need to replace four or five hours each day with things to do, instead of worrying about how to fill 24 hours a day for the next 30 years."

Following that conversation, I had a newer, less anxious perspective on managing time in retirement, which both enhanced my relationship with the client and gave me  a pearl of retirement wisdom that I could use as a mental/emotional support tool to pass on to other clients, which now often  evokes the response "I never thought of it like that." 

In addition to having real conversations, advisors can add value to their relationships by offering clients strategies like these to help them "practice" and "prepare" for everyday life in retirement.

Don't Forget
Include a small note pad with the personal items you carry with you. When you get the urge to do something, but don't have the time right then, write it in your note pad. If you stumble onto a subject about which you want to learn more, but aren't quite in position at the moment, add it to your notes.  Perhaps an event, local cause, or person in need inspires you to want to be involved-write it down. Don't let your interests, desires, or inspirations slip away. Start logging them into your note pad before you retire so that when the day arrives, you'll have a myriad of things to do that can make retirement more fun and rewarding. For tech savvy retirees, consider using your voice notes on your cell phone or a digital tape recorder instead of a notepad.

Clear The Slate
If there are any unresolved misunderstandings or resentments between you and a family member, friend or co-worker, make an effort to settle those that could affect your well-being in retirement. There's no guaranteeing how long you'll be around, and relying on an estate plan to put these kinds of issues to rest, or to teach someone a lesson, is risky at best. Instead, putting mistakes, miscommunications, and bitterness behind you can be a positive vibe to take into your retirement.  

Ditch Your Daily Routine

To test the retirement waters, consider taking an extended vacation, sabbatical or leave of absence from work now. It's a great way to find out if you will enjoy hours of free time and lazy lunches, or whether you'll get antsy without a structured work schedule. Your company may be willing to negotiate some extended unpaid time off as a way for them to save money.  Consider a minimum of four consecutive weeks to fully remove yourself from the daily routine and work structure, and be sure to include strict limits on answering work-related cell phones and e-mail.

Test Run
Start living on your anticipated retirement income. If you're going to live at less than 100% of your pre-retirement income, start by adjusting your lifestyle to the anticipated level. Think of it like moving in together before you get married.   Pulling the trigger on retirement represents a major commitment. Try to determine if it makes sense before you actually do it. If not, perhaps you'd be better served by working another year and saving more.
Turn A Hobby Or Passion Into Cash

Some people may want to supplement their retirement income by generating cash from a hobby or passion. It's a great way for new retirees to stay busy and involved on their own terms. Start by defining your hobbies and passions. Ask yourself, "What am I usually doing when time just seems to fly by?  What are the things I like to do that I just never tire of? What seems to be the things I can talk about or do all day long?" Are the results a product or service? If so, use family members and friends to sample the product or service for free. Follow it up with a focus group meeting with your target market as a means of exploring pricing and marketing ideas. Finally, spread the word.  E-mail family and friends, and post it on Facebook, Twitter, Craigslists and Ebay.

Retirement planning is changing rapidly and needs to move from simply being a dollars and sense discussion to include the mental, social and health-related aspects of it.  More specifically, providing clients with specific tools and techniques that will prepare them for everyday life in retirement that includes things like how they will manage their time, replace their work identity, and stay connected socially. 

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