Every now and then I’ll ask retirees what advice they would give others about retirement. Last week, I asked this of Sam.

Sam’s response to the question was, “Don’t get so focused on tomorrow that you miss today. I can’t travel long distances anymore, so I’ll never see Angkor Wat. My bucket list isn’t going to get done. I was always afraid to spend the money.”

Further conversation revealed that his family led a very comfortable life until his dad’s business failed when Sam was 13, after which they were poor. Getting groceries was a struggle, he said.

Sam continued, “I should have gotten some counseling, but that wasn’t something you really did then. Besides, everyone tells you you should save for retirement so you can do those things.”

That last comment got me thinking about what messages financial planners are delivering and how clients can interpret those messages. I think it is easy for us to instill fear in clients unnecessarily. So, in no particular order, here are a few items about which I think we can help clients reduce their anxiety by not scaring them with our messaging.

Bear Markets

In the fall of 2018, I received a call from a reporter asking, “What are you telling clients now that their retirement is in danger?”

The reporter’s tone indicated the decline was surprising. It also struck me that the idea of people’s retirement being in danger was quite an assumption. When I add to that the fact that every day I see a headline predicting an imminent bear market—every single day—it is no wonder so many people think that bear markets are some sort of devastating anomaly that must be avoided.

One of the enduring stories in our family comes from our first time riding the Tower of Terror at Disney Studios. For those unfamiliar, you sit and wait in pitch black until your cart is released and you plummet in complete darkness. You are then propelled up at rapid speed and allowed to free-fall in the dark again a few times. It’s a lot of fun.

The first time my daughter Megan rode it she was small. She was allowed in line only because her hair bow obscured the fact that she was just a tad short of the height requirement. As we got close to boarding, my wife got very nervous. Just as she was about to jump out of the line, Megan took her hand, looked up at her with her baby blue eyes, smiled and said, “Oh, Mommy. It just goes up and down.”

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