What goes up must come down—except, of course, age. It’s inevitable for all of us. And along with aging comes retirement.

While some embrace the thought of taking it easy after years of hard work, retirement isn’t welcomed by everyone. You’ve undoubtedly had clients for whom this is true. You can help someone prepare to retire for decades only to learn that he or she ultimately finds retirement unsatisfying, despite being financially secure.

The fact is, retirement is a major life transition that can turn clients’ worlds upside down if they’re not prepared. Take time management issues, for example. After building a career for three to five decades, many clients are used to having things to do, people to meet and places to go.

In retirement, they suddenly find themselves with plenty of unstructured time on their hands, which they now need to fill with meaningful activities. The transition from wealth accumulation to distribution can also trigger insecurity for some clients, even after you’ve reassured them that, yes, they will have enough money and won’t be dependent on their children.

As your baby boomer clients near retirement, you’re likely doing all you can to ensure that they’re financially prepared. But have your clients thought about the nonfinancial retirement challenges they’re likely to face? I’m not suggesting that you assume the role of therapist or life coach, but a few well-placed questions can help clients recognize the need to ready themselves emotionally for retirement. Addressing underlying issues ahead of time can go a long way toward warding off future problems—and set clients up for a more fulfilling retirement.

Anticipating Retirement Transitions
Let’s touch on a few of the major areas of transition and potential challenges pre-retirees need to consider. Helping them think about these issues in advance can be an effective way for financial advisors to add value to the client relationship.

Career and work. Whether the goal is continued income or personal satisfaction, many baby boomers want to work during their retirement years. In fact, seven out of 10 pre-retirees plan to work in some capacity in retirement, according to a 2013 Merrill Lynch study (“Americans’ Perspectives on New Retirement Realities and the Longevity Bonus.”) Although working in retirement can offer many benefits, it’s important for clients to be realistic about the kind of work they’re capable of taking on and how long they may be able to continue doing it as they age. For clients who elect not to work, the challenge will be to forge a new identity (and daily schedule) outside of a career framework.

Health and wellness. As more retirees pursue an active lifestyle, the traditional “rocking chair” image of retirement is becoming less and less relevant. In fact, many people are using their retirement years to focus on preventative health practices like they never did during middle age, and it may be decades before some experience a health decline. According to the Social Security Administration, a male who reaches age 65 today has an average life expectancy of 84.3; for a female, it’s 86.6. The body of scientific knowledge on maintaining wellness in the latter part of our lives is only increasing.

Still, physical decline is bound to happen at some point, and clients should consider how they’ll handle it when it does arrive. Mental health is also a major concern, with the risk of suicide highest among older white men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Alzheimer’s diagnoses steadily rising. No matter how healthy they may be today, it’s critical for clients to make a plan for long-term care.

Attitude and perceptions. Along with health, one’s attitude toward retirement has a major influence on happiness. For some, “retirement” is a dirty word, reinforced by ageism and social stereotypes about older people. But retirement attitudes are often a self-fulfilling prophesy. You can either adopt the philosophy that birthdays are good for you (after all, the more you have, the longer you live), or you can enter a bottomless pit of despair. In short, if clients think retirement is going to be a bad experience, it most likely will be. Attitude is one thing we have the ability to control, but many people underestimate its importance.

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