One of the biggest challenges facing the financial services industry is how to add more personal value to retirement planning conversations and strategies. I know this because it’s what I get paid to do. Teach other financial professionals how to move from purely financial questions to more personal conversations in order to deepen the relationship and add more value.

Earlier this year, I spent a full 10 hours training a group of advisors on what I call the Power 20—a detailed list of 20 questions and answers they can use to overcome the hurdles many of them have in switching gears and adding a more holistic approach to their discussion about what’s next after retirement. 

To my surprise, the advisors took to the questions like ducks to water. We spent time identifying the goals of each question and building a framework to help clients think more deeply about the nonfinancial side of retirement. Then we took time to role-play to help them feel more comfortable in this new situation. I was a little surprised at the response the questions got. I expected some push back or worries about getting too personal with clients, but the overwhelming response was, “We are doing a disservice if we aren’t using information like this to better educate our clients on the realities of the transition.”

As I have done more training sessions and conference presentations on topics related to the psychology and philosophy of retirement, I have come to the realization that no one has ever taught them how to use these soft skills, let alone monetize them. This is important because before I became a financial advisor, I knew very little about money or investing. I grew up a blue-collar kid in Detroit with the most prominent financial guidance being that “money doesn’t grow on trees.” One of my most memorable financial lessons came right before becoming a financial professional when I decided to start trading some hot internet stocks in the late '90s.

Now I don’t want to brag, but the $200 I scrapped together to start investing almost doubled in two weeks. So, I decided to lock in my gains and sell the portfolio. The only problem was, back then it was only $10 to buy a stock but $15 to sell it. So, when it was all said and done, the trading fees not only ate a portion of my initial investment but basically chewed up most of my profits from the sale. No doubt, I wish someone would have sat down with me and explained the finer details of the investment world.

The same holds true for the nonfinancial aspects of retirement, both advisors and clients need to be trained or walked down this new path for them to not only understand it but also apply it. Therefore, I want to share an abbreviated version from my Power 20 questions and strategies to help financial professionals wake up to the amazing potential they have to impact a client’s personal life and legacy.

1) Do you think we need to retire the word retirement? Talk about a simple lay-up question to get the ball rolling. Right now, more than ever, people don’t like the word retirement. They assume it means done, old, out to pasture and irrelevant. A set of images no retiree wants to be attached to. Therefore, by simply asking their opinion on such a hot and pressing topic, you will not only get a glimpse into what they don’t like about the old image, but also a sense of what their definition of retirement is.

2) How will you know if you are winning in retirement? This is one of my favorite questions because most people, including advisors have no idea on how to answer it, which is the whole point (i.e., to get people thinking in different terms about life after work). Fact is, we all know how to win at work, golf, volleyball and even with our health and relationships. But helping a client understand how to win at retirement is better than the magic of compounding interest. Hint: It has very little to do with money.

3) How has Covid served as a precursor for what retirement might look and feel like? This is another low barrier, training wheels type question that won’t shock a client or make them wonder why you’re asking more personal questions all of a sudden. Unlike the previous question, most clients will have an immediate answer to this one, which may not always be what you expect. All to often we have heard the horror stories of being in lock-down and spending 24 hours a day with a spouse, kids or annoying neighbor.

However, some couples and families have thrived through the pandemic and grown closer together.  Furthermore, people who once thought they would travel more in retirement, may now feel different about it because of how they were impacted by the last couple years. Either way, the answers they provide will give advisors extra insight into what makes a client tick and happy.

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