We all have problems, right?  I had a pretty big one recently and even knew it was coming. 

We were getting ready for a family party at our place when my wife said, “It feels really warm in here, is the AC working?”

I was feeling a little toasty now that she mentioned it, and so I began to break down what was going on. I started by checking the thermostat to make sure the air was on. Then I moved to the vents to see if cool air was still blowing. Finally, I walked out to the AC unit to see if I could find any issues there.

When I arrived, the line to the furnace was frozen solid. We had a major problem, and I was feeling stressed. This was exactly the wrong time for something like this to happen, which made me begin to wonder what else could go wrong. So I began to wonder if we had enough propane for the BBQ grill, if we would run out of food or drinks, or what if I undercooked the hamburgers or chicken and people got sick.

It’s interesting how stress impacts our lives and daily routine. Something as simple as losing access to cool air can completely derail our thinking and change our view. My AC going out is definitely a first world problem and something that’s relatively easy to remedy, especially since we were warned that it could go out soon by our home inspector when we bought the house. 

But being aware of things that may come up and even break in retirement isn’t part of the traditional planning process yet, and can leave clients feeling anxious and stressed about the transition. Many advisors are surprised to learn that almost 20 of the 43 most stressful life events can come near or in the early phases of retirement.

That’s a very powerful statistic for advisors to know and have in their back pocket—primarily because it provides both scientific evidence of the need to plan beyond the dollars and cents of retirement, but more so because it’s the perfect way to create bridge conversations. 

Bridge conversations are those that take an advisor from just talking about saving and investing, to helping them plan for everyday life in retirement. These topics are not only becoming more and more important as advisors look for ways to differentiate their practice and avoid fee compression, but advisors must also learn the skill of directing these discussions. 

In other words, advisors can’t just rattle off a bunch of stats and hand their clients some sort of workbook or goal questionnaire and think that it will make an impact. They have to know what’s behind the science and why it’s important.

The information on stress in retirement comes from what is referred to as the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. Long story short, back in the late 1960s, psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe studied how stress can contribute to illness. They surveyed over 5,000 medical patients and asked them if they had experienced any of a series of 43 life events in the previous two years.

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