I was running late.  No surprise there.  It was my daughter’s last home game as a cheerleader for the year and I wanted to see every minute of it.  I pulled in and started making my way over to the field.  As I rushed to get to the gates, just steps in front of me I saw a retired man and his granddaughter headed in the same direction.  Just then, they started playing the National Anthem.  The gentleman man stopped dead in his tracks and put his hand out to stop his granddaughter as well.  He removed his hat and just stood there, honoring our country and the flag.

I was struck by his actions and stopped as well, placing my hand over my heart.  A chain reaction took place.  Person after person witnessed what was happening and stood still in all areas of the parking lot.  His simple gesture had a major impact.

This personal example has several important applications for advisors and clients who are nearing or already in retirement. First, when I talk to people about their plans for retirement, one of the biggest things they say that they want to do is have an impact on others.  Recent research by AgeWave and Merrill Lynch found that 94% of Americans over 55 say the definition of a ‘life well lived’ is “Having family and friends that love me,” followed by 75% who says it’s “Having made a positive impact on society.”

This is great, the only problem is, many clients aren’t exactly sure how to make that impact, especially in retirement.   The problem can be compounded by the fact that people often assume they have to do something big or expansive like write a book or start a non-profit to have an influence on others. But as you can see from the story, a simple gesture can be the start of something big.

A kind word, personal favor, humorous email, listening ear, or vote of confidence can all function like an oasis in the desert.  They bring refreshment to a weary individual whose heart and soul are parched for some time and attention.  This grandfather’s actions flooded my mind with hope for the future and gratitude for my place in life… and your encouragement and personal support to a client can too!

The second application we can learn is the need to pause, reflect, and observe.  There were a handful of people that wanted nothing more than to get from the parking lot to the game.  Some people ahead of us did not stop for the Anthem – they just plowed ahead.  It’s easy for this to happen to many of us.  There is just so much going on that we often don’t take enough time to stop and pause, honoring the things that we already have and do.

The beautiful thing is that advisors don’t have to turn the reception area into a reflection room, or tell clients they need to carve out thirty-minutes a day from their already busy and hectic schedule.  Many people don’t realize that the average recorded length of the Star-Spangled Banner is one minute and forty seconds.  And that time frame is all that it took for this grandfather to have a major impact on me, and the others in the parking lot.

Therefore, don’t overwhelm yourself or clients by suggesting they find a set day, time, and location to stop and smell the roses.  Encourage them to find in in everyday examples like this as short, brief interludes can provide ample time to reflect and think deeply. For advisors interested in specific ways of doing this, please send me an email for more information on how you can use this story and others in your client communications.

Another thing that stood out to me was how this grandfather was passing on his values and beliefs. It was so sweet to see this little girl standing by her grandpa and following his lead.  It’s what we are all called to do as financial professionals, right?  Pass on important things to clients and future generations as well. 

What’s nice is that research supports this mandate.   The same AgeWave Merrill Lynch survey found that when asked what they most want to be remembered for, at the top of the list, nearly seven in ten (69%) say it’s “the memories I’ve shared with my loved ones,” towering over “career success” (9%) or “accumulated wealth” (4%).

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