There’s a lot future retirees can learn from current retirees, and whether the lessons are aspirational or terrifying, they can make a difference for clients who struggle with putting off the pleasures of today for the security of tomorrow, according to consultant Ken Dychtwald.

“At any age, retirees can be grouped through their life experiences, mindset, financial security and behaviors into four different groups,” said Dychtwald, CEO and founder of Age Wave in Orinda, Cali., which researches aging and financial habits in America. These archetypes, he said, are Purposeful Pathfinders, Relaxed Traditionalists, Challenged Yet Hopefuls and Regretful Strugglers.

“And perhaps looking at them is a good way to have discussions with your clients,” he continued. “‘Which of these would you like to be? And I’m going to show you how to get there.’”

The four archetypes are the result of a new study conducted by Age Wave, Edward Jones and Harris Poll called Longevity and the New Journey of Retirement, which is the third in a now-annual series meant to give financial planners insights into the many facets of retirement so they can improve outcomes for clients.

The inaugural survey in 2020, The Four Pillars of the New Retirement, found that in order to have a happy, secure retirement, retirees needed to have and maintain meaningful inroads in four areas: health, family, purpose and finances.

Dychtwald, who presented the findings of the 2022 study at the Next Chapter 2022: Rockin’ Retirement virtual conference, said he saw an opportunity to expound on the Four Pillars concept and tease out specific details that could be an asset to financial planners as they help clients prepare for a retirement that could last 30 years, almost as long as their earning years.

“Early and holistic preparation across the four pillars can have a big payoff,” he said.

The study broke retirees down into four personality groups—Purposeful Pathfinders who always saved and were financially literate (23%); Relaxed Traditionalists who started saving a little bit later than Pathfinders but are still doing well in retirement (26%); Challenged Yet Hopefuls who started saving in their 40s but are still positive about retirement (20%); and the largest of the four groups, the Regretful Strugglers (31%).

Dychtwald said he hopes planners can use these archetypes to strengthen their messaging to clients about taking care of their future selves. The effect of early, consistent investment is easy to explain—if someone saves $5,000 a year from age 25, they’ll have $935,000 at 65, but if they start at 45, they’ll have just $207,000. But seeing and hearing a theoretical example is not the same as hearing and seeing the results of that example, and in the context of the other possible results.

“Retirement is evolving. It’s changing from what our parents’ version used to be. It’s now a new chapter in life, and it has the potential of being an active and enjoyable journey,” he said. “And you need to be an expert at the different stages of that journey.”

Purposeful Pathfinders are the most aspirational of the archetypes, as they’re well prepared, he said. According to the survey data, they started saving around age 34, the youngest of all retiree segments, and they remain active and engaged in life. They’re highly likely to volunteer in order to keep contributing to the world, and they’re looking for new ways to reinvent themselves.

“They feel like they’re living their best years,” Dychtwald said. “And they believe that they’re defining the new retirement.”

Relaxed Traditionalists are also doing well in retirement. The survey data showed they started saving in their late 30s, and for them retirement is about relaxing and enjoying themselves. They are almost as well prepared financially as Purposeful Pathfinders, and nearly half say they feel they are in great shape financially. And while they’re not as engaged as Pathfinders (they’re not particularly interested in trying new things, and volunteering is not a high priority), they rate their happiness as high and are the most open to relocating, including to adult-living communities.

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