My wife recently bought front-row tickets for the local high school’s performance of The Wizard of Oz. She was excited to take our daughter and 6-year-old niece out to dinner and to the show. Dinner was great, but after the kids were ushered to their VIP seats up front, we discovered a major problem. When our niece sat down, it became painfully obvious that she couldn’t see the entire stage. It was so tall that she couldn’t see over it from her spot right behind the orchestra pit, which meant she would miss a lot of the action in back. It meant my wife would be holding her for part of the show.

This is obviously a First World problem.

Financial professionals often have a different kind of front-row seat. We are getting to see up close the huge transition of baby boomers into retirement. We see those who are just starting to plan for it, people already in the throes, and those already living in it. We get to see how they accumulated their savings, what their plans are for life after work, and how the transition affects them both personally and financially. It’s an interesting play.

But like my niece, some of us are getting a partially obstructed view, missing the backdrop and scenes playing out in the background. We can see a few major players but miss the supporting cast.

The things going on up front usually involve finances. Yet when you really take a look at everything, particularly things going on in the back, you get a very different experience.

I recently met with a couple dealing with a forced retirement. The husband was getting let go from his career after 25 years. He wasn’t mad about it. Instead, he was grateful for the opportunity to move on to something else. He was only 60. But he didn’t have the financial resources to retire yet. So we discussed several job opportunities in front of him and their financial ramifications.

Eventually, I asked them, “What are your favorite things to do when you’re not working and on weekends?” Turns out, Thursdays were their big date nights. On the weekends, they enjoyed volunteering and attending church. They also had some other events planned.

One simple background question made it clear that two of the four new opportunities would cancel key moments they wanted to enjoy together. And that could have served as a wedge in their relationship. If they have less quality and planned time together, they might grow apart, resent their decision to make the change, and potentially add stress to the situation again in the future if the husband has to make another job change.

I said, “Well I think you just eliminated a few of those job prospects.”

Money and benefits are often the star attractions of the show. Don’t get me wrong. Those are important things. But if I had stayed in my financial advisor seat with a limited view, I don’t know if I would still be managing their joint account in a couple of years.

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