I don’t have a green thumb. In fact, it seems that my greatest lawn and garden skill is growing things in places where they’re not supposed to be. You want or need me to patch your lawn, forget it. But if you need grass in between some bricks on your patio, in a crack on your sidewalk or in the garden, it seems like I can somehow pull that off.

All joking aside, when it comes to creating a lush lawn or bountiful garden, one of the most important components is fertilizer. It serves as a crucial ingredient because trees, flowers, vegetables and shrubs can’t produce everything they need to flourish on their own. They need outside forces, including a variety of nutrients to grow, heal and flourish.

In a similar fashion, we plant many clients into retirement without any fertilizer. Many advisors and clients assume their life will be fertile after they stop working simply because they reach a certain age or have enough money. But the soil around them, in terms of relationships, health, identity and purpose, may not be ready for them to fully blossom. This can inevitably cause them to wilt or yield less during their initial transition.

The hard part when clients get transplanted into retirement is that it’s not always easy to spot the start of bigger problems. During the honeymoon phase, it can be difficult to see how clients are impacted when they are cut off from their routine, co-workers, mental stimulation and physical activity. After all, when flowers are cut and placed in a vase, they can look healthy and even bloom for a short period of time. Even in cases where people aren’t fully cut off, you can’t just sprinkle some miracle grow or remove a few weeds from a marriage, family or health condition that has been put on the back burner until retirement.

Therefore, what advisors need to be doing right now is developing a green thumb for truly comprehensive retirement planning that includes these non-financial aspects. In other words, adding fertilizer to retirement plans by helping clients develop concrete, written action steps for their mental, social, physical and spiritual well-being.

Right now, it’s more important than ever to not only assess the soil around them but to also dig down and take a look at the roots. Advisors need to go underneath the surface and find out what’s really going on and help clients find tools and resources to address both challenges and opportunities.

One of the ways I do this with new and existing clients is with a checklist of over 50 things that can creep up and begin to overtake a person or couple’s retirement. Here are some of the more uncommon things on the list to help illustrate the value of going beyond just superficial conversations with clients.

1. How do I get my spouse off the couch?
2. How do I create healthy boundaries with my aging parent who constantly calls?
3. How do I introduce myself? Because when I say, “I’m retired,” the conversations end.
4. Why am I afraid to tell my friends that I’m not enjoying retirement?
5. Why am I grieving the loss of my career? I hated my job.
6. Why am I feeling lonely, despite being around people?
7. Why does my volunteer work feel unrewarding?
8. I don’t want to live my spouse’s retirement. What should I do?
9. All my stuff has become a burden, what can I do with it?
10. How can I stop feeling resentful towards my spouse as he/she has retired and I’m still working?
11. How can I convince my retired friends that I want to do more than just sit around eating and drinking?
12. Is it possible to enjoy retirement with grown children still living at home?
13. Why am I going to bed so early every night? Am I depressed? I’m not sleeping. What’s going on?
14. I never imagined retirement without my spouse. All of our goals and dreams were “we” oriented. How do I figure out what to do with my life now?
15. My spouse and I are not on the same page when it comes to our travel budget and destinations. What can I do?

The benefit of the checklist is twofold. First, when you ask clients face-to-face about any concerns or issues they have heading into retirement or during their first few years, many of these things are not top of mind. They are not always thinking about all of them or feeling anxious about them in that moment. Secondly, when they are handed a list of over 50 challenges they can face in retirement, they don’t feel alone or as out-of-sorts. So, it normalizes the things they are going through, essentially lowering barriers for further conversation.

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