For many years in the not too distant past people did not retire – they died before that was possible, according to Maddy Dychtwald of Age Wave, a research and educational organization that focuses on issues of aging.

That scenario has changed drastically already, and is still evolving, which presents a huge opportunity for financial advisors, Dychtwald said during a keynote presentation of the first day of the Invest In Women conference sponsored by Financial Advisor Magazine in Atlanta this week. The session was also sponsored by Edward Jones, which provided some of the research for the presentation.

The lines for retirement are being blurred between work and complete leisure. The question advisors should be asking their clients is – What are you thinking of doing with this next phase of your life? Then, with the financial advisor, the clients can determine what they need to get there, financially and nonfinancially, she said.

“The stages of retirement, which start as much as 10 years before the actual retirement date, should be important to all advisors,” Dychtwald said. The first stage is anticipation and it could start a decade before the retirement date. “If you’re a financial advisor and you are asking the question two years before retirement, you are already too late.”

The second stage is liberation and disorientation. “This is a time when people need financial advice and life planning even more,” she said. That is followed by re-invention, which kicks in three or four years into retirement and, again, presents an issue financial advisors can help with.

The fourth stage is reflection and resolution, which starts after about 15 years of retirement. Whether the retiree ends up happy and relaxed or challenged and regretful during this stage depends partially upon the retiree’s financial planning, as well as life planning, she said.

Helping clients determine what their purpose will be in retirement – whether that is a big goal or an everyday one – can go a long way toward defining a successful retirement, she added.

“Be honest with your clients about what they can do financially and physically. You can be the key to keeping clients from being strugglers in retirement,” Dychtwald said.

According to Edward Jones research, 61% of retirees wished they had planned better for their financial resources in retirement; but 54% also wished they had planned better for the nonfinancial aspects.

“People need a guide to help them along the way. As a financial advisor, if you can understand these life stages, this would be a great gift that you could give to your clients,” Dychtwald said.