Near retirees and retirees need to be told about people who have failed to achieve happy retirements so that they avoid a similar fate, according to Robert Laura, a Certified Professional Retirement Coach.

“Not everyone fails at retirement, but those are not the people we are working with,” Laura told the Retirement Coaches Association at a conference yesterday. Laura is the founder of the association and of RetirementProject.org and is a retirement advocate. He discussed how advisors and human resources professional, with the help of retirement coaches, can help clients and employees achieve better retirements through behavioral economics.

People are “hampered by biases, anchors and loss aversion that not only muddles their view, but can cause them to fail right out of the gate,” the association noted in a statement. Being able to predict behavior can help people make a smoother transition from work to retirement, Laura said.

Many people plan for the financial part of retirement, and they expect all other aspects to unfold automatically and happily. It doesn’t happen that way, Laura warned. “Retirement coaches can reduce the stress and anxiety of retirement by helping clients pluralize retirement decisions. Retirement is not a ‘one-and-done’ decision. People can have more than one retirement.”

However, near retirees need to know that good intentions are not enough to create a successful retirement. “Retirement is complex, so it is human nature to put off the decisions,” Laura said. “Retirement is empty. You have to put something in there if you do not want to set yourself up for failure. Retiring and waiting to see what will happen will not work. That’s why coaching is so important.

“Retirees need full information to make good decisions,” and that includes knowing the negative possibilities, he added. “The reason people are failing in retirement is because they are not thinking about the nonfinancial decisions.”

Advisors and retirement coaches can differentiate themselves by showing near retirees examples of people who have made bad decisions or no decisions at all. Those who think retirement will change them are not being realistic. “Retirement magnifies what you already are,” he said.

“As coaches, we have to take the pretty pictures of retirement away from people so they see retirement from a different perspective—so they do not have unrealistic expectations,” he said. Retirement can be a happy productive time, but “there are dangers to not planning.”

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