The coronavirus may end up being one of the greatest turning points in the history of retirement planning. It’s an unprecedented time and situation because the effects of this pandemic, which has caused a market meltdown and subsequent panic, are not just financial. They are personal. This story is about health and well-being; the emergency has affected people mentally, physically, socially, spiritually and financially.

In mid-March, according to the Pew Research Center, 47% of Americans thought the Covid-19 outbreak posed a major threat to the overall health of the U.S. population. Obviously, because of the rapidly changing nature of this crisis, the share of Americans who say the outbreak is a major threat continues to rise and intensify.

As a result, it has kicked open the door for a whole new mindset and approach to another subject: retirement. More specifically, life after work. And more important, the crisis has given advisors the opportunity to start having bridge conversations that go beyond dollars and cents.

While we don’t have all the answers about how this will play out, we know at some point we will return to normalcy, so advisors need to think about playing the rebound. When things finally settle down and clients start coming back in, advisors are going to have to explain what they did during this downturn, and what they are doing for clients going forward.

If your answer to the, “What have you done for me lately?” question is just financial, you may risk losing some business. A recent industry article I came across suggested that during the last crisis, some advisors made the wrong financial moves for clients. The article suggested that advisors on the TD Ameritrade platform had only 26% of client assets in cash and fixed income when the market peaked on October 9, 2007. Fast-forward to the market bottom in March 2009, and the number had jumped to 51%.

The other issue we know too well is that markets fall faster than they climb. A 30% drop in portfolio value needs significantly more return to get back to even. A drop from $100,000 to $70,000 is a 30% loss, but a portfolio turnaround from $70,000 back to $100,000 requires a 43% increase, since fewer dollars are invested. This is what frustrates clients. They assume a 30% loss is mostly undone with a 20% snapback, but it only gets them halfway back up the ladder.

Advisors can be proactive, communicate these things to clients and set good expectations before those clients come back in. This is also a great time to start introducing the idea of retirement wellness—talking with them about more than just money.

Retirement wellness is a subject that can carry advisors and client relationships forward. In a new era of retirement planning, the subject of wellness allows you to develop plans that address five key areas of life: the mental, social, physical, spiritual and financial.

Unlike other money subjects, the topic of wellness allows us to bring in the latest social science, research, psychology and behavioral economics to help clients see and plan for retirement in a refreshing new way—what I’m sure many of you agree is both what clients need as well as what advisors need to give their meetings and interactions new life!

And you can start with this simple point when you talk with clients: “Our biggest takeaway from the coronavirus is that going forward, we want to make sure you don’t run out of money or good health, family, friends or time. As a result, we will be adding some updated services and communications to ensure your retirement plan addresses both personal and financial matters.”

Then you need to lock in some new training and tools and position yourself and your team as experts. You can either position yourself at the front of the pack or play catch-up later. Doing this will not only pay dividends in your relationships but also help your firm’s bottom line through both client retention and new business.

When it comes to additional training, advisors need to add not only new skills but also confidence. I can’t stress the latter enough, which generally results only from practice and role play—to anticipate the myriad things that will come up in client conversations.

Advisors don’t need to be trained as therapists, but they do need to know how to work through their clients’ thoughts and feelings and help clients reframe their situations and take positive steps. This is one reason I am grateful for my time and experience as a social worker before I got into financial services, and why I feel so strongly about educating advisors on topics of positive psychology and behavioral economics.

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