I was near the end of a return flight home. The person next to me wasn’t much of a conversationalist, preferring to sleep with oversized headphones and a red-velvet neck pillow for most of the two-hour flight. So, I was looking forward to landing and reconnecting with the world.

When we finally hit the tarmac, I reached for my phone and turned it on. The next 30 seconds felt like an eternity as my phone read “Searching for connection.” I clinched my phone tightly as if that would make it work faster. Then, to my relief, it read, “Network found” and I was a connected person again.

This is something that most advisors and their clients have experienced but haven’t necessarily translated into their retirement thoughts and plans. Many clients have no idea how their connections and overall social network can change as they move to and through retirement.

Several years ago, I interviewed a retirement researcher who found that while people are working, they can have up to 22 high quality interactions each day—high-quality meaning face-to-face. However, once they retire, that number can get cut in half, down to 11, and be of lesser quality—suggesting contact is made through phone calls and emails. That’s a dramatic shift that can leave people feeling out of the loop and isolated in some cases.

In fact, one client I spoke with described it like, “Living in an emotional cave, where it is dark, silent and heartbreaking.” To make matters worse, it’s not something that a person is likely to bring up or say they are struggling with because retirement is supposed to be this wonderful time where everyone is happy and fulfilled, so many people suffer in silence because of stigmas associated with it.

That type of description doesn’t show up in many retirement commercials or brochures, yet it’s a reality we have to start talking about it in order to help clients avoid feeling disconnected in retirement. Unfortunately, this may not only be happening to some of your clients but your loved ones as well. Recent research supports the need to put more focus on the people they want in their life during retirement:

• 40% of Americans don’t feel close to others at any given time. And the number of lonely Americans has doubled since the 1980s.

According to Canadian Association of Retired People,  16% of Canadians indicated that they lacked companionship.

• According to the American Association For the Advancement of Science, loneliness shortens our lifespan by twice as much as obesity.

To put it into context, think of your client’s social network like a warning light on their car dashboard. As they’re driving along towards retirement, the check-engine light comes on suggesting that there might be some trouble under the hood.

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