As I reflect on another year of retirement planning conversations, I’m reminded of how complex retirement has become. It requires an intricate balance among personal and financial needs, goals and desires. It’s seen as one of life’s goals, yet for the unsuspecting and unprepared, it can turn out to be anything but a cherished reward.

The following is my list of retirement musings, mined from the conversations I’ve had with individuals, families and groups this year, things advisors should consider as they lay out plans for both their clients and their practices next year:

1) Retirement success isn’t what you think. A successful retirement isn’t one without problems, but one in which clients learn to overcome them. Too often, retirement is portrayed as a utopian phase of life, void of pain, suffering and heartache. But crossing this magical line does not eliminate stress, remove relationship issues or motivate you to live healthier.

Advisors may know these things, but the ideas are often groundbreaking for clients. The conversation with those clients must first acknowledge that true independence and freedom come from managing life’s trials, not just one’s investments. 

2) Retirement isn’t just about money. One of the greatest tragedies about retirement is that too many people are concerned more with what they own than with who they are. A person may retire with all the financial resources needed to maintain a certain standard of living, but money won’t buy love, health, family or friends. 

A client’s attitude can shape both his perceptions and actions. By empowering clients to make the most of everyday life in retirement, advisors can better prepare them for a smooth transition as they seek to replace their career identity, make new friends outside of the workplace and stay fit and capable. For this, they need to develop a personal plan to replace the things work provided for them: self-worth, deadlines and relevancy.

3) Retirement is about managing feelings. Advisors often warn clients against the dangers of making “emotional” investment decisions, contending instead that successful investing is guided by good habits and self-control, not by whims and knee-jerk reactions. The same advice should come to bear when clients make certain requests -- to change beneficiaries, withdraw more money or support adult children. 

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