Knock on wood, fingers crossed and a rabbit’s foot are common superstitions associated with good fortune while breaking a mirror, walking under a ladder or crossing paths with a black cat are linked to bad luck.   Superstitions can take a variety of forms but aren’t typically associated with the retirement transition. In other words, you don’t hear about people breaking wishbones on their last day of work or asking their advisor to round their account balance up if it contains a 13 or 666.

Yet, the reality is, people assume that the odds will favor them in retirement if they reach a certain age and asset level. Like reaching age 65 and a million dollars in savings is a sure bet for a successful retirement, but that’s like assuming Tom Brady won’t throw another touchdown pass against your home team because you’re sitting in a special chair or wearing a certain hat or shirt.

A superstition is defined as a widely held but unjustified belief in supernatural causation leading to certain consequences or outcomes. It is commonly applied to beliefs and practices associated with astrology, fortune telling and paranormal entities. Now, I am not saying financial professionals should look to the stars or dust off that crystal ball for clients nearing retirement, but instead, start looking at additional planning steps and practices that can be linked to a successful transition rather than a supernatural one.

If you think about some common retirement superstitions, they might include:
• Reaching a certain age prepares you for retirement
• Attaining a certain savings level will make retirement better or easier
• Medicare eligibility will save money and cover medical needs
• More time and fewer distractions will enable one to create the life I have always dreamed of

The reality is, a client’s age, portfolio value, debt level, health insurance status or schedule flexibility won’t make them happy, healthy, relevant, loved or better connected nor mean that their new life in retirement is more meaningful or valuable that before.

It’s not rocket science or palm reading because the longer you have been a financial professional the more instances you have seen where a client has their four-leaf clover of age, money, insurance and time but aren’t closer to family and friends, following that exercise routine they planned to in retirement, have put their skills and abilities on a shelf, and are watching too much TV news.

It’s interesting because I think one of the biggest factors that both professionals and clients miss about life after work is the fact that retirement doesn’t eliminate work, it simply reorients it. Meaning, yes, clients don’t have to get up and go to work and muster through boring staff meetings or deal with an annoying boss, co-worker or timeline. However, they need to do specific things to ensure their health, happiness and relationships that take an equal if not more amount of work and effort than their work before.

I would be remiss, if I didn’t disclose that I have a few of my own superstitions. In fact, one survey suggests I am not alone as approximately 44% of U.S. adults are superstitious to some degree with 9% of those respondents saying they are very superstitious. The psychology of superstitions is that the thoughts and behaviors we indulge in are ways to soothe anxiety or prepare our brains to deal with a situation. They’re more like habits that help give us the perception that we have some influence or control over unrelated events.

Some specific research on superstitious behavior in sports showed that even though superstitious beliefs don’t necessarily connect to better outcomes for athletes, the placebo effect or belief that they did was enough to make it worth believing. Furthermore, according to the American Psychological Association, many people know that their superstitious rituals or beliefs don’t really play a role in a specific outcome, but that doesn’t mean that they’re ready to let go of them.

The same holds true for retirement. As an industry, we don’t want to let go of the idea that saving a certain amount of money or being protected with insurance aren’t going to play a role in a successful retirement outcome, but if we can combine these beliefs and rituals with other factors that can have a direct impact on a client’s health, happiness and connections, than we are leaving less to fate and hope.

The process for doing this can be fairly simple, straightforward, and does not require much more than some company letterhead and a few lines of text including a place for clients to write their answers.

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