I’m often challenged by advisors and industry executives, who say, “We don’t hear a lot of complaints from retirees. So why do you say most retirements will be a train wreck?”

Would it be in poor taste to observe that there were very few complaints from the passengers of the Titanic during the first four days of the voyage?

“Retirement” is a terribly misleading concept. For many people, it is a destination—a long awaited moment to cast off a job they don’t love, a boss they despise or customers that are too demanding. Now it’s their time—time to travel, to relax, time for hobbies, for family or to just do nothing. The most popular word I hear associated with retirement is “freedom.”

But the cruise ship of retirement faces icebergs—the type of obstacles you encounter when you live longer (legal troubles, health scares, etc.). The longer you cruise the SS Retirement, the more chances you have to run into something that’s going to sink the boat.

Never Say ‘Unsinkable’
The Titanic’s captain, Edward Smith, infamously ignored warnings by other captains on his course and was on record for years before the tragedy extolling the virtues of modern shipbuilding to the point where he “could not imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder.” He sounds like a devotee of Monte Carlo simulations who doesn’t acknowledge the statistical reality that 70% likelihood is not a guarantee of success.

So what if his passengers had been told there was only a 35% chance of success (albeit in a short side trip in a lifeboat)? Would John Jacob Astor IV, a billionaire in today’s dollars, have bought that ticket for himself or his pregnant wife? Astor drowned at 47 along with 65% of the passengers and crew (though his wife survived and the child was born).

Mind The Trimesters
Remember the three phases of retirement: “go-go,” “slow-go” and “no-go.”

Way back when I was an advisor to families, I met a couple who had already quit their jobs. At 61 and 60, Dick and Ginny were active true go-go retirees. They had his pension and were financially secure. From me, their first ever advisor, they were looking more for validation of their choices.

“Tell me about your plans,” I asked. They enthusiastically described winters of skiing and summers of sailing their boat along the coast of Nova Scotia. “Wow! That sounds great!” I said. “So what’s next, when one of you may not be up for that effort?” I went on to share how it’s very common to have great plans but that Mother Nature has her own and longevity can be a spoiler.

I developed this attitude of being straightforward and skeptical after seeing what happened to relatives in similar situations. But the look on the couple’s faces said it all. I’d overstepped their expectation for the meeting. And just that quickly, they thanked me and left my office. That was my first encounter with the downside of being candid about retirement planning.

A few weeks later they called and asked for another meeting. “We’ve made some decisions,” they said. “First, we really appreciate what you said. We weren’t ready to hear it.” They went on to say they listened and had taken steps. They scrapped the Nova Scotia plan in favor of Lake Champlain in Vermont where they could store their boat year-round and also buy a condo in the same town as one of their children, who welcomed the idea. They also wanted to supplement the pension with a more protected form of income and liked the idea of an annuity in lieu of some of their mutual funds. Like a paycheck, they reasoned.

Real Retirement Planning Takes Courage
The facts are stubborn, and the fact is that most of our clients are not prepared. Nearly half of people with more than $100,000 in a retirement plan have no advisor, no financial plan and, we know, not enough money to retire and maintain their lifestyle.

You can say that this doesn’t apply to your clients, that they are more sophisticated and affluent. But are they really ready to finance 30 to 40 years of additional life? How do you know? How do they know? Most people still underestimate their longevity, so what plans do you have for them to hedge that risk?

What about those trimesters of retirement? Have you had the conversation with every client close to retirement age or already in retirement about the second and third trimesters? What does “slow go” imply for their plan—including where they will live? And what about “no go,” when one partner or spouse is gone? My mom’s in that phase now, and her circumstances are very different from what they were during the other two trimesters.

You Can’t Fake Retirement Planning
The advisors who sell a sunny retirement funded by a balanced investment portfolio are a better fit only for multimillionaire clients who can keep their spending in check. And that is a tiny percentage of the population. For all of the other clients and advisors, there is real work to be done with trade-offs and pivots as the inevitable challenges of longevity pop up. Professional imposters won’t last, and naïve clients will fail. The real advisors will protect their clients and earn both unprecedented growth and the feeling of achievement. Do good and feel good.

Steve Gresham is the managing principal of Next Chapter, a leadership community dedicated to achieving better retirement outcomes for everyone. He also serves as senior education advisor to the Alliance for Lifetime Income. He was previously the head of Fidelity’s Private Client Group. Steve is the author of The New Advisor for Life (Wiley).