“I don’t want to ‘pivot’ anymore. … I’m sick of the back-and-forth rules and guidelines. … Do this. … Oh no, do that, and I’m not getting poked until after at least a year of research and once its fully FDA approved.”

No matter where you stand on vaccines, client comments like this are likely to increase in the coming months as an emotional firestorm is underway. It’s not just a one-way conversation from people against the vaccine. Another client recently remarked, “I’ve got cancer, so if my employer doesn’t require vaccines soon, I’ll take an early retirement like that.”

Vaccine mandates are the latest factor causing people to consider immediate retirement. Advisors need to not only understand the emotional ramifications of such a decision, but also be prepared to talk about vaccine risks and returns.

For the time being, you should put aside how you feel about the vaccine. I know that is hard for people on both sides, even for those using a wait-and-see approach. But we have to do so in order to have orderly discussions about what different groups, or segments, of clients may be thinking or feeling during these times. In other words, let’s focus on what they are dealing with first.

To start, we know a number of factors are contributing to early, sudden or forced retirement. Teachers are struggling with technology and digital classrooms; first responders are grappling with additional scrutiny and public cries to defund them; and now many federal, state and even private sector employees are facing mandatory vaccines with limited exceptions and stringent testing.

Oh, and let’s not forget what some of these people are dealing with on a personal level. Maybe they are struggling with their marriage, kids at home or a bout with depression. Maybe they are coping with drugs or alcohol.

Maybe as their friends and family find ways to isolate, they are seeking attention from somebody else. Or maybe they feel haunted by a relentless news cycle that pounds them with warnings and negative news.

Before we get into the people who are thinking about retirement, we have to look at our clients who either own or run organizations and the talent drain they are already feeling. Even if only a small segment of people opt to retire as a result of something Covid-related, dealing with a 3%-5% drop in staff can have a significant impact on companies’ bottom lines. Not only are they losing key people who intimately know their culture, clients and vendors, they have to find suitable replacements, onboard them in an expeditious manner and, in many cases, pay up for the right talent.

As HR managers struggle to replace talent, there are meanwhile still people getting vaccinated who plan to work no matter what their companies’ policies might be. In their mind, they are doing the right thing and being team players. But in turn, the pat on the back or nominal work incentive is resulting in some of them seeing dramatic increases in their work thanks to missing people and unfilled positions.

This social dynamic is critically important to understand because of the impact it can have on a client social network in retirement. Work actually provides a powerful social element for clients, and many people envision continuing those relationships after they retire. However, differences of opinion about the vaccine are driving a wedge in those relationships and can be particularly challenging if somebody leaves a job and their co-workers (who are perhaps also their friends) get hit with their work.

The issue here is that many advisors have never been trained to think about things like this. Yes, advisors can run the numbers, and the person leaving the workplace may be able to fully retire or find something part time to make it work. But replacing those friendships can be more difficult than getting a client a 10% rate of return with little risk. Furthermore, it’s not just about the friendships, but also the time that those relationships help them occupy during retirement.

Again, not many people think about time replacement as a major factor in a retirement decision, especially when it’s tied to work friendships. However, if a client’s decision to retire is due to Covid-related frustration and causes a rift with some co-workers, even those with whom they spent only a few hours a week communicating, there is now a void that needs to be replaced, and that’s not easy to do. 

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