How much should I save? How much will it cost? Will I have enough?

Clients preparing for retirement look to you for sound advice about money matters. They ask questions; you provide answers based on your financial know-how and experience. But retirement planning isn’t just about finances. Chances are, you’ve heard clients express more emotional concerns:

  • I don’t like change.
  • Will I be bored?
  • I’ll miss my job and the people I work with.
  • I don’t know how to be retired.

The emotional side of retirement is a very real, often stressful, part of this life change. After years of working, some clients may question their identity or purpose. Some will feel a sense of loss or despair. Others will worry about aging, losing touch with workplace friends or what they’ll do every day.

According to ‘The Retirement Maze: What you should know before and after you retire’ by professional researchers, Rob Pascale, Louis H. Primavera and Rip Roach, as many as 40 per cent of retirees have trouble adjusting to retirement. Brighter Life retirement columnist, Dave Dineen, agrees.

“If you think it’s an easy adjustment, this book has news for you,” says Dineen in ‘Having trouble adjusting to retirement?

As a financial professional, discussions that go beyond life, health and wealth solutions may take you out of your comfort zone1 but could reinforce your role as a trusted advisor. This is the time when many clients think about whether they’ll stay with the same advisor2 – so give them good reason to stay with you. When you recognize the emotional aspects of retirement and can suggest ways to address them, you’ll strengthen existing relationships. You could also acquire new ones. More importantly, you’ll help your clients retire with confidence, both financially and emotionally.

Acknowledge their feelings. Most major life events – marriage, divorce, having kids – bring out different emotions. Retirement is no exception. Even those looking forward to it can have some doubts. The simple act of acknowledging those emotions can help. So can talking with someone they trust – a family member, friend or counsellor. Remember, retirement can also be an adjustment for a client’s spouse or partner too so encourage couples to share their feelings and discuss their retirement vision. Are they on the same page? Do they need to fine-tune their plans? Now’s the time to know!

Think about what’s next. Retirement may mark the end of a long-time career but it’s also a new beginning. Get clients thinking about their hobbies, passions and things they’ve always dreamed of: owning a business, volunteering, playing the piano, touring the country, earning a degree. Encourage them to put their plans in writing for ongoing reference and motivation.

Find a new routine. Humans are creatures of habit. After years of getting up for work, commuting, meetings, deadlines, etc., it’s easy to feel ‘lost’ without some day-to-day structure. Suggest a regular morning walk, lunch-time workout, college course or book-club meeting to help clients establish their new ‘normal.’

Stay connected. A report published by Statistics Canada in 2012 (“Social participation and the health and well-being of Canadian seniors“) underlines the importance of social connectedness. According to this report, “social engagement – involvement in meaningful activities and maintaining close relationships – is a component of successful aging.” Remind your clients to make the most of their existing social network and be open to new friendships via clubs, community organizations and volunteer groups.

Be active. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, physical activity helps maintain good health and independence. Among the agency’s tips for older adults are participating in activities they enjoy (swimming, yoga, cycling, ballroom dancing), joining group exercise classes, working out with a friend and walking as much as possible.

Learn more. Sometimes, just knowing that others ‘get’ what you’re going through is helpful. Books like ‘The Retirement Maze’ and columnists like Dave Dineen openly address the emotional side of retirement and how to handle it. Discover what they have to say, explore other resources and encourage your clients to do the same.

You might also like…

1 According to the Retirement Income Paradox (2012 GDC research study), many advisors feel they lack the ‘soft’ skills that can help during the decumulation phase.

2 ‘Changing the Game’, PMG Intelligence, 2011

More good reading

Help your clients learn more about the emotional side of retirement—and how to address it—through these Brighter Life articles: