by Mitch Anthony

If you hear any of your clients speaking apologetically about their age, tell them to stop! I mean it.

Who brainwashed our culture into believing that age correlates to insignificance, to exhaustion of personal resources, to irrelevance? Certainly corporate cultures and retirement policies have exerted some influence on these ageist opinions. Our obsession with youth isn’t new, but yet, the last time I checked, youth was replete with confusion and ignorance. In fact, the more we age, the more we know who we are, where we’ve been, and what we can do. Wisdom and experience are difficult to quantify, but this I know for sure: these values have worth in the marketplace. Age, rather than leading towards cultural insignificance, should instead be leading to elevated significance—in other words, a purpose-filled retirement.

Make sure your clients understand that they don’t have to become (or do) less as they age; indeed, it should be the opposite—as they age, they should grow! Just like the magical effect of compounding on our wealth in the later years of saving, the wealth of knowledge and experience compounds as we age.

A couple of years ago, I received a note from an advisor about her 86-year-old father. My guess is that you may be as inspired by this story as I was, and may choose to share it with your clients as you discuss their goals for a purpose-filled retirement:

“My father is still practicing dentistry at 86 years old. He doesn’t work full time, of course, but he covers calls (emergencies) for two other offices, fills in seeing patients full time when they are out of the office, consults on cases that are challenging, shares his knowledge, wisdom and techniques with other dentists. About once a month he works a full day in a free dental van, seeing patients who otherwise would not be able to get dental care. It’s a long, grueling day with no breaks. He was recently certified by the FBI in forensic dentistry in case of another major terrorist attack with multiple casualties, which included rigorous self-study and in-class sessions. He still works a day or two a week in ‘his’ office (he long since sold his practice to a young dentist) because he enjoys it and he still has patients who insist on booking appointments with him. He regularly attended a ‘study group’ at the dental school, where they have studied difficult and challenging cases for the last 40 or so years. He talks about ‘retiring’ permanently, but he is so mentally and physically fit and active that I doubt he will give it up as long as he is capable of doing it.”

Add to the above that he also flies his airplanes, rebuilds old cars (he has several), rebuilds airplane engines, and walks at least a mile every day. Did I mention that he likes to bake as well?

Now that’s what I call a purpose-filled retirement!

Contrast this man’s story with the all-too common sedentary, ever-constricting existence that is eventually reduced to watching Judge Judy—and it becomes apparent that the choice your clients make is critical, and requires them to ask (and answer) many questions about what they really want.

The attitude described in the story above is growing, as there are more people who seek purpose at every stage of life—there is no longer a “before” and “after” when it comes to retirement. Being 65, 70, or 80 may make you older, but that’s not the same as being old. Clearly, the bottom line is how you see yourself. That view influences every other decision you make regarding your expectation to flourish or flounder in the aging stage of life.

Until recently, scientists paid little attention to psychological development in the second half of life, and those who did pay attention didn’t always draw the proper conclusions. “About the age of 50,” Sigmund Freud wrote in 1907, “the elasticity of the mental processes on which treatment depends is, as a rule, lacking. Old people are no longer educable.” Freud was 51 when he wrote those words but ended up producing some of his best work after 65.

We are finally learning how powerful the proper attitude toward growth and possibilities impacts us as we age. I have to admit that I have been guilty of violating this attitude—grousing about turning 40, and then 50, seeing my youth sliding in my rearview mirror. My wife, thank goodness, will have none of it and is always quick to call me on it. Her first husband died at just 23 years old, and her answer to any age-related whining has always been, “Hey, you’re alive, Pal. What else do you want?” It’s hard to argue that perspective. Sometimes it’s hard to hear, but like everything else, you need to keep things in perspective.

When I contacted the woman who sent me her father’s story to ask permission to use it, she added these facts about him:

“He learned to ski in his 40s, took guitar lessons, and started to learn to play the piano not too many years ago. Just spoke with him today and he is at ‘his office’ because the new digital X-ray machine is being installed, and he’s learning how to use it. Never stops learning. The list goes on …”

A purpose-filled retirement means refusing to conform to stereotypes about age. It means continuing to learn and always being curious. Help your clients ensure they embrace a purpose-filled retirement by engaging them in dialogues beyond their return on asset. Both you and your clients will reap the rewards.

© 2015 Mitch Anthony

Mitch Anthony is the founder and president of Advisor Insights Inc.and the Financial Life Planning Institute, the leading provider of financial life planning tools and programs.

For almost two decades, Mitch and his team have provided training and development for both individual advisors and major organizations throughout the world. Mitch personally consults with many of the largest and most-recognizable names in the financial services industry on both financial life planning and relationship development.

Mitch has been named one of the financial services industry’s top “Movers & Shakers” for his pioneering work, and is interviewed by the media on a regular basis. The Institute is partnering with both Texas Tech University and the University of Georgia to develop financial life planning programs for their undergraduate programs. Mitch is a popular keynote speaker, columnist for Financial Advisor magazine and Journal of Financial Planning, and host of the daily radio feature, The Daily Dose, heard on over 100 radio stations nationwide.

Mitch is also the author of many groundbreaking books for advisors and consumers, including perennial bestseller StorySelling for Financial Advisors, cited by “Financial Advisor” magazine as the number one “must-read” book for financial professionals. Mitch’s other books include The New Retirementality (now in its 4th edition), From the Boiler Room to the Living RoomYour Clients for LifeYour Client’s StoryThe Cash in the Hat, and The Bean is Not Green. For information on these books and more resources, click here. Contact Mitch at [email protected].