by Mitch Anthony

Work was not always a dirty word. Having a vocation—a trade—was something people could be proud of and perhaps even pass on to their children. Once we entered the Industrial Age, however, rewarding work was replaced by soulless tasks and exploitive industrialists.

Work plays a critical role in our identities, whether we realize it or not. Work helps us discover who we are and who we are not. Work helps us discover our strengths and weaknesses, but also at a deeper level, we find affirmation of our purpose on this planet and of our potential to positively impact others.

An irrefutable fact of our times is the potential collision at the junction of life where retirement intersects with work. I have had the privilege of discussing the retirement/work challenge with thousands of retirees and would-be retirees over the course of more than two decades. What I’ve learned is that work is an essential part of “retirement,” premised on balancing needs and wants. Traditional retirement was focused on vacation, whereas retirees today want a balance between leisure and work.

Retirement Planning that Works

Advisors who work with clients who are in the midst of planning for that next phase of life need to be in a position to provide some direction and education in this arena. Our relationship toward work matures as we spend more time in the workplace. Clearly, we are not the same at 40 years old that we were at 25, and we are certainly not the same at 60 years old that we were at 40. To help understand the role of work in your clients’ lives, let’s start with a definition of work that you can share with your clients:

An engagement that brings value to others and meaning to me.

Note that this definition allows work to include volunteering and does not exclude uncompensated activities.

Whether we choose to work for economic reasons, existential reasons, or an amalgam of the two, it is indisputable that the trend toward working longer is here to stay. Whether we want to or have to, we can no longer separate work from retirement—and that’s good news for you and your clients. As the 15th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey stated, “Baby Boomers are overturning long-standing assumptions about working until age 65, calling for dramatic changes in current employment practices, and proving that retirement and working are not mutually exclusive.” Only 21 percent of survey respondents said they would stop working at retirement.

The catch? Not all employers are onboard—just 48 percent of employers are prepared to accommodate them. That’s where you come in. Not only is it critical to be sure clients have a financial plan for achieving their monetary goals, they also need a plan for how work will play a role going forward.

The bottom line is that the retirement pitch for the last generation has headlined the benefits of leisure, but those who enter into it full time are finding that it doesn’t deliver. The exclusively leisure-life retirement is a mirage.

Understandably, over the past several years you and your clients been probably been focused on the financial challenges surrounding retirement. But what we hear far less about are the nonfinancial retirement challenges that people face:

  • Sense of identity loss. You were Dr. Jones for 40 years. Who are you now?
  • Social/Relationship challenges. What if you actually enjoyed the people you were working with or calling on?
  • Change/Reduction in mental stimulation. Can that crossword puzzle or round of golf really fill the bill?
  • Psychological issues around not getting a paycheck. Inflation can quickly make you paranoid about going to a movie or dining out.
  • Extra time to fill in the day. Are you wandering in the garage for something to break so you have something to fix?

These are the real, existential risks of retirement that all of us must wrestle with. Add to this list concerns about money, inflation, and uncertainty in our markets, and it is no wonder that more and more people are coming to the same conclusion—it works to work.

In a research study from Oregon State University, people who worked longer, lived longer. All the money in the world won’t make a difference for those who feel they are losing their health, their connectivity, and their sharpness due to the lack of real challenge. Clearly, being challenged and active are now being mined not only for longevity purposes but for quality of existence as well.

Individual Retirement Attitude

Each of your clients has unique goals and needs—one size does not fit all, especially when it comes to retirement planning. They count on you to grant them permission to no longer blindly follow old assumptions and need your help in figuring out the right balance between means and meaning. At the end of this article, I’ve provided an easy-to-use tool you can use with clients to get the conversation started. It is essential for clients to understand how work will fit into their future plans. Money is an obvious benefit, and having more certainly doesn’t hurt. But the soul-searching doesn’t stop with counting and cashing the check or the material benefits. The psychological, social, intellectual, and general well-being benefits of work are much more difficult to count or estimate in terms of the value it delivers to your clients, but it’s just as essential as balancing their portfolios.

Working Retirement Conversation Worksheet

Directions: On a scale from 1 to 5, rate yourself on your true level of contentment (with 1 being “not content” and 5 being “completely content”).

I feel as though my natural talents and abilities are expressed through my work.  1  2  3  4  5
I have a continuing enthusiasm about the work I do.  1  2  3  4  5
I often feel energized by the work I do.  1  2  3  4  5
I enjoy the people I work with.  1  2  3  4  5
My work helps me to grow intellectually and personally.  1  2  3  4  5
I feel that I bring benefit to others through my work.  1  2  3  4  5
I have a sense of serenity regarding my work.  1  2  3  4  5

Now that you’ve rated yourself, jot down what you like best and least about your job.

What I like best…

1. _________________________________________________

2. _________________________________________________

3. _________________________________________________

4. _________________________________________________

5. _________________________________________________

What I like least…

1. _________________________________________________

2. _________________________________________________

3. _________________________________________________

4. _________________________________________________

5. _________________________________________________

Discuss with your clients what stands out to them, and what they can do to improve their circumstances.

Are they reaping benefits but want to slow down? Are they reaping great benefits and enjoying a number of aspects of what they do? If so, maybe they shouldn’t retire fully, but instead work part-time and help put a grandchild through college or sponsor a family reunion.

© 2016 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 the financial services industry.

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 is a consistently top-rated presenter who has spoken to groups ranging from 10 to more than 10,000. He has been named one of the financial services industry’s top “Movers & Shakers” for his pioneering work. Through the Institute, he has partnered with Texas Tech University, the University of Georgia, and Utah Valley University to develop financial life planning programs for their undergraduate programs.

Mitch is a sought-after expert for the media, and a regular columnist for Financial Advisor magazine. His columns have appeared on CBS MarketWatch and in the Journal of Financial Planning. His original comic strip “Stanley Brambles, CFG (Certified Financial Guru)”appears monthly in the print edition of Research magazine. Mitch is also 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 Story, and The Financial Lit-KitThe Cash in the HatThe Bean is Not Green, and Where Did the Money Go?. For information on these books and more resources, click here. Contact Mitch at [email protected].