by Mitch Anthony

The trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off.” – Abe Lemons, Oklahoma City University basketball coach

In a recent New York Times article about planning for retirement, the reporter laid out a year-by-year plan of action for people expecting to retire in about five years. The advice included:

  • Five years out: figuring out exactly where you stand financially;
  • Four years out: determining housing requirements including future long-term care needs;
  • Three years out: deciding what you are going to do once you stop working full-time;
  • Two years out: readjusting your portfolio based on your tax situation;
  • One year out: fine-tuning your plans.

The article is written for consumers, but there are lessons financial advisors can take away—specifically how critical it is to be sure your clients are on track to meet the above milestones.

Retirement coaching has become an increasingly important role for financial advisors—it’s also a way for you to move beyond the ROI model to the ROL (Return on Life™) one. Between the number of financial advisors practicing, low-cost services available, and robo-investing, retirement coaching is a way to differentiate yourself in a crowded marketplace.

Of course, job number one is to ensure your clients have enough financial resources to retire successfully, and on their own terms. Part of that planning relies on knowing exactly what your clients expect to do once they stop working. The two are inextricably linked—if you don’t know what your clients want to do once they retire, you can’t execute financial plans that will help them achieve their plans, and vice versa.

I’ve seen people retire with the mindset that “every day will be Saturday.”  Pretty soon, Saturday feels like Mondays used to. They’re anxious, irritable, and adrift. Within a year they become bored, then boring, and begin piecing together things to do just to “keep busy.” That doesn’t sound like much of a life to me, and certainly isn’t what I would consider retiring successfully.

Consider the following list of attributes of people who do not retire well:

  • Lack of challenges
  • Boredom
  • No (or not enough) hobbies
  • No social network
  • Marital strain
  • Trouble adapting
  • Feeling isolated
  • Loss of identity
  • Intellectual decline
  • Lack of structure
  • Upended plans
  • Health issues
  • Not enough savings
  • Fear of spending money

Now, compare that list with this one (attributes of people who enjoy a robust retirement):

  • Community engagement
  • Robust network
  • Active social life
  • Work (at least part-time)
  • Fulfilling hobbies
  • Routines
  • Purpose-driven activities
  • Well thought-out plan
  • Positive family relationships
  • Coaching/mentoring
  • Physical activity
  • Supporting a cause
  • Having enough savings
  • Still challenging self

You can quickly see how planning ahead, financially and psychologically, is so important.

Most clients find the following exercise a real eye-opener because they don’t realize just how much of their day is wrapped up in activities related to work: getting ready in the morning, commuting—even checking email or thinking about a problem after their work day supposedly ends. Once they’re no longer going to the office, they’ll have at least ten hours of unstructured time. That’s a big chunk of time. By comparing where they are now with where they want to be, they’ll not only be prepared financially, they’ll be prepared psychologically.

Have your clients complete the following worksheet and use it as a way to get the conversation started about their future plans. Your clients will thank you, plus you and your clients will no doubt uncover activities and goals that have not been incorporated into their financial plans.

Currently Activity Hours per week
(Total = 168)
Downtime (Facebook, music, etc.)
Personal Growth (Hobbies, learning a new skill, etc.)
Total = 168 hours
Desired Family/Friends
Downtime (Facebook, music, etc.)
Personal Growth (Hobbies, learning a new skill, etc.)
Total = 168 hours

Once your clients have completed the worksheet, revisit their financial plans to be sure they have all the resources needed to pursue their second half dreams and goals. Too many clients assume they will continue with the same lifestyle they currently have—and have the same financial needs. That may not be the case, and clients discover they’re either saving too much now (and putting off experiences they could be enjoying now), or not saving enough (and will need to continue working at least part-time to support their other plans). They may even thank you for helping them realize they want to continue working, even if that’s on a part-time basis.

In my book, The New Retirementality, I discuss these issues in greater detail and provide additional tools that can help you and your clients plan for living the best life possible with the resources they have.

These are all considerations your clients need to think about sooner, rather than later. Sharing these lists of attributes and having them complete this worksheet can help them understand that retirement planning is not just about ROI, but also ROL. They’ll also appreciate the value you bring to their lives.

© 2017 Mitch Anthony

Mitch Anthony advises financial services organizations throughout the world. An industry pioneer, he is a popular speaker and consultant, and the developer of MyFLPTools, a subscription-based service that provides a suite of discovery tools for financial services professionals. He and Steve Sanduski have developed the Retirement Coaching Program and ROL Advisor to help advisors build a Life-Centered Planning™ practice. A regular contributor to Financial Advisor magazine, Mitch is the author of more than a dozen books including the industry bestseller, StorySelling for Financial Advisors and The New Retirementality, now in its fourth edition. Contact Mitch at [email protected] or visit