Client Relationship & Service
8 MIN ARTICLE
Forget rocking chairs, sandy beaches or manicured fairways. Far from equating retirement with slowing down, today’s investors see it as the start of a third stage of life full of reinvention and promise that could last as long as 30 years.
That’s according to new Capital Group research among experts on modern aging, along with 18 investors across the country in various stages of retirement. What’s more, the research suggests it may be time for advisors to change how they engage with clients so that they can become the retirement advisor today’s retirees want.
“They want to know that their financial professionals are in sync with their goals for a fulfilling third change of life,” said Mike Van Wyk, vice president, Customer Research and Insights at Capital Group. “The financial piece is important, but not as an end in itself. Clients see money as a tool to help them achieve their new vision of retirement.”
The demographic “silver tsunami” is well underway. Today, more than a third of Americans are over the age of 50, a percentage that will get only larger over the next two decades, according to a study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. Financial professionals looking to serve this group may need to update their assumptions and their retirement planning strategies.
Here are four steps to reinvent your retirement playbook.
1. Think of retirement as the start of something new — not an end
Our research report, Retirement redefined, illustrates the expectations of today’s retirees and provides insights into how financial professionals can engage with them. Among the findings, a few key themes stand out, along with ways to address them.
Retirement as a time of reinvention: Modern midlife is a time when personal identity and obligations are in flux. Free from responsibilities to others, your clients may look to retirement as a chance to explore their own passions and live life on their own terms — possibly for the first time in their lives.
How you can help: Encourage clients to explore what this new life stage can be and encourage them as they seek to answer the question: Who am I without my obligations?
Aging as a new stage of growth, not a decline: The retirees we surveyed are active and vital, curious and social, forming connections to those who enrich this new life stage. Clients look to you for investment advice, but your perspective as an advisor is also valuable to clients as they look into how they can spend their time in retirement.
How you can help: By expanding your centers of influence (COI) networks to include experts in areas beyond accounting or estate planning, you can also introduce clients to experts who can help with lifestyle and social planning, values and legacy, and health and wellness.
Potential instability in relationships: Your clients may also be reevaluating professional, social and familial relationships to determine which will enrich their lives in retirement. For example, a Pew Research Center report stated that while the overall U.S. divorce rate is at a 50-year low, among those who are 55 to 64, divorce rates are climbing. Pre-retirees may also be evaluating their relationship with you and your practice, wondering if you can provide the level of service that meets their needs.
How you can help: Reinforce clients’ confidence in your value as a retirement planner, and be prepared to help them navigate big life changes as their needs and priorities change.
2. Create your retirement brand — and share it with clients and prospects
Defining your retirement brand is important so that your clients associate your firm with retirement planning. Key questions you need to answer are: For whom do I provide retirement services? Why do I provide retirement services? What specific retirement services do I offer?
The answers to those questions will help you organize your firm’s resources around these customer needs in a way that can set you apart from your client’s other advisors, as well as competitor firms more broadly. Be sure to include not only investment strategies, but also health and lifestyle topics, which are keys to a successful retirement.
Then, make sure you convey this expertise to clients. Reinforce your retirement services in your bio and establish a strong digital presence with these details on your firm’s website.
There are about 750,000 searches online annually for “retirement advisor.”1 Making the effort to highlight your holistic retirement planning services on your website makes sure your firm appears high in those search results.
3. Become a retirement concierge
Financial professionals typically concentrate on economic and market trends when discussing retirement with clients. Your clients, however, are probably more focused on how they will be spending their time in retirement, or how can they stay healthy.
One way to bridge this communication gap is to expand your network. Just as you rely on COIs, such as tax attorneys or estate planners, to provide expert assistance to your clients on those matters, specialists in senior housing, travel or education can provide insight and resources you can then share with clients.
You want to be that “first call” when your retiree clients have a need or question. So, having a great travel agent on speed dial might be as important as having the latest Federal Reserve report or estate planning tips.
If your website features thought leadership, or if your firm emails a regular newsletter to clients, consider including items of note about modern retirement, such as news articles about “senior housing” on university campuses, why those 65 and older are likely to start businesses, or inspirational profiles of men and women in this third stage of life. Feeding your clients’ intellectual curiosity, expanding their opportunities for personal growth, and helping them care for the next generation can help convince clients you are the right choice to be their retirement ally.
4. Create a retirement roadmap for each client
One way to systematize your retirement process is to flag each client file in the January of the year they turn 50, which is when individuals can start to make “catch-up” provisions to their IRAs or 401(k)s.
You can then schedule an initial retirement planning conversation with each of these clients. After covering financial topics, you can pivot into other areas of their retirement wishes, from future work or charity goals to where they want to live and travel. (For those over 50, make the retirement conversation the main topic at your next annual or semiannual meeting.) An important part of this conversation is asking them if they would be willing to consolidate all of their assets at your firm so that you can concentrate on helping them create the most successful retirement possible.
“You want to make sure your clients know that you both understand that their retirement is a dynamic journey and that you are prepared to help them throughout this new stage,” said Kate Beattie, VP in Retirement Income Strategy.
As clients get within five years of retirement, here are aspects of planning that you can bring up with them:
5 years to retirement: Demonstrate your brand
- Help them consider a target retirement date.
- Create a plan to build cash reserves.
- Take advantage of catch-up savings opportunities in qualified retirement plans.
- Discuss Social Security options.
- Review their overall asset allocation.
- Have an initial discussion about lifestyle and expenses in retirement.
4 years to retirement: Create a retirement vision
3 years to retirement: Help them prepare for their new place, passion and purpose
- What will their days look like?
- Where do they want to live?
- Who will they be spending time with?
2 years to retirement: Build the foundation
1 year to retirement: Ready, set, go!
- The U.S. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation maintains an unclaimed pension database.
- The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration maintains a searchable “Abandoned Plan Database” for 401(k)s and other qualified plans.
- Gather copies of all plan documents, including qualified plans, health savings accounts and medical plans, while still employed.
- Obtain current information about 401(k) benefits, profit-sharing accounts, and any vested or unvested balances in those plans.
- Confirm total vacation and sick leave and check what unused leave can be cashed in at retirement.
- Ask about the final paycheck: What pay period does it cover? What will the amount be? Is any of it unused leave balances?
- Clients who plan to move should give HR their next address to receive W2 statements and other correspondence.
Retirement can be a big opportunity for your clients and for your practice. But for this to become a reality, your firm must build capabilities to assist clients in creating the vision that would, ultimately, be supported by a financial portfolio.
1Capital Group research.