Saving for retirement is expected, but it can be hard to plan for a future that is almost completely unknown—it is almost like paying a mortgage on a house you’ve never seen.
When I think back to when my wife and I bought our home, we had a laundry list of specifications: location, taxes, number of bedrooms/bathrooms, size of the kitchen, single-family home or a townhome, etc. When we found houses that met enough of our criteria, we visited each one and weighed the pros and cons until we purchased the one we loved.
I can’t say I would agree to pay for a home that I’ve never seen, and yet telling clients to save for retirement is essentially asking them to put money aside for something they’ve never experienced. Retirement can be ambiguous and unpredictable, but it is also—like buying a house—one of the most substantial investments we make in our lifetime. Shouldn’t we also have a list of criteria for how we want to live in retirement?
As an advisor, you can help your clients by working with them to come up with a plan of what they want and need to live a fulfilling life as a retiree. From our partnership with the MIT Age Lab, we’ve designed three simple questions to help you start this conversation.
1. Who will change my light bulbs?
Aging can bring on health problems and decreased mobility, which could prevent your clients from being able to safely handle simple maintenance tasks, like getting on a ladder and changing a light bulb. There may come a time when they have to decide between staying in their current home and making the modifications necessary to ensure their safety, or looking into alternative living situations, like assisted living or retirement communities.
To begin discussing plans for aging in place (or not), ask your clients how, or if, they will manage the upkeep of their home if they become unable to handle it independently. If they want to stay in their home, they may need to start preparing to make changes to the home, and if they prefer not to live on their own, they might want to start researching their best alternative options. Both options are going to be a sizeable financial investment, and discussing these costs with your clients can help them be better prepared.
2. How will I get an ice cream cone?
This question can help your client think about getting out and enjoying the little things in life during retirement. If there comes a time when your client is no longer able or willing to drive, something as simple as going out for ice cream can become more difficult. However, not being able to just grab the keys and go doesn’t need to be the dreaded fate many consider it to be.
Help your clients understand all of their transportation options and the costs associated with each. Whether that cost is from owning and maintaining their own vehicle, or from paying for alternative types of public transportation, knowing what’s available to them and having a plan for financing their options can help ease clients’ fears about losing their independence.
3. Who will I have lunch with?
We are social beings, and participating in activities with others is necessary for a happy and healthy retirement. Your clients’ social network is crucial for staying active and mentally stimulated; however, as your clients age, it can become more difficult to maintain those close and meaningful relationships.
Talk to your clients about their current social network, and ask them how they plan to maintain it. Be prepared to offer suggestions for how they can grow their social circle and meet new people, whether through taking classes or joining recreational activities or clubs. Helping your client plan for ways to preserve their community can make the transition into retirement easier.
It can be seen as a leap of faith to ask clients to put such a significant part of their income away for retirement, but, as an advisor, you can give retirement a tangibility by helping your clients create a vision for that time of their life. Whatever plan you and your clients come up with will most certainly change as life progresses, but starting the conversation early is crucial to being prepared for the future.
The MIT AgeLab is not an affiliate or subsidiary of Hartford Funds.
Michael Lynch is a registered representative of Hartford Funds Distributors, LLC.
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