From the September 2008 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Finances and the Perception of Retirement

Slowing down and entering a perpetual vacation for the rest of their lives is no longer the goal for a large percentage of retirees, so retirement takes on multiple possibilities as social conventions accept broader solutions at all levels of society. Age Wave, the firm started by psychologist and gerontologist Dr. Ken Dychtwald that researches population aging and businesses' response to it, found retirees fall into four psychological groupings:

Ageless Explorer. This group personifies the pursuit of the new retirement--a very active new phase where they would rather have a cramped schedule than put themselves at risk of being bored and complacent. They seek new career opportunities and participation in their communities. They're typically confident about their financial preparations for retirement and its emotional challenges. They don't see themselves as ever becoming "elderly." For "Ageless Explorers," retirement is a food festival with more surprises and discoveries just a few steps ahead.

Comfortably Content. These retirees embody a classic vision of the easy-going, low-ripple later years, where relaxation and few challenges are the goal. Work is something they did before retirement. They feel financially secure, travel, and pursue leisure activities. For the "Comfortably Content," retirement is comfort food at the favorite dinner.

Live for Today. They're vigorous and act young--and they're ready for a retirement that will be personally fulfilling. Their financial and strategic planning for retirement is often lacking, so they may feel unprepared and worried about the years ahead. Affluent clients are not immune from this group: executives near retirement with investment portfolios consisting of almost all company stock suddenly worth 10%, professional athletes with limited time to earn income and too much time to spend it before their retirement, financially unsophisticated children who inherit large sums without restrictions and spend down principal before they have their first gray hair, and so on. For the "Live for Today" personality, retirement is dinner in a trendy restaurant more known for the scene than the cuisine.

Sick and Tired. These folks have fewer financial resources and expectations for a satisfying retirement. They are least likely to have interests outside their own retirement challenges. The "Sick and Tired" are eating leftovers.

Advanced planning can certainly help assure the retirement for "Ageless Explorers" and the "Comfortably Content." If you can work with the "Live for Today" members early enough before their financial situation reaches too critical a point, you can potentially bring about a dramatic new scenario and turn them in to "Ageless Explorers."

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