December 19, 2011

Fidelity Guide Helps Advisors Bridge Retirement Expectations Gap Between Couples

Seventy percent of widows leave advisor after one year

Following research that found 53% of couples don’t agree on their expected retirement ages and 47% don’t agree on whether they will continue working, Fidelity released a guide on Monday to help advisors engage with client couples more effectively.

“Finding a way to engage couples jointly is not only important in designing successful retirement plans, it’s critical to maintaining that couple’s business for the long-term,” Larry Sinsimer, senior vice president of practice management for Fidelity Financial Advisor Solutions, said in a statement. “Seventy percent of widows end up leaving the family advisor within a year of a husband’s death – this is a statistic that advisors have the power to change.”

Fidelity found that only 38% of couples interact jointly with their advisors. Among couples who have a “primary contact,” more often than not that person is the husband (34% compared with 12%).

The guide, “Aligning Couples and Retaining Business,” offers strategies advisors can use to make sure their clients’ expectations are in line with their spouse’s.

If clients are arguing about what retirement should look like, advisors can ask targeted lifestyle questions and compare responses. Some questions they could ask include:

  • Will you live close to children or grandchildren?
  • How do you plan to fill your days: working (full- or part-time), volunteering, pursuing an activity?
  • How do you see travel fitting into your retirement?

Discussing lifestyle realities of retirement rather than market returns and investment results can help eliminate confusion surrounding specific plans.

When one spouse is more involved in planning, advisors can meet with them separately, then re-group with the couple.

The guide also recommends inviting adult children to meetings periodically to clear up misunderstandings surrounding their involvement.

The guide is available at www.advisor.fidelity.com/retirementincome.

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