The senior population is growing fast, and with it, a growing body of knowledge about what it takes to be truly fulfilled in our golden years. What’s become clear is that even the most well designed financial plan can’t ensure happiness on its own; we also need good health, social interaction and a sense of purpose in life. As a trusted advisor, your challenge is to help clients plan ahead for each of these aspects of retirement.
Even before this year’s pandemic, the fear of running out of money was a leading source of stress among retirees. That fear has grown as the effects of COVID-19 have increased economic uncertainty. Advisors can calm client fears by helping them identify their financial goals, budget for future spending, and establish income streams to cover retirement costs. With a solid plan in place, your clients will be better able to pursue the other elements of life necessary to their overall well-being.
A range of recent studies have shed light on what it takes to stay healthy as we age, and that generally means exercise, eating well and social and mental engagement. In spite of what we now know, however, research shows that the path of least resistance for seniors is to become more passive, and to spend increasing amounts of time at home alone — a trend that has only been exacerbated by social distancing. By contrast, clients who are able to find ways to stay physically active will tend to think more positively and live longer.
There is a well-documented epidemic of loneliness taking place in the U.S. As people age, loneliness can lead to poor physical and mental health, and ultimately to a shorter lifespan. By contrast, strong social connections can protect against loneliness, poor health and cognitive decline. To combat isolation, your clients need to be intentional about being socially active, with a goal of participating in at least four activities per week.
Michael Meltzer, a portfolio manager and client specialist with Tocqueville Asset Management in New York, has seen clients who have handled retirement well, and those who have not.
“How you spend your time is really important,” Meltzer observes. “If clients who are used to working every day suddenly stop, they can find themselves with nothing to do, and that can age them rapidly.”
He explains, “People need a routine to put their energy and mind toward. It’s all about the interactions you have — talking to people and having a reason to get out of the house.”
A Purpose in Life
While a client with a solid financial foundation, good health and an active social life may be ahead of the game, those who can add a sense of purpose to their life will be more likely to have their happiness magnified, live longer and truly make the most of their retirement years.
Purpose can often be found through work, faith, volunteering, pursuing one’s passions and/or through relationships. According to geriatric research specialist Dr. Patricia Boyle, “Having a greater purpose in life — the degree to which a person derives meaning from life’s experiences — may help limit the harmful effects of changes in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.”
As an advisor, you have a chance to help your clients prepare not only for their financial future, but also for the other pieces of their retirement puzzle that lead to happiness. Ask your clients how they plan to spend their time when they transition away from the workplace. Talking through these points ahead of time can help them make decisions that will set them on track to a more fulfilling future.