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For many Canadians entering their golden years, retirement brings with it the vision of a simple time filled with recreational activities, relaxing trips, and lazing around. But for many retirees, life is very different.
Teresa Amabile, a professor at Harvard Business School who studies Identity and Retirement, has found that many people get into an “existential crisis” after retirement and are no longer tied to a job.
“We’ve done our society a disservice by portraying our retirement as sort of a golden year, the best time of your life. And people were caught up in that idea – that they can look forward to this freedom and sail into the sunset holding hands, “says Susan Latremoille, Director, Wealth Management and Wealth Advisor at the Latremoille Begg Group at Richardson GMP Ltd. in Toronto. “But the reality is that it doesn’t always work that way”
Like many financial advisors in Canada, Ms. Latremoille helps her clients avoid this post-career slump through a holistic retirement plan that goes beyond the financial aspects. However, some say it can be difficult to venture into such conversations with clients who are reluctant to reveal details of their personal life – especially when they see their advisor solely for their financial well-being.
“Not every customer would expect that [from] your advisor, ”says Ms. Latremoille. “I’ve always been the type of consultant who wants the big picture. I want to know everything about the family, their travels, hobbies and interests. It’s about discovering the true interests and passions of customers and then helping them connect with them. “
Ronald Harvey, senior financial advisor to the Harvey Waterman team at IPC Investment Corp. in Ottawa, believes some customers are reluctant to discuss the personal aspects of retirement because they fear they will not be able to afford their goals. For these clients, planning a fulfilling retirement is hardly a priority if they are concerned about being able to afford retirement in the first place.
“What keeps them from their passions and other things, in my opinion, is the fear of failure,” says Harvey. “What if it doesn’t work? … [It all comes] back to [question], ‘Can I afford to retire?’ “
While some clients may not enjoy the formal discussion of life goals after retirement, Harvey tries to incorporate casual discussions about clients’ personal lives into each meeting. By asking questions like, “What’s different in your life since we last met?” He can pick up on clients’ interests, goals and values without asking them directly about their retirement savings – a wish, he says , is often answered with a “stag in the headlights”.
Wayne Ricard, Branch Manager and Financial Planning Advisor at Assante Financial Management Ltd. in Whitby, Ont., says he discusses clients’ financial goals in the context of their personal needs from the first interview.
“I ask customers what they are looking for – and then hopefully you can help find the right answers. The wrong answer is, ‘I’m looking for someone who can make me better [financial] Performance ‘”, he says. “We can’t control the market, so I’m more interested in talking about things we can control like, ‘When do you want to retire? How does retirement look for you? ‘”
Mr. Ricard adds, “I’m the observer who says, ‘Okay, this is where you want to go. And we have to do that [to get you there]. ‘”
For clients who are more open to discussing their personal life, Ms. Latremoille takes a more structured approach to setting retirement goals. She advocates establishing a “diversified portfolio” of retirement activities to avoid a scenario she often sees among retirees: planning to engage in an activity for the duration of their retirement only to run away quickly shortly after retirement.
“In this portfolio you have personal goals, you may have family responsibilities or family goals that you want to fulfill, you might want to travel … learn new skills, take up a new hobby,” she says. “There are all sorts of parts of a retirement plan that can be very rewarding as long as they are balanced – so that you don’t travel all the time or try to learn French all the time.”
Ms. Latremoille also tries to help clients distinguish between “hollow goals” and deeper ones. She points to an example of a customer who “couldn’t wait to retire and spend the whole day on the golf course” – only to get bored easily.
“What he thought was his greatest purpose in life, which was spending the winter in Florida and playing golf, turned out to be a pretty hollow goal for him,” she says. “And it took them a while to readjust and figure out what else he was going to do.”
While she admits that “one man’s definition of hollow is another man’s fulfillment,” assisting clients in a variety of activities – some earmarked, some indulgence – is essential to ward off retirement burnout.
Mr. Harvey takes a similar approach to coaching clients on retirement planning, adding that he encourages many to continue exercising their existing skills beyond the end of their careers, including doing part-time work, volunteering, teaching, writing, and others in community centers pursue passion projects.
“I remind them, ‘Your skills don’t go off like a light switch when you leave work. Think of it more like a dimmer. You can still do what you did the day after you retired as well as you did the day before, ”he says.