6 smart strategies to help stressed-out clients focus on retirement

Key Points

  • New trends in longevity are dramatically changing how retirees navigate their golden years. To grow their businesses, Dr. Joseph F. Coughlin, founder and director of the MIT AgeLab, says advisors will need to fundamentally rethink how they engage with clients to develop plans that reflect a new, deeper, and more comprehensive vision of retirement.

Joseph Coughlin

Coughlin recommends six key action steps to cut through the noise and stress—which cause many clients to tune out their advisors on crucial retirement-planning issues—and get them to refocus and take action.

Going forward, says Coughlin, advances in longevity will fundamentally change retirement—requiring advisors to create better, more comprehensive retirement plans for their clients.

But to engage in discussions about the new face of retirement, advisors first need to cut through all the stress that's causing clients to tune out and avoid planning for the future.

When advisors engage with clients in ways that reduce their stress, they can get those clients—even ones who are decades away from retiring—to pay attention, listen, and start taking action.

Coughlin offers these six smart strategies for success with stressed-out clients:

  1. Make each interaction small and digestible. Anxious clients are more receptive to small bites of information about creating a plan than they are to a request for a 90-minute meeting to tackle the whole thing. Moving clients along inch by inch can stop them from feeling overwhelmed—and encourage them to keep coming back for more advice and solutions.
  2. Help clients feel smarter. Helping clients feel smart and empowered about their options reduces their stress and makes them more willing to engage than if they are always getting the message that "This retirement stuff is hard." Highlight the benefits that various retirement strategies and solutions offer, and show how clients can exert some control over outcomes (e.g., by investing regularly or steadily increasing contributions to their retirement plans).
  3. Keep it easy. Consumers across the board expect to get things done easily and efficiently. Millennials expect transactions with advisors to be easy, thanks to technology, while older adults simply don't want to deal with more noise. Giving clients more information to read can feel like just more work to do and cause them to shut down.
  4. Reassure clients about their choices and decisions. Advisors can reassure clients by sharing the decisions of other people like them who have taken similar steps—much like Amazon.com helps customers feel more confident about their purchases by showing how many other people bought the same products.
  5. Make the client experience personalized and engaging. Retirement planning itself may not get clients excited, but the experience around it can customized to get them in the right mind-set. Some ideas: Swap out financial publications in the waiting room with lifestyle content that speaks to clients’ retirement goals; use empowering language when discussing investing and the client experience (e.g., a "discovery session" instead of an initial client meeting). For some clients, gamification tactics may be motivational (e.g., chart clients' progress in a smartphone app by awarding stars or points when they complete tasks such as opening an account or transferring assets).
  6. Be relevant to the present and to the possible future. Frame retirement-planning discussions around specific issues and stressors that clients are dealing with in their daily lives right now. If a middle-aged client is taking care of elderly parents, for example, use that situation to jump-start the client's own long-term-care planning. Likewise, leverage a talk about paying for a child's college tuition into a conversation about the need for future retirees to keep enhancing their knowledge to stay relevant in the workplace.

By focusing on longevity planning that reflects the new face of retirement in the coming decades, advisors can help their clients navigate golden years that promise to be more dynamic than ever. Getting clients to understand the new retirement imperative and feel confident about their ability to achieve success will strengthen their commitment and loyalty—and could help build a great advisory practice along the way.

Interested in this topic and want to go deeper? Read the full article, and expand your knowledge about retirement planning in the face of longevity.

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