Social distancing experience illustrates retirement challenges

Joseph Coughlin, founder and director of the MIT AgeLab, has said that increased longevity could lead to a retirement that lasts around 8,000 days. In a recent article, Coughlin talks about how current social distancing protocols could illuminate the challenges of having too much time to fill, a problem many may encounter during what could be a very long retirement. For those who are only thinking of retirement from a financial standpoint, this crisis could be a wake-up call.

As people face longer retirements, financial advisers must adjust how they’re working with clients and transition from a traditional financial manager into a longevity adviser – someone who can anticipate client needs beyond finances.

Advisers should let their clients know that their experience during the pandemic could be a preview of retirement, and ask them the following questions to help plan for a successful one. 

How does it feel to spend so much time in your home?

The objective behind this question is to find out what challenges your clients may be discovering while spending all day, every day at home. For example, does their home have a lot of stairs that could become more challenging to tackle as they age? Are they realizing how hard it is to keep up with all the cleaning? Have they come to realize how noisy or, on a positive note, helpful their neighbors are?

If they are expressing frustrations or concerns about their home, segue into a conversation about where they will live in retirement and how they will handle household maintenance, and talk through different options for living comfortably and safely as they age. 

Are you finding enough to do to fill your free time?

After spending so many years going to work, many retirees struggle to find meaningful activities to fill their day. If clients are having a hard time occupying themselves in the current situation, it could be an indication that they are not prepared to fill 8,000 days of free time. Talk with your clients about ways to stay active, and show them the technologies that can help them do so.

For example, certain apps encourage fitness by enabling them to track steps on their devices and participate in classes. If your clients are interested in learning a new skill or language, help them find resources for online courses. For those interested in volunteering, share with them matching platforms to find the right fit. There are plenty of activities to do remotely and apps to help them stay busy, so getting them started now can help them be more prepared later.

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How have you been maintaining your social network?

Both in isolation and in retirement, loneliness can be a real health hazard. Show your clients that they will still be able to socialize in retirement, even if they won’t be seeing co-workers, friends or family regularly. Familiarize them with programs and apps, like Skype, Google Hangouts and Zoom, that allow them to have virtual get-togethers. Introduce them to social media platforms that facilitate meeting like-minded people and feature chat or picture-sharing options. Staying connected to others is vital to our well-being, so a successful retirement hinges on being able to maintain a strong social network. 

As an adviser, you play a pivotal role in helping clients to succeed in their 8,000-day journey. Use this time as an opportunity to get your clients talking about the unexpected, nonfinancial parts of retirement, and teach them about the technologies and options to help them thrive, both now and in retirement.

Mike Lynch is a registered representative of

Written by Investors Wallets

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