Help Clients Think ‘Beyond the Money’

Financial planning won’t help clients achieve the “good life” unless you also integrate meaning and purpose.

By Jann E. Freed

For decades, my husband has been a wealth advisor for RBC Wealth Management. Several years ago, he was selected to attend a seminar for financial advisors in Minneapolis. The workshop was facilitated by Richard Leider, author of several books including “The Power of Purpose, Who Do You Want to Be When You Grow Old, and Life Reimagined.”

The foundation of Leider’s workshop was a research study, Discovering What Matters, by MetLife Mature Market Institute. Its study revealed that “while having enough money to be comfortable — a different standard for everyone — remains important, it’s not the only, or even most important, focus for many.”

According to Sandra Timmermann, director of the study, “The most content people also focus on the non-financial essentials in their lives, even during difficult economic times.”

Leider stressed that the study indicated that living the “good life” for middle-aged and older Americans is correlated with having a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives.  Based on interviews with more than 1,000 Americans between the ages of 45 and 74, the good life is defined as “having health, a financial safety net, and the time to do what is important.”

Because he knew living a life worth remembering has been my passion for years, my husband really paid attention. One statement Leider said made a significant impression and I paraphrase: If people have enough money to support their lifestyle, about 10% of the time they are talking with their financial advisor, they are thinking about their financial situation. And 90% of the time they are thinking about what to do with the rest of their lives in terms of meaning, purpose and how to spend their time.

‘The longevity economy’

Joseph Coughlin, director of the MIT AgeLab and author of “The Longevity Economy,” says “financial advice needs to be transformed into the more holistic business of longevity planning.” Instead of thinking of people as retirement clients, Coughlin prefers to think of them as “longevity clients” as they need help successfully navigating a long life.

Based on recent research from the MIT AgeLab, Coughlin made three main conclusions for financial advisors:

  • Planning is about life. Not just about retirement.
  • Advisors need to have conversations about more than money.
  • Longevity planning takes a team of advisors.

“If we are what we do and we don’t do it anymore, then who are we?”

Planning effectively for the rest of life is really about planning for “beyond the money”— which I refer to as the non-financial aspect of retirement or leaving one’s main career and identity. If we are what we do and we don’t do it anymore, then who are we?

“Living a fulfilling life from 55 to 85 is not based on intelligence or money. It is about having the conversations to be able to make good decisions about how you want to live the next phase of life.”

The research on longevity convinced me years ago to be on a mission to retire the word “retirement.” We are not retiring from life, but we are moving onto something else. And it takes time and intentional thought to move onto what’s next in life. Living a fulfilling life from 55 to 85 is not based on intelligence or money. It is about having the conversations to be able to make good decisions about how you want to live the next phase of life.

Tim Maurer, head of wealth management at Triad Financial Advisors, says that “good financial planning has life planning at its center.” He describes life planning as discussing with your significant other your shared “values, attitudes, expectations, goals, and priorities.” It is important to have conversations about the purpose for accumulating wealth. These conversations can be part of “legacy thinking” where the focus is on the impact you want to have and the difference you want to make in your family or the broader community.

Think beyond retirement at every career and life stage

While I was focused on the 50+ age group, a large insurance company asked me to create workshops for three age cohorts. All the workshops were called “Beyond the Money,” and were developed to help organizations and the people within them to prepare for “beyond retirement.” But each cohort had a slightly different focus to reflect how our priorities and resources can change according to life stage.

For the age 25+ group, the workshops largely concerned career well-being. While paying attention to health and fitness is common for most organizations, career well-being includes the social, community, and emotional aspects of their lives.

For the 35+ group, the focus is on creating a vision for life that can guide their career and life journey. Along the way, I discovered that millennials are often called the “purpose generation” because they are interested in working for a purpose as much as a paycheck. In their “Beyond the Money” career well-being workshops, the participants were eager to learn practical ways to integrate life and work.

For the 50+ group, the emphasis is on navigating this phase of life. We discuss purpose and meaning, searching for new directions, encore careers and/or retirement. This workshop wasn’t just beneficial to the employee participants; it also helped the organization with succession planning.

The key to ‘letting go’

When people are less prepared for the transition from work to the next phase of life, they are less likely to jump at the opportunity to retire. A few years ago, I worked with an insurance company that offered a lucrative early retirement package. The CEO was shocked when only five of the 80 eligible employees signed up.

“When people have enough money to support their lifestyle, money is not a motivator, I explained. “But when people have a plan, they know where they are going and have ideas on how to spend their time.” They are more able to “let go” in order to move on. This proved to be the case for the insurance company, which saw more employees sign up for early retirement once more focus was directed toward the non-financial planning for the future.

Today the role of financial advisor has become more complex. It is one thing to help people accumulate wealth to support themselves for the rest of their lives. But there is more to life that is “beyond the money” and financial advisors only have so much time to work with their clients.

Looking for ways to help your clients think beyond the money? Consider:

  • Providing workshops for your clients as a value-added benefit.
  • Bringing in consultants who special in various aspects of longevity. This can include life transition coaches, certified home modification specialists, senior housing consultants, geriatric professionals, and more.
  • Hiring a life transition coach to coach you and others at your firm about how you can conduct these conversations in the most effective way. Life transition coaches can also help you help your clients uncover opportunities for living a life worth remembering.

Living a life that matters is not automatic

According to Richard Leider, “The ‘good life’ is an integration of various components in a person’s life for which each component enables the next. Living the ‘good life’ means living in the place you ‘belong,’ with the people you love, doing work that benefits others.”

Given that people today are living longer and healthier, planning for the purpose they want to achieve later in life is essential. Living a life that matters is not automatic. Legacy thinking should be daily thinking to help clients make intentional decisions about how to allocate their money — and their energy and time. When clients feel financially secure, the focus can shift to life “beyond the money.” Then financial advisors will enable them to make the rest of life the best of life.

Jann E. Freed, PhD, is a leadership development coach and speaker, and the author of “Breadcrumb Legacy: How Great Leaders Live a Life Worth Remembering,” published by Routledge. You can learn more about Jann here and about Breadcrumb Legacy here.



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