Six-Step Checklist Helps Build Deeper Client Relationships

You are a financial advisor, not a social worker. Yet helping clients build social connections in retirement will show them you care.

By Dave Buck

Editor’s note: Dave Buck is a longtime columnist for Rethinking65. Read more of his articles here.

Dave Buck
Dave Buck

Imagine you stopped working right now and your relationships with all your clients ended. How much would your interactions with humans decrease? Now, envision your clients getting ready to retire. How will their social interactions similarly be curtailed?

I have dealt with one-person operations on up to firms managing billions. Whatever the size, there is usually a constant focus on enhancing and deepening the relationship with the customer. There is often also camaraderie between co-workers and industry peers. When the work-related aspect of human interaction goes away, loneliness can easily set in.

According to a report from the National Academics of Sciences (NAS), more than one-third of adults aged 45 and older feel lonely. The NAS study also highlights that nearly 25% of Americans who are 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated. That means today there are some 14 million people in the United States alone who lack basic interaction with other people. As the population grows older, this number is bound to increase.

You probably do not have to go out far from your house to find a neighbor that spends most of their days…alone. I bet you have some clients like that today.

Different Parameters, Same Concept

In the financial world, the idea of “longevity pooling” is an interesting approach to mitigating retirement risk and ensuring a steady stream of income for life. By pooling resources with others, retirees can collectively benefit from the longevity risk-sharing mechanism: Those who live longer than average are supported by those who live shorter lives.

You are in a unique position to help prepare your clients to start “relationship pooling” as a way for retirees to build and maintain a strong network of social connections, support systems and shared experiences. This could involve forming intentional communities or social groups where retirees can engage in activities, pursue shared interests, and provide emotional and practical support to one another.

Going back to my question earlier, if you retired today, on average your social network will decrease by half. For your clients headed into or already in post-career life, the same will happen to them. And their set of contacts will continue to decrease as they age.

Social Aspirations

You might be thinking that you are not a social worker and that you barely have the time to walk clients through all the financial details. Fair enough. But as you seek a deeper connection with your clients, you can use this checklist to help them face their new reality and work on addressing any challenges.

The Couples Alignment

Commonly, the deepest relationship is with a spouse or partner. Prompting your client to discuss social interactions (alone and together) brings greater clarity to general living. Many spouses fail to invest time knowing what the other truly wants in a retirement life. Ask if they have had a deep lifestyle discussion.

The Career Carryover

Work is an environment that is naturally aligned to create friendships. However, the basis of those connections is tied to the commonality of employment. Close attachments often fall away quickly as the career camaraderie is broken when one retires. Ask your client if they have a plan to keep up with co-workers and clients once they stop working.

The Family Factor

Early retirement is often filled with a lot of travel. Much of it is to visit family and friends to reignite or enhance bonds that tie everyone together. However, a retiree’s enthusiasm to spend more time with children and relatives can be met with resistance, because the family members’ lives are being disrupted. Impress upon your clients to talk with their extended family about their desire to spend more time with them and how that will fit into everyone’s lives.

The Featured Friendships

Typically, we all have a lot of acquaintances. But when we identify friendships from that group, it gets a lot smaller. You can gently nudge a client to make sure they are investing time now in the friendships that mean a lot to them, so they are still there in retirement.

Filling The Pipeline

Earlier I mentioned the data about loneliness. It is easier for people to retreat into isolation than to work at finding new relationships. Prompt your client to find out what they plan to do to stay engaged with other people outside their immediate group.

Willing Mentors

I’m going to guess you have clients who have this retirement-life thing figured out. They probably tend toward the extrovert side of the social spectrum. Why not explore the possibility of providing retirement mentors, introducing one client to another (individuals or couples)?

As a financial professional, you are tasked with helping your clients plan for their financial well-being. Given the economic challenges many will face, introducing them to the financial side of longevity pooling provides peace of mind and monetary stability. Investing a little time to open your clients up to relationship pooling, by keeping them engaged and not isolated, can bring them another sense of peace and stability.

David Buck is the author of the book “The Time-Optimized Life,” owner of Kairos Management Solutions, LLC, and founder of the Infinity Lifestyle Design program. As a certified professional retirement coach (CPRC), David works with financial services providers helping their clients create a post-career lifestyle strategy. To learn more, contact him at [email protected] or visit Infinity Lifestyle Design.

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