How To Help Clients Who Feel Retirement Is Out of Reach
Episode 636th January 2022 • Human-centric Investing Podcast • Hartford Funds
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Do you work with individuals and couples who not only feel like they’re behind in saving for retirement and think the idea of ever achieving it is impossible? Find out why helping them requires both art and science, new levels of creativity, and a focus on simple habits rather than total solutions.


John Diehl: [:

Julie Genjac: [00:00:02] and I'm Julie. [00:00:03][1.3]

John Diehl: [:

human centric investing podcast. [00:00:08][3.4]

Julie Genjac: [:

inspiring thought leaders to hear their best ideas for how you

can transform your relationships with your clients.


John Diehl: [00:00:19] Let's go. [00:00:19][0.3]

John Diehl: [:

things that seem impossible. Have you ever had a situation where

st seemed impossible to you? [:

Julie Genjac: [00:00:33] Oh, John, the list seems fairly

lengthy, especially these days, but one situation that really

sticks out in my mind is last year trying to buy a new house. It

seemed so impossible, so out of reach, especially these days

with a lack of inventory. Bidding wars, changes to the process

due to the pandemic, etc. But I have to say with some patience,

which typically isn't my strong suit, some logic, some planning

and most importantly, having some trusted sounding boards. It

all worked out. How about you, John? have you found yourself in

impossible situation lately? [:

John Diehl: [00:01:10] Well, not lately, but one that sticks in

my mind actually occurred in the area of the financial services

business. We had a very close family friend that came to me, and

he and his wife were concerned because they were only a few

years into retirement in their nest egg with seemingly

disappearing like somebody had told them that if they just kept

their annual withdrawals under, like 12 15 percent, they should

be fine. Right. So I looked at it and I just thought, Wow, this,

this almost seems impossible. And yet we were able to work some

things out where, you know, they made some adjustments, they

took on some new things. But I'll tell you, Julie, that

experience made me think that as a financial professional, I

think one of the hardest situations that we get into is where we

face a situation where we just look at the numbers and we say

there's no way this client's going to make it, and I'm not sure

how to tell them that. And so that's why I am so looking forward

o our podcast episode today. [:

Julie Genjac: [00:02:12] Absolutely. No, that's a that's a very

powerful story, and I think you're right, and we're very

fortunate to have Robert Morra here with us today to share some

thoughts and best practices on how to make retirement a little

less impossible. Roberts, a pioneer in the psychology and social

science of retirement planning, he's a three time bestselling

author, nationally syndicated columnist for Forbes and Financial

Advisor magazine and a recognized presenter at retirement

conferences across the country as a former social worker turned

money manager, author and speaker. His work has reached millions

of people for seven book, 12 guides and over 800 articles. He

frequently appears in major business media outlets such as The

Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the NBC, MarketWatch, The New

York Times and much more. Robert, welcome and thank you for

s here today on our podcast. [:

Robert Laura: [00:03:10] Thanks Julie And John, looking forward

to being here and spending some time with the guys now.


John Diehl: [00:03:15] Hey, Robert, when I read that the

headline kind of your term, the impossible retirement, I have to

admit, I didn't really know what you meant by it. So what was

this idea? And how did you come to it around this idea of an

impossible retirement? [:

Robert Laura: [00:03:33] Well, I mean, I think we've all seen

the statistics of the saving crisis and people aren't saving

enough and, you know, I've had lots of interactions with people

who just who feel retirement impossible. And I kind of got the

idea from the show restaurant impossible when they go on this

show and they've got these restaurants that are run into the

ground and they're going to shut down in two months. And it's

the end of a long legacy. And it's this horrible story. Well,

the same things happen to people in retirement, you know,

they're kind of they're turning 50 or 60 or 65. They feel behind

and no one's really helping them. And, you know, kind of to your

point, you made earlier like, I was a retirement robot for a

long time. As press numbers, press time frames, sorry, won't

work. And really, it's about being creative and looking for

solutions and kind of being the light for them that says there's

there's ways we can do this. And so it is just about a little

bit, you know, learning a little bit more of the art than the

science and then really just instilling people and hope. Because

again, to the story that you just shared through our ways that

people can do it, it's not impossible. They just can't see new

opportunities. [:

Julie Genjac: [00:04:52] Robert, I'm curious, does this concept

primarily impact clients who haven't saved enough money for

retirement, but can you share your thoughts on to which

demographic of free retirees that you're referring to?


Robert Laura: [00:05:07] Yes, that's where it starts, and again,

because we've been, you know, brainwashed to believe that

retirements of financial event that you have to have this

ridiculous sum of money that you're slowly going to, you know,

eat away at for the next 30 or 40 years. And again, if you were

to walk up to people and say, how much do you two have to retire

a million dollars, $2 million? You know, these staggering

numbers and it's impossible, you know, people are living

paycheck to paycheck. And the other idea that retirement is this

time where you do nothing is not true. And so not only do they

have this bad idea of the sum of money they need, but the fact

that they're not going to do anything. And that's where again, I

think if you start to look at some creative ideas that people

have had, you can combine, you know, your passions and hobbies

with part time work or a business or other things. And you know,

even for myself, like I don't see myself slowing down until I'm

in my 80s, there's just no way. And so that switches gears. So

someone who's, let's say, 58 who hasn't saved enough is now is

sweating out, trying to have a million dollars and be done for

the rest of life at 65. It doesn't have to be the case. You can

switch careers, you can go back to school, you can start a

business, you can do these other things. And that's what's

missing. People just need permission and also normalization. You

know that. Guess what? You're not the first impossible story you

come across. You're not alone. You're not hanging out there by

yourself. There's some things that we can help you with.


John Diehl: [00:06:42] You know, Robert, I recently spoke at a

conference and afterwards it was a financial professional

conference. Afterwards, a couple of folks came up to me and they

wanted to know my thoughts on replacement ratios, right? And

that I think it was 100 percent or 80 percent or how does that

change over time? And that look, not that it's not a great

conversation to have. Obviously, there are great rules of thumb

that can kind of get us in the general vicinity. But what I'm

hearing you saying is not to disregard the financial analysis

part of it, but to understand that that's not a pretty

determinant of what the future will be. Is that - am I capturing

that correctly? [:

Robert Laura: [00:07:24] Yeah, you know, I think, too, I think

if you think about something simple, like a marriage, right, you

don't you can't project what your marriage is going to look like

in 30 years. But if you take care of it today and nurture that

relationship right now, it's going to blossom for a long period

of time. So if we can switch the focus, so instead of John, you

got to have a million dollars in 10 years, so go get three jobs.

Say goodbye to your family and slave away, and then hopefully

you'll get there. But oh, by the way, when you do, you're going

to be miserable. It is about saying, Let's start small. Let's

just say we're going to do this. Let's open up your eyes. That

65 is not that or 62 is the the end all be all day. And let's

start to explore, you know, some of your passions and hobbies

and try to align perks with them or other opportunities. And

it's just really this process of opening up area, you know, just

fresh thinking. And that's what when people are in a rut and

struggling, it's what they need. They need someone to break that

cycle. And I think no matter what situation you're in, just for

someone to have some hope for you. And again, when people come

to us as financial professionals, we carry a lot of influence.

What we say matters to people. And do I tell people, you know,

not, you know, preaching some prosperity that, oh, we're going

to fix this, you're going to be richer than ever. Easy money,

don't worry about it. But I think just say, we're going to keep

working through this. I'm here for you. That's keep bouncing

ideas. Let's keep through it. And it doesn't. It's not snap and

done. It does take time. But people need that. And that again,

is something that we can provide to those individuals who do and

still that hope, help them be creative and open up new ideas.


Julie Genjac: [00:09:07] It makes so much sense, Roberts, and

I've always thought about it as the dollar amount is important,

but it's what is that dollar amount allowing an individual to do

in the next days of their life? Is it allowing them more free

times, allowing them to give back to an organization that they

care about? Is it allowing them to help their family? What is

that doing in terms of opening doors and giving them

flexibility? You know, I'm curious, do you have any examples

that you would be willing to share of any clients that you hope

really work through this process? Maybe they felt like

retirement was out of reach or they were really struggling with

this, this concept of thinking about this insurmountable hurdle?

can you share with us today? [:

Robert Laura: [00:09:56] Yeah, I have an example, early on in my

career where I had a couple come in, they wanted to retire and I

must be doing some quick math. It wasn't looking good in their

big goal. They wanted to travel and I'm thinking there's no way

that's happening. But really, what I didn't realize at the time

was that they later sure it was. She had worked for an airline,

and so she was going to get tickets for like twenty five dollars

a ticket. She planned in retirement to work part time for a

hotel chain while her husband was retiring from a big three

automaker was going to go work as a porter for a rental car

agency. So essentially, they created a way to retire. They were

going to work part time to generate some income, but also

because of the hotel chain, airline and rental car agency. They

could basically travel for pennies on the dollar and so that the

money wasn't there. But the strategy was and that's why we we

have to look beyond the dollars to your point to these other

things. And time and time again, I've had clients come in just

like they're just sweating out the numbers, but they don't live

extravagant lives. They, you know, John, to your point, earlier

about the replacement ratio is the rule of thumb, 70 or 80

percent, maybe. But can a lot of people have a great life at 40

or 50? Absolutely. Because here's the one thing I know about

retirement. The only guarantee that comes with it is at some

point, you're going to die. That sounds like a terrible topic to

have, but that's the reality, and you can't take it with you.

And if you really drill down and ask people, you know what's

most important about retirement, if they're on their deathbed,

they don't say, Hey, will you call my financial advisor? We

bring the deed to my house. Know all the most important things

in the world. Don't cost money. And so you don't need the focus

to be on money. You don't have to take the grandkids to Disney

World three times. You really just need to spend time with them.

So it's about drilling down. What's important, what they value

and then taking a step by step process to figure out what they

can do from there. [:

John Diehl: [00:11:53] So when we think about Robert, we think

about helping clients who feel that retirement is out of reach,

I mean, it's funny to hear you share that story. The couple I

mentioned earlier, they actually went back to work for the local

school district. He drove a bus part time. She was an eight part

time. But I thought the most clever of the things that they did

was they enjoyed traveling in their travel trailer and they

would always stay at national parks will. During the summer,

they would go and volunteer at national parks right where they

would get free lodging and maybe some, you know, some free

fellowship activities throughout the summer. And you know, I

think that the the important thing for financial professionals

to realize is we don't always have to think about all these

things, but what we do have to do is observe what's happening

because those stories that we can share can be a great resource

for clients who are unsure. And I guess I'd ask you, Robert, how

is it best to help clients who feel that retirement is out of

reach? [:

Robert Laura: [00:12:56] I think it's really talking through the

definition of retirement, so if you can help people change the

definition that says, you know what the new definition is, that

large sum of money do nothing. The new definition is having an

impact, having purpose, combining the things that you like and

love with ways to make money. Great point on that couple using

National Park to volunteering. A lot of people love to go to

theater and shows what you can go volunteer at those things.

That way you're not spending money on it. So if we can redefine

what retirement looks like when that end date is, because one of

the worst things we have are retirement ages, they should just

do away with them because they mean nothing and they're more of

a stigma. They kind of hang on people more than kind of open up

doors. And so it's redefining retirement. It's instilling hope,

right? It's just saying, we're going to figure this out. We're

going to keep working towards this doesn't mean we've got it

figured out. Here it is on a piece of paper, but you will adapt

over time. And that's the other benefit of financial planning

and financial professional. You got to meet on a regular basis.

We're going to update this stuff. We're going to relook at it.

And then I think it's starting small. You know, what's what's

the first step? I tell people, it's all time you got year one

decision, one situation at a time. It's the same way you get

out. We don't need 10 steps. Need one? Let's figure out what

that is. Let's establish a consistent savings habit. Let's look

around. There's so many ways like you can rent a room. You know,

you could teach CPR. You could, you know, there's ways you can

do things to make some extra money. And again, even if we're

just saving that, but it's again saying and giving them

permission to think outside the box because no one's told them

that everyone said, Work hard, save a bunch of money, you know,

you're going to have to really sacrifice a lot. And I hope you

get there. That's a bad strategy. So I think if we can give them

permission to think and feel better about where they're at,

where they're going, they're going to be able to get there.


Julie Genjac: [00:14:53] Robert, I loved how you talked about

breaking this very complex process and topic down into one step

at a time. One foot in front of the other. Bite sized pieces for

financial professionals that are intrigued by this concept and

want to weave it into their practice. Have you found that this

can be utilized as a prospecting tool as they look to engage

with future clients? And if so, how might the any professional

do that? [:

Robert Laura: [00:15:24] I think it absolutely is, because I

think that we have a responsibility to not just work with people

who have enough money and who have it all figured out. And the

other thing I really think is that people who are struggling

need support and they need to be around like minded people who

want to kind of take that next level. A great example is

actually Dave Ramsey's, you know, his kind of books and

strategies. You know, those classes kind of bring people

together, but advisors can do the same thing if they offer up a

local workshop or discussion or online webinar that says if

you're behind retirement and worried about it, you know, join me

for a one hour presentation. And again, it really is just about

kind of walking people through some ideas and strategies that's

also differentiating you in the community. Right? So it's not

just about how much new business can I get, how much revenue can

I draw? How much can I do all this or that? Go work with some

organizations who have some people who may be behind or lower

paid to kind of offer these services as a way to kind of give

back and be a positive influence in your community.


John Diehl: [00:16:30] So, Robert, as we think about when I

think about anything that seems impossible, it almost always

goes back to the fact that it seems like such a pain in the neck

to think about. I don't even want to begin to try and get my

arms around it, right? So let's kind of role play a little bit.

Not not per se, but client comes in and shares with you what

their worries are. They are afraid they're not going to have

enough money. They're afraid, they're never going to be able to,

you know, leave the job that they're in to start something they

want. Like when we say, establish that first step, what is that

first step look like? Do you center on a hope and dream the you

center on a fear, the youth center? What do you pluck out of

that story as a grounding point of place to begin?


Robert Laura: [00:17:15] So what I train other professionals and

people on is that kind of a three step process, normalized

context and permission. So we're going to right away normalize

it. John, you're not the first person who's come in here that's,

you know, felt like they're behind or felt like retirement was

impossible. I see this on a pretty regular basis. And, you know,

so you're not alone in how you're feeling. So what we have to do

is kind of figure out the key things that are important to you

and where we're going to go. And I think so that point that

allows us to give context because then context is, you know,

explain why I'm feeling this way to tell me how to feel

different or what is the statistic behind this. And that, again,

is where the advisor has the opportunity to say there's a new

narrative for retirement. It's not about, you know, building

this large sum of money. It's not about sitting around doing

nothing. It's really realizing that you can have impact, make

money and do the things that you like, well, longer than the

traditional retirement ages. So that's the first time they're

hearing this, right? So they're like, OK, I'm alone. You're

saying there's potential. And I think if we if we make the shift

because financial planning is complex, that's why people

procrastinate it. There's too many layers. You're like, Oh my

God, bang in your head. Well, all this stuff, you know, I don't

want to do it. Let's talk about what's most important to you,

because all we remove money as the main factor. Stress and

anxiety goes down. Ideas go up. And so that allows people that

answer say, OK, well, I guess what's most important to me is

this and this. So we, you know, we make the buck smaller. We

give them permission to think around and outside of it. And

that's where people, they need that light first. Ultimately,

you're going to have to say, you know, let's just let's meet

again in a month or let's, you know, kind of try some strategies

to save some money or set aside some additional savings or why

don't you just start to Google? You know, part time jobs with

benefits, you know, so that way, if they still need benefits

when they transition or they want to work part time, they just

they're starting to do a little bit of research and report back

and we can talk about that. So that's kind of my process is this

whole normalize context permission, then help them take those

steps. [:

John Diehl: [00:19:26] That's terrific. [00:19:26][0.3]

Julie Genjac: [:

financial professionals think about how they might actually

implement this concept in conversation. I'm curious, Robert,

obviously you had many, many, many conversations through the

years with many different clients and different life stages and

financial and physical situations. Is it true that sometimes

retirement really is out of reach? And how do you embark on

those conversations? [:

Robert Laura: [00:19:58] I don't think it is, you know, because

there's no universal definition of a successful retirement. So

it's it's interesting. I've been trying to develop an assessment

of retirement readiness assessment, right? And I've been banging

my head trying to figure this out. Well, the problem is the way

you define it, Julie or John or myself is so different. So how

can I say who's successful or who's going to be better at it?

And so that's why I think it's such a personal choice of

retirement. Again, we have to get rid of the get a bunch of

money, sit around, do nothing. You could some people work till

they're 80 or 90. You know, there's plenty of people they say,

Well, retirement is a death sentence, so was going to die once I

go there or there's plenty of people who just want out of the

workforce, but then they get out and they're like, Well, this

isn't any fun. So they get back in. So I think it is just

opening up these doors. So I don't think it's a matter of being

out of reach. And again, I think there's plenty of things find a

job that you love. You'll never work again. It's stuff that they

can assimilate to and be retired in whatever way they want to

define it. [:

John Diehl: [00:21:00] So, Robert, I could probably have a

pretty good argument with someone in academia, and I'm sure they

would wind in that case, but this concept of the number right

that came out, I don't know, maybe 10. Fifth, I don't know,

everything seems like it was five years ago to me anymore, but

it was probably 15 or 20 years ago. I'm guessing you would say

that that has quite often done more harm than good. Would I be

right in that? [:

Robert Laura: [00:21:26] Yeah, and again, I think it's a good

guide, you know, we need rules of thumb, we need things like

that because again, a young person starting out, we want to

teach them this the savings habit. And so there's foundations

for this. But there's always there's things that come up and

some people are adults with tough hands and all of a sudden

you're in a tough spot. And oh, by the way, this is impossible.

You'll never get there. That's not we want to instill. So the

numbers, they are important. They do play a role, but they're

not it. And there's there's definitely a lot of wiggle room and

hat we can use within there. [:

John Diehl: [00:22:01] We had a couple last week, came to one of

our workshops, and they had been retired for about five years,

and the rest of the folks in this meeting were still working and

and even into their retirements. But they came back and they

said, you know, the one thing we could tell you to count on in

retirement is it will look like nothing that you counted on.

They said they were five years in and it looked nothing like

they had once envisioned. But they didn't say that regretfully,

right? Some things came up and changed their course, but they

were very thankful that what happened did and like you said,

it's a fine balance. It's not totally just, you know, let's see

what happens, but it's it's an interesting way to look at

things. And I think that that's the difficulty in trying to find

that math solution to a life that we really don't know what's on

the other side of. So rules of thumb are great. Problem is,

thumbs are different, right? [:

Robert Laura: [00:22:59] You got it, and I think that again, I

applaud you guys for the work that you're doing because the

other thing I like, you got the resources. And so that's why I

think it's cool that advisors don't have to know it all or be it

go download some of these articles or other things and hand it

handed out because that's just as beneficial as being able to

kind of walk people through Smith's framework or other pieces,

sometimes putting it in their hand, or they can take it home and

ke a big difference as well. [:

John Diehl: [00:23:24] So, Robert, at financial professionals

could take one thing from today's discussion to change the way

that their clients think, or maybe even a first time prospect,

first time we sat down to change the way they're thinking about

at should that one thing be? [:

Robert Laura: [00:23:39] I think it's be the light, be

impactful, you know, really start to think about your role as a

financial professional as being much more figuring out the

dollars and cents. People trust you and they're coming to you

because they respect you. And so if you can just be that light,

let them know there are possibilities. Don't be a robot and

start to develop a little art with the science will go a long

way in that way, helping that person, but your community, other

people as well. [:

Julie Genjac: [00:24:05] Robert, I love that beacon of hope. I

think it's just so, so powerful and hopefully resonate with all

of our financial professionals tuning in today. And if you're

interested in reading Robert's article called Impossible

Retirement How to Help Clients Who Feel Retirement is out of

reach. Please visit Hartford Funds dot com slash impossible.

That's Hartford Funds dot com slash impossible. Thank you again,

Robert, for being here with us today. We truely appreciate it.


Robert Laura: [00:24:34] Thank you. [00:24:34][0.2]

Julie Genjac: [:

Funds. Human Centric Investing podcast, if you'd like to tune in

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John Diehl: [00:24:51] And if you'd like to be a guest and share

your best ideas for transforming client relationships, email us

a guest booking at Hartford Funds dot com. We'd love to hear

from you. [:

Julie Genjac: [00:25:02] Talk to you soon. [00:25:02][0.0]