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Let's play retirement

Angelia Z. Shay, CLU, ChFC

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Why pre-retirees need to try out retirement before they actually do it.

One of the first things I say to clients is, “This is the first time you’ve been here. But I’ve been here, in the last 25 years, probably 800 or 900 times. And there are some things you need to hear.

“You can’t retire from; you need to be retiring to. If you take your mind back to when you were in high school or college and you had a dance to go to, as a young woman, you go and buy your dress and try the dress on. You put your heels on with it and see what it looks like and what it feels like before you actually wear it. I’m going to encourage you as a client, let’s play retirement, and let’s talk about what that looks like.”

A lot of times, clients who are coming in have tons of vacation time stored up that they haven’t used. So I may say to them, “You say you want to live in Florida; why don’t you take off two or three weeks and go down to Florida for that time period? Let’s see what it feels like.”

Sometimes you’ll have a spouse who is going to retire before the other spouse. “We don’t know what it’s going to look like. Bank the paycheck of the spouse who wants to retire and see what it feels like. You’re saying you’re going to do away with that income, so let’s start banking it.”

The mindset of the older baby boomer was, “Today I’m working, and tomorrow I’m retired. I’m done.” Instead, we build a vision of what retirement could look like.

Could we say that over the next three years we’re going to phase you into retirement? Will your employer allow you to work in a part-time position? Maybe it’s only 20 hours a week, three days a week. But we begin to transition into retirement. In my experience with my clients, those people retire well. I’ve gotten them to go ahead and get involved in volunteering. What I see a great deal is the ones who aren’t doing it before they retire, and then they don’t do it once they retire. It’s too late.

They have to begin to implement those activities prior to retiring because what they’ll do — I’ve seen it a thousand times — is they’ll retire today and then they’re like, “OK, I’m going to take a month off.” They get into the habit of watching TV, not getting out or they’re doing stuff inside their house because it needed to be done for so long. And then they never implement getting out of the house.

Part of the problem that we have is not all people are the same. You have some clients who come into the office and you know that when they say they’re going to do something, they’re going to do it. So you don’t even worry about it.

Then you have those clients who tell you they’re going to do it, and that day never comes. I have a lady who was referred to me by one of my clients. She had already been retired for three or four years. During one of the first conversations I had with her, I said, “Tell me what it’s been like since you retired. Tell me what a day in the life of you looks like.” A lot of the conversation was, “I want to start,” and “I’d like to start” and “I know I need to.” But she still hasn’t done it, and we’re three years in.

What I said to her is, “You really have to begin to manage your lifestyle. Tell me what your health looks like relative to what it looked like when you first retired.” Then I just sat back and was quiet. As she began to reflect, she started taking ownership of the fact that she doesn’t know why she retired. Because nothing is better in her life. She’s lonely. She’s depressed. She’s sad. Nobody comes and sees her. This vision that she had has not been delivered.

One of the things that I did was plug her into the Candy Stripers, which are volunteers who help out at a local hospital. A client I have is 67 and she’s a Candy Striper at the hospital, and I connected those two. She’s really put pressure on her to even just come sit at the desk and tell people what the room numbers are. So she started doing that. Is she doing as much as she should do? No, but at least she’s doing something. And those are the cases that really make you sad. You can’t make somebody do that. You can’t increase their quality of life.

But I can use her story now when I’m talking to other people. Here’s what I saw. Here’s how it affected her. It gives it more validity, but it is sad because I can’t fix all that stuff. 

Angelia Shay is a 20-year MDRT member from Glen Allen, Virginia. Hear more in the MDRT Podcast episode “Retirement topics clients and advisors should talk about more” in the Resource Zone at

Contact: Angelia Shay


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