Underdogs And Retirement | #retirement | #elderly | #seniors
I love rooting for the underdog. Whether it’s for a Cinderella team during the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament, the opposing side playing against the Yankee pinstripes, or the team Tom Brady is expected to beat by three touchdowns.
Science confirms our desire to root for the little guy. There’s a study in which people who read descriptions of two fictional basketball teams playing each other in a seven-game series rooted for the team described as the underdog 88.1% of the time. In another study, American college students watched a game between European teams and were told that either one team or the other had won the last 15 games between them. Again, the students consistently rooted for the underdog to spring an upset, whichever team it was.
It’s interesting because a significant percentage of Americans are underdogs when it comes to retirement. It’s common knowledge that one in three people age 40 to 77 have less than $50,000 saved for the years after they stop working. But in this case, there isn’t the same appeal to root for those falling behind and struggling to catch up. It’s up to financial advisors to do it.
And it’s helpful to think about advisors as coaches. What does a great coach do at halftime in the locker room when the chips are down and a major comeback is essential?
It’s also helpful here to see retirement like a sport—a complex, multifaceted sport that requires numerous calculations, what-if assumptions, strategy and timing, among other things. To win, people need to get it all right, so it’s no wonder they want to put off planning in hopes it will go away or somehow get easier (or that they will win the lottery).
In sports, you have to find and exploit the weaknesses in the other team. In retirement, we have to give our team, in other words our clients, some hope that a comeback is not only an option but that a win is within our grasp.
We can do this by redefining the concept—by explaining to them that it isn’t about reaching the age of 62 or 65 and never working again. Research from TD Ameritrade suggests that more than 31% of people aged 44 to 77 plan to work at some point during their retirement.
This is one reason I think we need to make the word plural and change it to “retirements.” People turning 62, 65 or 70 need to know it’s not the end but the next step in finding something that brings them joy, helps others, enriches their environment or just gives them some extra spending money. This is important because it reduces the emotional burden that can come with making a major life decision like this one. Furthermore, it allows clients to shift their focus from trying to hit some massive asset number to finding something that will bridge their transition. It’s a lot more fruitful than just leaving the workplace forever.
Another key weakness in traditional retirement planning is the idea that the amount of money clients save will somehow dictate their level of happiness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Depending on how long you have been in the business, you likely know plenty of people who enjoy complete and total financial security but don’t have their health; who don’t have strong family bonds with a spouse, children or grandchildren; or who are just generally unhappy. It’s funny because we all know that money can’t buy love, happiness or more time, yet we preach the need for more savings and investing.
The reality is that it’s not what’s on the outside that counts, but on the inside. That may come across as hokey or not strategic enough for the more methodical left-brained advisor, but it’s a fact you can’t escape.
A few years back, I had a client come in and say, “My life looks perfect to most people because I have a nice big house in an exclusive neighborhood with two-acre lots, I drive a nice car, can vacation when I want, and had a prestigious career. But I am all alone. I never see my neighbors, my kids are busy with their careers, and my friends who are still working are too tired to do anything after work, so I mostly do nothing and mean very little to others.”