Secret Recipe For Retirement – Financial Advisor Magazine

It’s said that only 10 people in the world know the recipe for Heinz Tomato Ketchup. Another legend is that only two KFC executives know all the spices for the company’s famous chicken, and a third is that Coca-Cola’s various secret recipes are so protected that the two people who know them can’t fly on the same plane.

But secret recipes aren’t reserved for billion-dollar companies alone. We all have our own secret recipes as well. Whether it’s a generation’s old family cookie, a side dish reserved exclusively for a special holiday, or a mix of spices that come to life with the right cut of meat on the grill, there’s a time-tested, proven process for delivering something special and meaningful.

Unfortunately, the same idea doesn’t hold true for retirement. There isn’t a special, age-old recipe handed down from one generation to the next that ensures people make a smooth transition from work life to home life. Instead, we continue to cook up old and outdated retirement plans that don’t always taste great and can leave people hungry for more—because they only look at the financial aspects. In other words, we end up leaving out some key ingredients that might have helped us “plate” retirement better for clients, and also enhanced the flavor it provides for them.

Over the last 15 years of studying the psychology of retirement, speaking to and training clients as well as financial professionals on the topic, and writing more than 800 articles on the importance and merits of it, I’ve come up with a secret sauce or special recipe. It’s one that includes a short list of non-financial ingredients that both clients and advisors can indulge in, guilt free, or sprinkle liberally over all of their retirement planning conversations.

I will share up front that this isn’t your typical list of concrete items you can just pick off the shelf and slap together. There’s much more skill to the personal side of retirement that doesn’t come overnight. Which is why it’s so important for advisors who want to be innovators and pioneers in this new era of retirement to jump headfirst into the trenches and start having deeper, more meaningful conversations about life after work. These are skills that will make you stand out and be recognized as a thought leader, which is going to be essential if market performance is the only thing keeping some clients around. Therefore, let’s start the special recipe for a successful retirement.

Secret ingredient No. 1 is a mindset than serves as the base for the rest of the dish. It’s the idea that there is no single, best way to make a cookie or retire. I know great-grandma did it this way and everyone loved it. But six sticks of butter and a year’s worth of chocolate chips don’t work for everyone’s nutritional needs or taste buds. This is so important because no specific sum of money or the attainment of any specific age will ensure happiness in retirement. We have to stop using age and assets as the primary factors for making retirement decisions. They are only two of 10 or maybe 20 things that should be taken into account, and they are the major reasons so many people fail at retirement and waste some of their best years wondering why retirement doesn’t look or feel right.

Fact is, it may be best for some people and personality types to work longer. Others may prefer to leave their primary career and work part time or seasonally to support their desired lifestyle rather than sacrifice their marriage, health or time with kids to save a giant lump sum of money and end up alone. Introverts have different needs for social networks or outside purpose than extroverts do … and there’s a major difference between the way people with kids and grandkids may want to retire and the way a solo ager does. So let’s stop saying the secret recipe is age 62, 65 or 70 and a million or two dollars.

I have a client who goes to an obscure part of Arizona each winter and rents a double-wide trailer with her two dogs. I have another client who rents a $6,500-a-month palatial pad in northern Florida for the first three months of every year. My conversations with both of them always mirror each other. Each one is living their best life and couldn’t see doing anything different.

The fact that there is no single best way to retire lends itself to Secret No. 2: Know yourself. Many people may not realize it, but ancient philosophers had this part of retirement figured out thousands of years ago. In fact, some of the most influential and pivotal figures in both Eastern and Western philosophy suggested that knowing and examining yourself was essential for a meaningful life. For example, Aristotle said, “Happiness depends upon ourselves,” while his forerunner Socrates suggested, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”