Retirement planning could be your client’s primary financial planning need. For younger people, retirement seems so far off. Other clients may avoid the topic because they feel so far behind. As an accounting professional, how can you bring up the subject, not embarrass your client and give them hope for the future?
“Retirement planning” sounds like industry jargon. The term is used so often, clients tend to tune you out. Try repositioning the goal as financial independence. When clients think of retirement planning, it’s often in terms of something that happens at age 65 or 70. They go onto Medicare. They collect Social Security. There’s a big party at work. They don’t go into the office anymore, living off their savings for the foreseeable future.
Financial independence is similar, but much more appealing. Set Medicare and Social Security aside for a moment. Imagine your client, through disciplined saving and wise investments, could reach a time in their life when working becomes a choice not an obligation. For a person in their 20s, could they see this happening at age 55 or 60? Since they might feel like they will live to 100, that can be an attractive goal, something they would work towards achieving.
Now, what about the client further along in their working career who hasn’t given much thought to financial planning? They have a 401(k) plan at work. They make the maximum allowed contribution. Maybe they’re starting to get their Social Security projections in the mail. They have some investments in taxable accounts but aren’t actually saving much at this time in their life. How do you create a need for retirement planning?
Let’s talk a little about creating a need. You aren’t “creating” anything. You’re uncovering a problem that might not have been on your client’s radar previously. Your client now has two choices: they can address the problem or ignore the problem. If they choose to ignore the problem, the problem doesn’t go away. Often it gets larger. If you went to your doctor for your annual checkup and they said “I saw something I don’t like. We need to do more tests,” you know there’s a problem. You will want to address it, not ignore it.
Here's the scenario. You ask your client, “Are you confident you’ll have a comfortable retirement when the time comes?” They give a yes or no answer. If the answer is no, they recognize there is a problem. They might say, “Yes, I suppose I am confident I will have a comfortable retirement.” You ask another question: “How confident? 100 percent? 50 percent? 20 percent?” They will probably not have an answer and would be open to you helping to find one, getting to a probability.
This blog was originally published as a column on AccountingWEB and can be read here. It is republished with permission.