Originating: Creating Your Personal Retirement Movie

Written by Don Graves, RICP®

Someone once asked me, “Don, what does your retirement movie look like?” I had no idea. I never really thought about it. Movies employ scripts and staging, themes and action. Was my retirement going to be a race against time, traveling miles across the globe to see things I’d never seen? Or was it to stay put and enjoy my family and all the routines I had established over the years? The thought challenged me.

Recently, I asked Bill and Linda the same question. “What does your retirement movie look like?” They are still working but thinking now about early retirement. Comparable to many of their peers, they started late in saving and are not sure if they will have enough. Presently, as they begin to ponder their next life phase more seriously, it is important that they understand one very powerful concept: They are the producers of their own retirement movie.

Your clients probably have some idea of how they’d like to spend retirement, but we want them to have clarity. This is not only important to them, it is critically significant to those who serve as advisers to retirees. The clearer they are about what they envision, the greater your ability to match your services with their desires or recuse yourself because you don’t truly offer the resources they need.

Have your client write down their objectives or verbalize the major scenes in their ideal retirement film. Have them list the most important goals first. Initially, don’t have them focus on budget. Focus on ideas, dreams and “movie scenes.” Encourage them to be as specific as they can.

For example, instead of saying “travel,” have them verbalize particulars so that it sounds more like “trips to the beach” or “taking the camper to different locations with our senior group three or four times a year.” Instead of “stay involved in my community,” encourage them to be more detailed, like “volunteer with at-risk middle schoolers.” The more descriptive their dream, the more tangible their retirement vision can be.

Unexpected Detours

Sometimes our client’s retirement movie is already in production. Maybe they are experiencing a budget shortfall or have had to deal with unexpected circumstances. They may have to delete some scenes and add new ones that are less entertaining. They envisioned a drama, romance or comedy, but unexpected storylines involving a prolonged sickness or financial loss have turned their movie into a thriller or even a horror film. Our role requires us to listen with empathy and help them find their way to a happy ending.

Identifying the Time Frame

Titanic director James Cameron wrote his first 80-page draft of the movie Avatar in 1994. He had a dream of what it could be and began to imagine it. But the technology he needed to create it would not be reality for another decade. Although it was clear in his mind, it took 15 years before it came to fruition in 2009.

It’s important for everyone to dream about their retirement, even though it may be decades away. A recent study by the Center for Financial Insight surveyed pre-retirees with investable assets of $100,000, uncovering four distinct kinds of retirees. Helping your clients determine what kind of retiree they are likely to be will aid your mission to nail down a realistic time frame.

Dreamers have plans to completely leave the workforce to pursue lifelong dreams (40 percent)

Calculators intend to delay retirement to become more financially secure (20 percent)

Second Careerists want to transition from their current positions to a dream job (20 percent)

Rat Racers plan to work for their employers well into their golden years (20 percent)

As HECM specialists, we can help our clients by encouraging them to visualize their ideal retirement. We can help them to imagine the time frame in which their movie will begin. Once we know what type of movie our client intends to create, then we can begin a dialogue about financing that film with dollars and cents.