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1st Quarter | 2024

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Rethinking retirement

By David Wismer

With an estimated 10,000 baby boomers reaching the retirement age of 65 each day over the next eight years, it is little wonder that both the general media and financial press are saturated with retirement-focused content.

And there are many good reasons for that.

Depending on the study you look at, about a third of future retirees are not confident that they have accumulated enough assets to fund a lengthy retirement period—lasting 25 years or more. And over 70% admit their future financial situation could be improved. 

A major reason for these findings is that many baby boomers have failed to develop a specific retirement-income plan with a qualified financial adviser.

Hopefully, for the vast majority of readers of this article, that is not an issue.

However, even among those who express a high degree of confidence in funding their basic income needs in retirement, many questions still abound in areas such as where and how to live, long-term health care, risk and liability management, legacy planning, future socialization, and overall quality of life.

Today, I would like to explore a few areas related specifically to trends around personal fulfillment in retirement.

The FIRE movement

One of the more interesting—and relatively recent—trends is called the FIRE movement. We addressed this in some detail in Proactive Advisor Magazine several months ago, explaining how the “financial independence, retire early” trend is gaining traction among the younger set. An increasing number of people have been turned on to FIRE. They are streamlining their spending and living within tight budgets, all while attempting to amass enough wealth to retire long before the traditional age of 65—some even in their 30s or 40s.

In reviewing this article and looking at some secondary research, what really struck me was the highly qualitative side of financial advisers guiding clients interested in the FIRE movement. No matter what type of FIRE a client might be interested in, the goals of becoming a better steward of money, seeking better work-life balance, and truly defining priorities seem beneficial for anyone.

One adviser we interviewed for Proactive Advisor Magazine put it particularly well: “Before someone jumps into the FIRE movement, it is important for them to think about what they want out of work and life and to answer the question of what financial independence means to them—because the answer is different for every person.”

Planning for a second career after “early retirement”

Somewhat related to FIRE, but geared more to those in the 50–65 age range, is the increasing popularity of consciously planning for a totally different second career—one that is more closely aligned with one’s personal interests and values.

Whether it is the fine arts major who spent three decades in the tech industry and finally wants to land a position that allows for more artistic expression, or the MBA-trained senior executive who has dreamed for years of starting his or her own business, or an individual who wants a paid position that also meets their definition of “giving back” to society, the pandemic only helped to accelerate the trend toward an “early retirement” that actually means switching careers. It also usually means placing personal fulfillment above pure financial priorities, often necessitating some lifestyle and income sacrifices.

(In my own case, after 30-plus years as a communications executive, I finally returned to my roots as a hands-on writer about 12 years ago—with no regrets whatsoever!)

Redefining retirement

Joe Casey, a retirement coach and author of “Win the Retirement Game” calls identity “one of the biggest issues that I see working with clients in the transition to retirement.”

George Jerjian, also a retirement coach, speaker, and author, surveyed more than 15,000 retirees over the age of 60, and asked them one question: “What is your single biggest challenge in retirement?”

In an article posted at CNBC, he says these were some of the most common responses, grouped by category:


• “I miss doing the work that I love.”

• “I don’t think retiring is for me. I want to go back to teaching.”

• “I’m not sure what to do with my time. I feel lost.”


• “Keeping my mind healthy and adding value to the world.”

• “Fear of dying in pain and discomfort.”

• “When you’re 70 with a heart condition, you don’t get that many more bites at the apple.”


• “Fear of losing my identity created over a lifetime.”

• “People do not see you anymore.”

• “Feelings of rejection—internalized, not voiced.”

Jerjian summarizes, “Here’s what this tells us: The biggest retirement challenge that no one talks about, in my experience, is finding purpose.”

In our interviews for Proactive Advisor Magazine, many financial advisers are expressing a stronger commitment to various aspects of behavioral-finance coaching—including helping their clients “redefine retirement” on terms that best fit their unique personalities, financial situations, and personal aspirations.

It is a very meaningful endeavor for advisers and their clients.  

A Minnesota-based adviser told us,

“We believe that ‘retirement’ is an outdated term. We prefer to refer to people reaching the point in their lives where working becomes optional, opening up many different possibilities for their continued personal growth and the active lifestyle of their choice.”

An adviser located in Connecticut has a similar perspective:

“We believe ‘retirement’ is an antiquated term that connotes someone taking Social Security and fading into a sedentary lifestyle. Instead of ‘retirement,’ we refer to that stage of our clients’ lives as ‘Restylement.’

“People today want to remain active, whether that means living a robust lifestyle, performing volunteer work, starting a business, or even beginning a second career. We also talk to clients about what we call ‘true success’ as they look to their future. We define this as having a great lifestyle plus money multiplied by the time to enjoy it.”


As important as behavioral coaching is becoming for current and future retirees, there is little doubt that “not outliving my/our money” remains the primary concern for most people, followed closely by health and lifestyle issues.

Many independent studies have suggested that working with a financial adviser, particularly if that relationship starts well before the actual retirement date, could mean anywhere from 20% to 50% in increased retirement assets over the course of a long-term adviser-client relationship (some estimates are considerably higher). That value is delivered in many ways, including through sound asset allocation and strategic guidance, avoidance of common investing mistakes, tax-efficient planning strategies, and expertise across a wide range of pragmatic retirement-planning categories.

Flexible Plan Investments (FPI) is proud to partner with advisers in this effort, offering a focus on goals-based investment planning, dynamic investment-risk management, and a wide range of rules-based strategies that remove emotion from the investment decision-making process. FPI firmly believes that strategies based on this philosophy can work effectively, in combination, to provide higher probabilities for long-term investment success through full market cycles.

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