Your clients should work hard (but just slow down)Article added by Tony Walker on December 4, 2013
Tony Walker

Tony Walker

Bowling Green, KY

Joined: March 11, 2010

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Hard work shouldn't mean mad dashes to nowhere. The real question for your clients' retirement is: Should they work harder, or slow down and work longer?

Americans all seem to strive for that perfect work-life balance. We work because that is our calling in life. And the fruits of our labor are a day’s wages so we can enjoy our time here on this earth. But there’s a difference between hard work and working hard. One requires lots of energy; the other, lots of passion. It’s about striking a new balance. It’s certainly about working hard, but it’s also about slowing down to enjoy the journey — knowing that the journey could end when we least expect it.

There are no guarantees that the roads your clients are on will always be easy. In fact, it’s pretty certain that the roads will be immensely difficult at times. If your clients live long enough, they will undoubtedly encounter unforeseen obstacles. But that’s just part of the journey.

Hard work shouldn't mean mad dashes to nowhere. The real question for your clients' retirement is: Should they work harder, or slow down and work longer? I see many folks working hard and making lots of money, but they have little joy to show for it. They are in serious danger of burning out. When that happens, they lose interest in their jobs, their family, their marriage, their goals, their health and their faith.

They may have money, but they may also feel discontented. Their gadgets and gizmos no longer interest them. The new toys just don’t bring the joy they used to. In general, they simply lose hope. In basketball, no team can fast break for every minute of each half. And neither can your clients. If they do, eventually, they’ll run out of gas. There’s no victory in that game plan.

So how do your clients begin to work hard and slow down?

They should build daily habits into their lives that help them keep an even pace. Even if they’re in the first half of the game, they should be careful not to work long hours — no matter how much they love their work or want to get ahead. Not only will they get burned out, they’ll also miss many of life’s simple pleasures, like watching their kids grow up along the way. It’s hard for them to enjoy things when they are running past them. Your clients should work hard, but keep an even pace, stay on the trail to their destination, and keep focused on their future goals. They should work at a pace that could be maintained for the rest of their lives.

Many baby boomers today are kidding themselves. They have no clue what retirement is going to look like for them. They’ve been so busy raising their families, earning money and buying lots of stuff that they’ve never stopped to take a realistic snapshot of the future. Based on what I’m seeing, the vast majority of baby boomers will have to work, in some form or fashion, well past age 65. My advice is to have your clients find something they love doing, to work hard at it, and to have fun while they’re doing it.

If your clients retire too soon, they run the risk of forcing themselves into burnout. Here’s how.

Setting unrealistic early retirement goals forces your clients to work harder and possibly risk more money. When I meet with couples contemplating early retirement, I usually uncover that one spouse is not in favor of the early retirement plan, but is afraid to challenge it because they don’t know where to start. It takes a trained retirement specialist to pull it all together and determine if such a plan is possible. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with your clients wanting to slow down at a young age, or even change vocations, but be wary of them setting a goal of trying to completely retire at some designated age in the future. There are too many variables out there that your clients can’t control. And if your clients focus too strongly on the destination, they may find themselves unable to enjoy the journey. Worse, once they get there, they may discover that, as Gertrude Stein once said, “There is no 'there' there.” In other words, your clients are possibly setting themselves up for a big disappointment, at best.

See also: Work-life balance: Is life too short to be busy?
Nothing in life comes easily. Only through hard work and sacrifice will your clients truly enjoy the fruits of their labor. However, their lives must strike a balance. There must be a pace that sustains their walk for the rest of their lives. In order to help your clients, ask them to take a quick survey like the one below. It will help them think about their retirement and what they would really like to be doing — and what they could possibly do for the rest of their lives.

"I am worried that...

I don't enjoy work anymore.
  • Not worried
  • Somewhat worried
  • Very worried
I don't seem to have a passion for anything.
  • Not worried
  • Somewhat worried
  • Very worried
I'll have to work for the rest of my life.
  • Not worried
  • Somewhat worried
  • Very worried
My work involves being around people whom I don't like.
  • Not worried
  • Somewhat worried
  • Very worried
My work is too lonely.
  • Not worried
  • Somewhat worried
  • Very worried
I don’t have a chance to be creative.
  • Not worried
  • Somewhat worried
  • Very worried
My job is too stressful.
  • Not worried
  • Somewhat worried
  • Very worried
My work doesn’t utilize my skills and gifts.
  • Not worried
  • Somewhat worried
  • Very worried
My work takes too much time away from family.
  • Not worried
  • Somewhat worried
  • Very worried
There is no future in what I’m doing.
  • Not worried
  • Somewhat worried
  • Very worried
After your clients have completed this exercise, talk to them about these concerns.

See also:

Living to work? Try working to live

Get out of town ... really!

Advisors and the work-life balance: Make the time to take the time

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