Many superannuation funds are still operating as if the only challenges that their retiring members faced were financial ones. It’s doubtful that any intelligent fund manager really believes that a happy and successful retirement is dependent solely on good financial management. Just planning for a good financial solution is only addressing half of a retiree’s challenge.
While there’s no doubt that financial security is a critical element of a successful retirement, it’s certainly not the only important factor. There’s now plenty of research, anecdotal evidence and feedback from various professionals which clearly indicates that lifestyle issues like health, relationships, our attitude, our purpose in life, community involvement and spirituality are very important if people are going to enjoy 20+ years in some form of retirement. There’s not much fun in being financially secure if your health is poor or the relationship with your partner is strained or you’re bored. In spite of all this, some funds persist with the myth that retirement is all about money and largely ignore lifestyle issues.
The reality is that the transition from full time work to some form of retirement is a period of major change for most people and major change often means major stress. Currently, most retirees have to figure it out for themselves.
While the standard marketing approach is to research what potential customers need and want and then offer a product that satisfies these demands, this doesn’t appear to happen in much of the retirement planning industry. Only the customers’ financial situation is of interest. This has meant that every year fund members are approaching retirement totally unprepared for the various lifestyle challenges that will impact on them. Those with a financial plan will think that they have done the responsible thing and planned for their retirement only to find they’re faced by a range of issues that no one told them about. Instead of walking hand in hand along beaches, many couples are struggling with the challenges of living together 24/7. A divorce at this time of life is both an emotional and a financial disaster and it’s not uncommon.
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Some innovative super funds and financial planners have acknowledged that their clients will have some lifestyle challenges as well as financial issues to manage and have started to offer information and advice in these areas. This strategy is clearly a win-win. The client gets better advice and the super fund establishes a better relationship and competitive product advantage by offering a service that most of its industry ignores.
It’s no longer difficult for funds and financial planners to provide this lifestyle planning service. Much of the information that fund members need to think about is available in a range of books and articles produced by a company that has pioneered this field in Australia.
Tell us, how was your transition to retirement? Have you experienced challenges unrelated to your finances?