Talking to Clients About Living to 100

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

My father is about to celebrate a very big birthday. He retired at 60 and has been retired for 40 years. It makes me realize how very narrow minded we are in our profession about the way we speak about retirement. We talk about time with the grandkids, the second home, traveling, etc. – have the client paint a picture of what they want it to be – and yet it could literally be another lifetime. You think a person works 40 years and we consider this to be a long part of their journey. But then if one lives in retirement for 40 years, this is a whole other journey of a different kind.

I want to incorporate these ideas in speaking with my clients, but it is daunting. I don’t want to freak someone out thinking about the decades of change they will face. But I don’t want to be shortsighted either and act like this is a point in time with no changes or evolutionary experiences.

Are other advisors confronting this issue, and what are they doing?


Dear J.L.,

Congratulations to your dad and I hope he has lived a healthy 40 years in retirement! I would like to say how amazing this is but with a grandmother who lived to 99 and a half and who was going out on a regular (twice per week) basis right up until she died, I too understand how short-sighted we can be about what post-working life might look like for people.

I spent some of my career in qualified plans running a 401(k) group. We don’t do enough to think about what post-working life means. We help people save for retirement and to have a life that doesn’t require a regular paycheck (all good things of course) but thinking about what this will be for them, and the many, many different phases one can go through over decades of non-work isn’t usually part of the discussion.