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Why saying goodbye to your clients and business is hard

Advisers should consider the challenges they may face when retiring, as many find this transition to be harder than they anticipated

Jun 8, 2018 @ 3:04 pm

By Joni Youngwirth

Boomers, do you look your age? If so, clients have likely been wondering how long you will be around to help them with their financial future — and they have probably been wondering this for longer than you think! In fact, clients often feel a sense of relief when their adviser brings up the topic of their own retirement and when it will (or will not) happen.

One of the unique aspects of our profession is that it allows advisers to continue working past the "traditional" retirement age. With many choosing to work into their 70s and 80s, though, clients will likely have questions:

• How available will my adviser be going forward?

• Will my adviser be as sharp as he or she used to be?

• Will my adviser work as hard on my plan as in the past?

If retirement is on your horizon, it's important to consider these questions. But, equally important, you must also consider the challenges you may face when retiring — as many advisers find this transition to be harder than they anticipated.

(More: 3 obstacles to succession planning — and how to overcome them)

Saying Goodbye to Your Business

Of course, reactions to retirement vary significantly. For many advisers, though, saying goodbye to the business is hard. Some may have stacks of notes from thankful clients. Others may remember helping their clients buy their first home, put kids through college, and welcome grandchildren. Many others have helped clients through divorce, tragedy, and loss. Couple those fulfilling experiences with the pride most advisers feel from having built a business one client at a time. It is no surprise that many of us proclaim this is the best profession in the world.

Further, it's important to remember that boomers as a generation poured themselves into their careers, sometimes at the expense of family and work/life balance. Consequently, they often experience a gigantic shift as they move into their post-career years, sometimes finding they have few outside interests that are fulfilling enough to replace work. This can sometimes make a tough goodbye even harder.

Saying Goodbye to Clients

When retirement is upon you, you must also say goodbye to your clients. But how do you make the personal shift and say farewell to people you have spent decades with?

• Communicate at a high level an overview of your future plans with some or all clients as appropriate, depending on the relationship.

• Reminisce with each client on the good times, as well as the challenging ones. Doing so can provide closure for both parties.

• Most important, there is not much that beats a sincere thank you for the relationship.

If you are remaining at the firm but a colleague is retiring, it is important to be supportive and understand the complexity of changing relationships between the retiring adviser and his or her clients. Here, the "golden rule" is a good guideline to keep in mind. Remember, just like clients, advisers may have a wide variety of emotions about retirement and what attention they may (or may not) want on the transition.

• Some advisers want their personal email or phone number to be available to all or select clients.

• A retirement party is right for some.

• Inviting the adviser back for a client appreciation event is valuable and especially powerful if the adviser has chosen the firm to be his or her own personal financial adviser.

Food for Thought

As you contemplate your own retirement or that of another adviser in your firm, I would like to share one story as food for thought. A retiree had extremely close relationships with clients. He also had a particular passion for wine.

Upon his retirement, his best clients were invited to buy him a bottle of wine and attach a note of best wishes. The firm then sent one bottle of wine with a note from a client every few weeks for several years. The good feeling continued rather than being shut off at retirement.

It just goes to show that memories of a fulfilling career can be sipped gradually and the positive aftertaste enjoyed over time!

(More: Advisers: What about your retirement?)

Joni Youngwirth is managing principal of practice management at Commonwealth Financial Network.

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