I talk with the founder of The Retirement Coaches Association (RCA), Robert Laura, about what the RCA is and does as well as what retirement coaching is and how it can help people make a successful transition into retirement.
The topic for today’s episode is ’10 Questions About Retirement Coaching With the Founder of the Retirement Coaches Association.’ My guest is the founder of the RCA, Robert Laura. In addition to founding the Retirement Coaches Association, Bob also leads the Certified Professional Retirement Coach designation (CPRC) and coursework which helps train retirement coaches. In addition, he is also a financial advisor. He can be described as a retirement activist who is committed to changing the way people think about and prepare for every non- financial aspect of retirement. He writes nationally syndicated columns for both Forbes.com and Financial Advisor magazine.
You can learn more about Bob at his website. Robertlaura.com, his business website, which is wealthandwellnessgroup.com or at retirementproject.org. I will provide links to each of these sites in the transcript of the episode when it becomes available on my website, which is mylifesencore.com. So welcome Bob and glad to have you here to tell us more about the RCA and retirement coaching.
RL: I am excited about and I appreciate the opportunity Reid.
RS: All right. So let’s jump right into it. I’m going to lump two questions together Bob, because I think they lead into each other. The first one is …what is the retirement coaches association? And then secondly, as the founder of the organization, what led you to start the RCA and bring such a…I think it’s a really experienced and very knowledgeable group and very growing group of individuals together? How did you bring those people together?
RL: Yeah. Good question. So I started it because no one else did. And I was frustrated by all the talent that was out there as I kept coming across people who were really focused on this non-financial coaching- the mental, social, physical and spiritual aspects of retirement planning instead of just more traditional financial.
RL: And as I looked around, there just wasn’t anyone bringing people together. And so as I connected with more and more people, the need continued to grow. And I think too, it was about establishing some standards and some structure because I think the whole idea of coaching is a little fluffy for some people. They don’t get it. They kind of think that, um, hey Reid, I’m going to call you up. You’re going to take me to a coffee shop and in 45 minutes you’re going to solve all my problems. Um, and that’s kind of the misconception that people have about it. When it’s actually much deeper based on the latest social science and research and people can really struggle with the transition.
But you can’t tell anybody, you know, so if you ultimately get to a point where you can retire, you have enough money to network and you have the free to do whatever you want, it doesn’t mean it’s automatically happy. And so people struggle with that loss of routine, the loss of the social interaction. But who are you going to tell? There’s this stigma that there’d be something wrong with you if you don’t love retirement.
And so that’s why I think it’s so important to have an industry and a group of trained professionals. Because that’s the other important thing is the training of the professionals. A lot of people will just go out there, so they call themselves a coach, they’ll say I’m a retirement coach or a money coach. It just, but it’s very likely they’re just trying to position themselves differently in order to sell you a financial product. And we focus exclusively on the non- financial pieces. So, hopefully I lumped all of that into the answering the two questions.
RS: Yup. That’s good. And just as a side note too, I wanted to mention to the audience that I’ve taken the Certified Professional Retirement Coaching (CPRC) designation and I am part of the RCA. So, what I appreciate about the fact that you brought all these people together, Bob, is the collective wisdom of the group and the opportunity to learn from people who’ve done this for many years in the…who have many years of experience doing this, including yourself. So that’s what I really enjoy about that (the RCA).
RL: Well, and what’s interesting, what people probably don’t realize is I’ve been doing this stuff for 12 years, you know, it’s finally getting to the point where people get it. People thought I was crazy or an alien, you know, 10, 12 years ago… I would do workshops in the non-financial part because everyone’s brainwashed to think it’s all money. It’s all about having these right pieces set up. And I mean, you know this too, that doesn’t happen, it doesn’t just automatically transition.
And again, to really detail that stuff out. And again, I think it’s important, like the concept of disenfranchised grief, it means it’s not being honored, you know, so people experience that when they make this transition and just having people understand that, normalize it and help you process it, that’s really what retirement coaching is about.
RS: Right, right. So where can people learn more about the retirement coaches association for both consumers who want to find out more about it and then also maybe some people who potentially would want to become retirement coaches?
RL: Yeah, so we’ve got a website, retirementcoachesassociation.org. And, there’s a find a coach website (can search for a coach) there and again, we really encourage people to visit, to check that out, to reach out to a couple of coaches… because you know, coaches can work with you over Zoom like this (what we are doing) on the phone or locally in person, depending upon how you want to meet with them.
I think for professionals looking for… a lot of people do kind of use this as an encore career. They’ve gotten into retirement themselves and they failed or they’re struggling with it. So as they research what happened or why did this transition not take place? They want to position themselves as coaches to help other people not go through that same stuff up. We have a growing number of financial professionals. They’re looking for the training. A lot of therapists and counselors, a lot of HR professionals, several CEOs. And so it’s really, um, I know as people develop in their career and kind of work towards retirement, they really want to have that impact in that… it’s great place and a great way to do that.
RS: And that’s a good point too. I think for people looking for a retirement coach, it’s a great place to go because you have them listed by state. Somebody can simply just click on a coach in their area, find somebody to connect with and start the process there. So, let’s jump into retirement coaching.
As somebody who’s been doing this now, like you said, for 12 years, Bob, how do you define retirement coaching? And maybe how has retirement coaching evolved in those 12 years since you started in the area (focusing on non-financial aspects of retirement)?
RL: Great question. So the way I defined retirement coaching is what is it not. It’s not a therapy session, you know, so it’s not like you’re going to come into an office and lay on a couch. Or you’re not going to meet at the coffee shop and you know, quickly fix things. It’s really about developing a written plan for the non-financial aspects of retirement. That is so critical, writing stuff down. So, it’s funny, because when people go and get a financial plan, you get a big book. They’ve got giant charts and graphs that lay out all these what if scenarios. But a lot of people as they approach retirement, they’re just thinking about it. But you know, they’ve got these ideas, these vague ideas and thoughts.
And, so as you know, the program we put together really focuses on creating a written plan that addresses the mental, social, physical and spiritual… and spiritual can be scary for people because they think we’re going to talk about religion. But we define spirituality is internal and external spirituality, internal is your core values and beliefs, which everyone has. They may be attached (belong to) to a religious organization or other affiliation, but we kind of separate them out because we really want to understand what’s important to you first. Then work towards the mental, the physical, the social and other aspects of it. But you need to have a written plan that addresses these key areas.
And, I think, to your question about how it evolved, um, it continues to, to transition, you know, so one of the big things we do in the certification is we talk about positive psychology and, and that’s an important movement too because it really, uh, you know, several years, you know, a couple of decades ago they really started to look at psychology of how do we help people thrive. And just instead of just taking someone who’s not doing, who’s doing bad and just get them to, to a point where they’re just doing better. So positive psychology looks at how do you thrive? And so we use tools associated with that as well. And even behavioral economics is going to be part of the program coming up. And so it continues to evolve and continues to be based on evidence based science and research.
RS: Perfect. So, what is something that people, and it could be just a… something the general public, somebody transitioning into retirement or…it could be people who work with or can assist people making the transition to retirement, like financial advisors and HR professionals.
What are some of the things that these people might not know about retirement coaching or perhaps some of the misconceptions, and I think you may have alluded to some of these previously, but what are some of the things that those people don’t know about retirement coaching or should know?
RL: Well, I think for the… retirement’s a lot like when you get a new phone or a computer, you know, you kind of, when you go to set it up, you click the default button right and it kind of sets itself up. Then you adjust along the way. If something didn’t set up the way you want, you fix it. People do the same thing with retirement planning. They sort of assume that having enough money in the right asset allocation is the default option and everything else will work out. But it doesn’t.
And again, there’s a lot of just misconceptions about what real life is going to be like. And one of the things that we do in our program as part of our process is have people write down what’s a perfect day in a perfect week look like. They’ve never done it. And they’ve got these vague thoughts and ideas about, oh, we’ll retirement is going to be like this and this. And then they get there and there’s a major disconnect. And, so really just taking the time to think about what literally… what does morning, afternoon and evening look like? What does Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday look like. Because no one’s written that stuff out.
And one of my favorite statistics is… I think it’s something like 60% of people who tried to escape from prison are caught within 24 hours and I think 90% are caught within a week. And the reason for that is because they spend so much time focusing on getting out, that once they get there, they don’t have a plan, they don’t know what to do.
It’s the same thing for retirement. People just are so focused on getting to that finish line to stepping out that door, but then they don’t have a plan. And that’s really what retirement coaching is designed to do, is to help people make that transition into everyday life.
RS: Yep. And that’s a good analogy and I think, yeah, just to summarize that, it’s the whole idea of planning, right? It’s creating the plan, writing it down, following it, (doing) all of that.
RL: Well, and I think to your point, it is just about awareness and conversations… but again this is why I think it’s important to work with a trained professional because they’ve gone through this stuff, they’ve talked to other people. And it’s really what a lot of people are looking for is feedback and information and it’s a process and it’s about having multiple conversations.
Especially… there’s a huge opportunity with couples because each couple has their own thoughts and ideas about retirement, but they haven’t…maybe they’ve expressed some of them, but they surely have it written them down. And that’s what happens in the workshop that are things…that’s the funny part is when one of the spouses looks over at the other and sees something totally unexpected, it catches them off guard. It’s a good process for couples to go through.
RS: Yeah, lots of times they haven’t shared their thoughts with the other spouse.
RS: And that’s the first time they’ve done that. So the members of the Retirement Coaches Association wrote a book that came out earlier this year called The Retirement Challenge( A Non-Financial Guide From Top Retirement Experts). And both of us wrote a chapter in the book. Your chapter was titled Retirement 2030 and Beyond. So give us a little bit about maybe what you talked about in that chapter, Bob, and then also what do you think retirement and retirement coaching will look like in the not too distant future in the year 2030.
RL: Yeah, so I think a lot of things are already falling into place. Obviously I looked out, you know, 10 12, 15 years or so. But what you’re really seeing is this evolution where people are getting smarter about their careers and they’re doing planning further in advance. It used to be people really wouldn’t start retirement planning until they’re three to five years away and some people a year away. I see that transitioning where people are getting further away, 10 to 15 years away, and are starting to plan out their life. They don’t want to be a slave to their job. They want to have an impact, they want to find work that they like. And, so I think people are starting to see some of that… where again, they don’t want to get to age 65 and say, gosh, I regret just grinding out 30 years at the same place doing a job I didn’t enjoy. And so, I think people will start to see that benefit.
I think another, you know, with our aging population on the scary side of things, what I call medical kidnapping where again…I think because if a senior, especially one in mental decline, Alzheimer’s dementia is set up a group home, all of a sudden you’re receiving their social security check, you’re billing Medicare, Medicaid, um, they may have a pension coming in. And so I see an opportunity, unfortunately, of trafficking in those sorts of things. So again, just as a society, as we’re aging, something to be aware of.
And then I think a couple other important trends will be in the workplace. A much more phased retirement or job sharing. You know, it’s pretty common for teachers, if they get pregnant, to job share a classroom. So, you know, after they have their baby they can kind of go back and forth. I know that’s pretty stereotypical, but they job share a classroom. So, I see that kind of evolving in the workplace for retirees where again…let’s say a couple of guys reach retirement age and they don’t fully want to retire, but they can stay there part-time and work through it (continue to work).
RS: Yep. Good, good. So the RCA is coming out with another book or books here in the near future. Can you give us a little sneak preview of what the book or books or the topics of the or books are and, then maybe ,when these books might be available?
RL: Yeah, we’re (RCA) excited about it. So, we decided this year… and we did The Retirement Challenge last year, which you had a great chapter on resiliency in there…this year we’re doing two different books. The first one is Out of the Box Retirement. I think it’s an important topic, and what we’re really trying to do is, share real life stories and real life people and how they made a successful transition. I think there’s this kind of high bar of, what people say retirement’s going to be like… and you’ll see news stories about the 75 year old who climbed some mountain or the guy who’s handing out a hundred dollars bills on the corner. That’s all great. But what are some real people (doing)? How did they make this transition? How are they replacing their work identity? How are they filling their time? How are they making an impact? And we’re excited to offer kind of an inside look at retirement, if you will, in and out of the box, instead of just this robot. Like, okay, I worked for 30 years, I saved 10%, my asset allocation is 60/40, so I’m ready for retirement. Well, not really. And, so what are some ways, some creative ways we can approach and look at retirement? So that’s the first book.
The second book I think is equally important and it’s really about…it’s focused on the HR department- so on corporate America. We really have to rebrand the culture around retirement. So much is focused on retirement age and we have this age based program where, you know, people turn 62 or 65 and everyone’s wondering, well are they retiring or not? But people who are 62, 65, even 70 aren’t like they were 20 or 30 years ago. They’re ready to work through it. They like their work, they find value in work. And so, we really have to change that corporate culture around retirement to really help transform the industry.
RS: Good. Those will be fascinating books. I look forward to both of them coming out. Any, any ETA on, on when those books…(will be available for purchase)
RL: Yeah, we are… and your show is kind of getting the first preview…so I haven’t talked about it with anybody else. They’re getting the exclusive. We’re going to be…we’re shooting for September, so we got lots of work ahead of us. We’ve already had people turn in their chapters, but hopefully we’ll have that… and it’ll come out as the eBook first on Amazon. Then we’ll get the hard copies out there as well.
RS: Okay, good. I’ll inform the readers and listeners too as we get closer to one of those books come out. So talking again about retirement coaching. If somebody wanted to engage a retirement coach, what’s the typical process when somebody works with a retirement coach and what can people expect as an outcome from having a retirement coach work with them?
RL: So I think a couple important things. There are different types of coaches, you know, so different types of training. And so there’s… this is one of the things I hope to have with the RCA is that… formalize a process for everyone. But you know, it can be…it can range from some people using assessments or other things to engaging in one-on-one conversation. With the individuals we train, and kind of where I take things and where I suggest the focus be…it’s really how does the process start?
There’s a number of ways to start- just really having an open conversation about either your thoughts or feelings about retirement or, if you’re already retired, how things are going. We’ve got a number of quizzes. We’ve got a retirement wellness quiz, that again, looks at the mental, social, physical, spiritual, and financial pieces. It’s 25 questions, five questions for each category. And it’s an easy way to start to identify where you’re at in each area and which areas may need focus.
I prefer a formula or a process to take people through. So we have a retirement wellness workbook with a series of worksheets that again addresses each one of those key areas. And a big part of the process…it’s more about discovery and awareness, because the power of retirement coaching has nothing to do with really what I put together or what I say… but for the first time, it’s the opportunity for…these people haven’t been asked these questions…so, for the first time, they’re thinking about these things in a new way and then we’re inviting them to write it down. That’s a very powerful process.
And so, it opens up a lot of eyes and a lot of opportunities. And that’s really what it’s about, to say, hey, if you want to excel and thrive in this next phase of your life, here’s the areas that you want to be prepared in and here’s what you need to know about each area.
RS: Yep. Perfect. Yeah, (and in addition) I think it’s about providing guidance and also accountability for people.
RL: Well, and to that point, like if you think about working with a personal trainer, there’s the accountability, there’s the structure, and there’s the feedback. And those are (important) in anything, whether you’re doing executive coaching, career coaching, helping someone work out or exercise. It’s those three key things. And that’s what retirement coaching is.
RS: Yep. Perfect. Good analogy. So what are a few of the biggest challenges, pitfalls, or regrets from your experience that you see people make or have during the transition into retirement?
RL: Socially…it’s the biggest thing is that, especially, again, stereotypically guys…we really identify with our roles at work and we really identify with our colleagues. The biggest mistake people make is they don’t take the relationships out of the workplace. And so whether you’re one, three, or five years away from retirement, if you get along with some guys, and like and appreciate them, you’ve got to find ways to… whatever it is, go to a car show, go golfing, take a night out, just something that, that’s away from the workplace… is really to make that trend.
And it’s across the board. I mean, it happens to women as well, but I think women tend to have more roles. They seem to adapt to different pieces (workplace changes and relationships), but guys tend to just be lost. Then a lot of guys just…no one’s really talked to them about what does it take to be a good friend. Who are the people you want to surround yourself with (after you retire)? How do you invest in pour (energy) into somebody? And again, I think the interesting thing about retirement is, people think they retire from work and they leave it behind, but it just reorients your work. You still have to work at things and friendships, and your social network is one of the things you have to work on.
RS: Yeah, that’s good. And that goes back to your conversation about people continuing to work and the benefits of continuing to work in what we call retirement is that whole (the importance of) social aspect.
RL: Well, and I think too, I think part of the problem is people vilify work. Like it’s this bad thing. Like leisure is good. Well, yeah, if you, if you don’t like your job, that’s true. But a lot of people do like their job and there are some benefits that work provides that, really, I don’t think people give enough credit. I mean, people can grieve the loss of routine, you know, because they get up, they have purpose, they get in their car, they walk into work, they’re greeted by people, there’s things (to do), there’s deadlines. And all of a sudden now that stuff’s gone. They may not be prepared to replace that stuff.
RS: Right? Yeah, it’s hard to make that change when somebody’s been doing that (same work) for 40 plus years.
So, question number 10, Bob, is again from your experience doing retirement coaching with clients, what have you seen change during this time or maybe shift in terms of either people’s perception of retirement and that transition or of retirement coaching?
RL: It’s becoming more mainstream. That’s the biggest thing… that the big transition is people are getting it. They’re starting to realize they need to really think about and plan for these non-financial pieces. It hasn’t reached the height that it needs to yet. And again, that’s what the RCA is about is really pushing that agenda that people need a written plan for these non-financial aspects. They need a plan for everyday life in retirement. Money is important, but it’s secondary to everything else. Because I say all the time, running out of money pales in comparison to running out of family, friends, good health and time.
And also, I think people find is that if you take care of the personal stuff first, the money stuff falls into place. It doesn’t work the other way around. You can’t take care of the money stuff and hope everything else falls into place. You do the opposite, put your personal stuff in place. And so I think the biggest thing that we’ll see coming up as a result of all this is that financial professionals will either be trained as certified retirement coaches or they will work with an individual who is specifically trained to guide people through it (non-financial aspects). And again, the process will be retirement planning will have these five key areas. It won’t just be the financial piece.
RS: Right? And I think a lot of what is bringing this to the forefront is the whole topic of longevity, right? People are realizing that if they live a happy, healthy life until they’re 85 or 90 or beyond, that if you stop working at 60 or 65 you’ve got a long time to figure out what you’re going to do. Otherwise you’re going to go downhill pretty quickly.
RL: Well, and I think… I wrote an article at Forbes about, this- it says it’s taking longer for people to feel old, you know. So, it really used to… when social security first came out in 1935, a life expectancy was I think (age) 61.8, so you were supposed to die before you got it. About a 30% increase in longevity says, okay, now how does that look different? So, people are living longer, but they’re healthy, active, and able longer, they’re not incapacitated for longer. And so, it does take a lot of planning.
My math says that a social security age should be 80, based on the changes in longevity. that change is how you perceive someone who’s 65 or even 70 because they’re not retirement age- at that age they are still very capable, willing, interested. They have the knowledge and the resources. And so, it’s a struggle for people to really get there and not be sure what to do. But again, that’s what retirement coaching is all about.
RS: Yep. Perfect. So, before we wrap up our conversation, Bob, is there anything else you’d like to share about either the RCA or about retirement coaching or anything that I didn’t touch on that you’d like to mention?
RL: Yeah, I just think it’s important to invite people to go to the website, to check it out and get plugged into the community. We’re looking for leading voices to really push this agenda because we want to make an impact on people’s lives. A lot of people waste the first two to three years of retirement trying to figure it out. So, if we can curb that and really help people get the most out of it by developing this written plan with this process, that’s the message we want to get out there. And so, whether you’re a consumer who wants to share that with other people or professional who wants to get plugged in, we just would invite you to do so.
RS: Okay, perfect. Yep. And I will include a link to all of those sites in the episode transcript. So, thank you, Bob, for joining me and sharing with the audience (about) the Retirement Coaches Association and retirement coaching. Thank you everybody for listening. Until next time, have a great week!