There are a number of research studies that have come out over the past few years looking at how the financial advice industry is evolving.  This is due to a combination of increasing longevity, an aging demographic, and changing wants and needs of clients.  Covid19 and the economy has also adversely impacted the retirement visions of millions of people.

People are not only living longer, they are living healthier, more actively, and with continued purpose and meaning. Many want something more during this time than just leisure and play.  Purpose, meaning, connection, and legacy are also important to this group. In other words, a more colorful retirement!

For many, retirement could last 25 years or more.  How do clients navigate this transition? Or, as this article from MIT AgeLab leader Joseph Coughlin ask both a thought-provoking yet rhetorical question:

“But who teaches you how to live in retirement?”

Since “retirement” is the largest single goal clients are planning and saving for- many for most of their working years- it is important to understand this evolution. This is creating challenges but also opportunities that can benefit clients and your firm.

Note: I put retirement in quotes because the meaning of the word is changing- it is no longer thought of as an ending, but instead a beginning of a new phase- one filled with varying individual challenges and opportunities. The word has a negative connotation. That needs to change.

To summarize what the studies are saying as succinctly as possible, the message is this: when preparing for retirement, planning for the non-financial side of retirement is becoming as important as planning for the financial side.

I recently wrote a white paper highlighting much of the research that came out prior to the studies summarized below. The paper also points out the benefits of non-financial retirement planning for clients and your firm. It also includes additional resources to learn more about non-financial retirement planning.

Retirement planning is two pieces of a puzzle that need to fit together.  You cannot adequately plan for retirement until you know what you are going to do in retirement.  The physical, mental, social, and emotional aspects of retirement are very much intertwined with the financial.

Here are three studies that have come out in 2020 along with a summary of the highlights- what each is telling us, particularly as it pertains to planning for the non-financial side of retirement.


Beyond Finances: Holistic Life Planning Trends Among Advisors
(Download the full study from the link)

This study was sponsored by Equitable and produced by IN Research.  It looks at the importance of holistic planning. As the study notes- the relationship with clients is evolving from one where the advisor was primarily focused on managing money to being a life manager. Conversations with clients are getting deeper and broader.

Here are some of the highlights from the study.

  • Although advisors acknowledge that clients desire more holistic life planning, many professionals struggle to get their head around all these issues.
  • 87% of advisors said they believe a broader view of their clients that transcends traditional financial measures is “extremely” or “very” beneficial; yet only 58% said they were “extremely” or “very” knowledgeable about their clients non-financial goals.
  • Advisors need to equip themselves with the right tools and team to make sure holistic life planning conversations take place. Advisors will also need to educate themselves in areas where they have knowledge gaps.
  • As clients demand that the financial planning process encompass more issues, advisors surveyed said they expect to discuss all topics under the holistic umbrella more frequently over the next five years. The topics listed included physical well-being, healthcare, emotional and mental well-being, and life goals.
  • For every topic advisors were asked about, they noted that these conversations were increasing more with female clients than male clients.
  • When it comes to holistic planning and offering broader planning services, female clients are 9 times more likely than their male counterparts to demand these services.
  • Older, middle-aged, and wealthier clients were more like to also demand broader services.
  • The wide variation in the frequency of these broader topic conversations suggests that having more discussions about broad life issues could be a competitive differentiator.

The Future of Client-Advisor Relationships (Download the full study from the link)

This study was a collaboration between AIG Life & Retirement and MIT AgeLab. In a two-part study, they examine the role advisors play as clients seek more than portfolio performance, financial expertise, and good service. It is divided into two parts. As the authors point out, this may pose a challenge for financial professionals, but even more so an opportunity to broaden and deepen their client relationships- to satisfy and retain older clients, and to attract and delight the next generation of clients- by better understanding the changing needs, expectations, and relationship preferences at each age and stage of the financial lifecycle.

Here are some of the highlights from the study.

Study Part 1:

  • Having discussions about a more holistic set of topics that move beyond purely financial can be important to clients and may strengthen the relationship.
  • 85% of highly satisfied clients have discussed future goals and aspirations. 77% have discussed job transitions, new careers, or retirement.
  • To deepen client relationships, financial professionals should meet clients where they are in their life journey- and broadening the focus of their services and tailoring the style of their interactions based on the life-stage of each client.
  • Understanding client’s life goals and other complexities were reported by clients as leading to higher levels of satisfaction with their advisor.
  • These findings suggest that financial professionals do not risk their relationships by bringing up new topics such as job transitions, a new career, retirement, or future goals and aspirations. In some cases, discussing these may improve the level of client trust, confidence, commitment, and satisfaction.
  • A large group of respondents report looking to their financial professional to help them visualize and plan for the future and act as a resource connector in the face of life’s complexities at each stage of their life.
  • Financial professionals may add to their value proposition by serving as trusted sources for clients across many life domains, and by connecting them with resources they might not know to seek out on their own.

Study Part 2:

  • People are living longer, working longer and looking at retirements that may span 30 to 40 years or more. This gives financial professionals a unique opportunity to recast their client relationship by broadening and deepening the conversations they have about the future.
  • They can further enhance their value proposition by adopting a strategy called ”longevity planning.” This holistic approach to planning not only takes into account financial topics, but also considers non-financial matters such as encore careers, later-life entrepreneurship, health, housing, home modification, eldercare, family care, and transportation.
  • The longevity planning approach requires financial professionals and their clients to expand the traditional bounds of their discussions in favor of wider-ranging and deeper conversations.
  • Financial professionals can help clients identify areas of concern and act as a “resource connector,” using a broader network to help clients find the right expertise and services to address their needs.
  • The success of such efforts hinges on the extent to which individuals are willing to step outside normal conversational boundaries. In financial services, communication has been shown to be critical to clients’ level of trust and commitment to their financial professional. Taking steps to change communication norms can enable financial professionals to offer greater value.

The Four Pillars of the New Retirement (Download the full study from the link)

This study was produced by Edward Jones and Age Wave.  They sought to more deeply understand the retirement-related hopes, dreams, and fears of their clients, their families, and our communities. As the authors point out, they explored a new, holistic framework with a deep examination of the four central “pillars” for living well in retirement- health, family, purpose, and finances.  Three of the four pillars are not focused on money.

They go on to note: Understanding the way our clients are viewing retirement improves our ability to serve them in a human-centered way and help them each achieve what’s most important to them and their families.

This landmark study reveals that, more than ever before, retirement is far more than a destination or an end point; it’s the beginning of a new journey filled with twists and turns as well as new possibilities and new questions.

Here are some of the highlights from the study.

  • Some retirees may still see retirement as a time for rest and relaxation, but the majority call it “a whole new chapter of life.”
  • Retirees today want to explore and reinvent as they try new things, form new relationships, discover new purpose, and even forge better versions of themselves.
  • This new retirement no longer means the end of work, but rather having greater freedom to choose whether and how much one wants to work.
  • What makes today’s retirement “new”? Increasing longevity means more people with longer retirements- making retirement a more important stage of life.
  • Two-thirds of all people who have ever lived past the age of 65 in the entire history of the world are alive today.
  • It’s not just the massive size of the Boomer generation that’s changing the face of retirement- it’s their attitudes aspirations. They enjoy more opportunities and more choices than any previous generation for shaping retirement to suit their needs and expectations.
  • The research reveals four key ingredients for living well in the new retirement- called the four pillars- health, family, purpose and finances. These four pillars are inextricably interconnected. The four pillars change in retirement.


  • Physical health naturally declines with age, but our research shows that mental health- psychological and emotional-actually rises.
  • Our healthspans do not match our lifespans, with older Americans living an average of 10 years in poor health.
  • Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are the conditions retirees fear the most- more than cancer, a heart attack, or infectious diseases like COVID-19. “Brain” health is of supreme importance and worry for retirees.


  • Most retirees draw their greatest nourishment from family relationships. For most Americans today, family extends beyond blood relatives to include “families of affinity.”
  • Retirees without close connections to family and friends face greater risk of physical and social isolation.


  • Retirees with a strong sense of purpose are happier, healthier, and live longer.
  • They derive their strongest sense of purpose from spending time with loved ones.
  • They also face a new challenge and opportunity: how to use their newfound “time affluence.” They don’t just want to keep busy; they want to spend their time in useful and rewarding ways.
  • A striking 89% of all Americans agree that there should be more ways for retirees to help in their communities.


  • The financial goal of the vast majority of retirees is not to accumulate wealth in itself, but to have sufficient resources to provide security and the freedom to live the lives they want.
  • Retirees’ greatest financial worry is the cost of health care and long-term care. The key to financial preparation is looking holistically at how one wants to live in retirement, not just how much money may be needed.

Each of these studies provides a great amount of fantastic information and many great points, ideas, thoughts, and takeaways. Collectively, they paint a picture of a new, different, unique, and forward-thinking approach for helping clients approach retirement.

In Part 2, I will address some additional data that points out why helping clients plan for the non-financial aspects of retirement is important for your firm and how you can take advantage of what this research is saying.

Contact me to learn more about how you can apply the points in this research and how we can help your clients and your firm by providing this type of guidance.