Veteran adviser Marjorie Fox has begun to ponder her own retirement.

A partner and senior adviser at FJY Financial in Reston, Va, she estimates that she will retire in five years after a 25-year long career.

So Fox has become a student of her clients’ experiences during retirement and has noticed that they often unexpectedly suffer from a sense of absence when they no longer work.

Retirement can mean the unexpected loss of identity, colleagues, scheduling, relevance and, ultimately, control, she says.

“They don’t always share that with me,” says Fox about her clients’ emotional responses to retirement.

Marjorie Fox (Marjorie Fox)
Marjorie Fox (Marjorie Fox)

She recognizes that clients do best when as new retirees they frame their change as a next chapter, rather than an ending.

But in order for many retirees to do that effectively, they need to think about retiring in stages, “not going cold turkey,” Fox says.

She has one client who was initially unhappy after retiring but then returned to her job as a contract employee. She didn't need the money, but the work made her transition towards retirement feel less abrupt.

Ron Eppler has observed “a large number of clients who looking forward to retirement, had enough in their financial portfolio to retire, but then when they did, there was this huge void in their life.”

“It really kind of led to feelings of being alienated,” says Eppler, who is managing director of investments at The Weissman Eppler Investment Group of Wells Fargo Advisors in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Since identifying that trend among its clients who are retiring, his Wells Fargo team has set up client communication schedules to prevent such outcomes.

“We usually start five years out before they are scheduled to retire,” Eppler says.

Advisers begin talking to clients about what they want to pursue when they no longer work, he says.

“They are getting this gift, and they really have to explore what they want to do with it,” Eppler says.

The most pivotal component of those conversations is what advisers hear from clients.

“You really have to listen well,” Eppler says.

If clients begin to share their passions, it is the adviser’s responsibility to help them brainstorm ways to pursue those interests once they retire.

“They have to see it as a new phase of their life rather than the last phase of their life,” Eppler says.

This story is part of a 30-30 series on preparing for retirement.

Miriam Rozen

Miriam Rozen, a Financial Planning contributing writer, is a staff reporter at Texas Lawyer in Dallas.