Last month the Insured Retirement Institute released yet another in the long line of reports indicating the majority of baby boomers are nowhere near ready for retirement. Since we can’t slow down the clock to give them more time to prepare their financial capital, consultant and author Keith Weber says maybe it’s time we start helping them prepare their human capital.

According to AARP, over 80% of boomers plan to continue to work in some capacity in retirement. While about a quarter of those (23%) plan on working because they want to, the rest plan on working because they feel they’ll need to. As such, our client’s human capital is becoming an ever-larger retirement asset that needs to be managed and optimized for long term sustainability.

So how do you optimize a client’s human capital? Historically it’s been done by climbing the career ladder to maximize one’s earnings in their late 40’s and 50’s. That was seen as the time when the kids were out of the house and we could “catch-up” on our retirement savings. But with jobs continuing to be scarce and wage growth remaining stagnant, few boomers are able to catch up the way they might have expected. 

The only remaining alternative then -- other than drastically reducing lifestyle -- is to work longer. The problem here is that according to the Conference Board, less than half of all workers (45%) are satisfied with their jobs, with almost 40% - according to Towers Watson – being disenchanted or actively disengaged. Can you really optimize your human capital when you’re dissatisfied with your job?

The solution may be in helping our clients find work that they can truly be engaged in. For years clients told me they didn’t want to retire so they could sit back and do nothing, they want to retire so they can finally go do what they’ve always wanted to do.  For many, that means some kind of new work.

But this is where our culture and traditional financial planning often fails our clients. Culturally, we have become so accustomed to our linear, three life-stage path of education, career and retirement, that toward the end (or even in the middle) of one’s career, we don’t often look at retraining and re-tooling our client’s human capital to allow them to work longer. Even though we are reaching traditional retirement age with better health and more energy than ever before, we still tend to look at retirement as the next life stage.

As financial planners, we have the opportunity to change that conversation. In those cases where it’s clear that the financial assets will not support the desired lifestyle for full retirement, we need to help our clients view their lives cyclically rather than linearly. Rather than progressing through one long career to one long retirement, we need to help them plan a new cycle of personal education and preparation for a new phase of work that they might very well want to continue well past normal retirement age.

While I know some advisors will now be thinking, “That’s not my job,” we need to recognize the cultural shift that is occurring. Until the early 2000’s, the average retirement age had been in steady decline for decades but is now increasing once again. If you view your role as simply that of a money manager, then that fact is not likely a concern to you. 

But if you view your role -- as I believe most of us do -- as one of helping your clients achieve their personal goals, then taking the time to define exactly what it is “they always wanted to do” and helping them create a plan to achieve that might very well be the best use of your own human capital.


Keith J. Weber, CFP®, CPRC, is a speaker, author and founder of Weber Consulting Group, LLC, a financial advisor training, coaching and practice management consulting firm focused on providing relationship development skills to advisors.  Through the website, Keith provides tools to advisors and clients to help build stronger client relationships.  Keith maintains the CFP® designation and is also a Certified Professional Retirement Coach.  His latest book, Rethinking Retirement, was released in July, 2010.  For more information visit, or connect with Keith on LinkedIn.


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