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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Guiding Clients to Better Health & Wellbeing in Retirement

Many clients contemplating retirement believe it is a time to throw cares away, just relax and smell the roses. True, retirement is a time when we focus on our self and it’s a time when work priorities change. However, keeping healthy should be part of every client’s journey into retirement.

Being healthy means having good physical, mental and spiritual well-being. As an advisor you can encourage your clients to create a health and wellbeing strategy.

Each health and wellbeing strategy should include a plan for achieving (a) physical wellness, (b) improved diet and nutrition, (c) mental health and (d) spirituality.

A. Physical Health
Regular exercise is a major contributor to overall wellness. Without activity, we deteriorate at a rapid rate. Other benefits of regular exercise are weight control, balance and flexibility. Exercise can help clients feel better and protect their bodies from disease, fatigue and lethargy.

Encourage your clients to try a variety of different exercise activities before committing to one. During their testing period, have them refrain from buying expensive equipment in case the activity they thought was ‘great’ turns out to not be. Ask clients to share their progress with you and, in turn, provide positive feedback and accolades, both of which can act as a stimulus to clients for achieving physical fitness success.

B. Diet and Nutrition
As we get older, our nutritional needs change. Our metabolic rate, the speed at which our body burns calories, tends to decline. This means our body needs fewer calories. This also means we need less food.

Encourage clients to examine their diets including reducing sugar, butter and salt intake. Suggest your clients consult with their doctor regarding food products and nutritional supplements he/she recommends given the client’s health history and body type.

C. Mental Health
For many newly minted retirees, the first months can be difficult because of strong identification with ‘work’. Upon entering retirement, they may experience butterflies, sweaty palms, upset stomach and other anxieties.

Talk to your clients about creating a plan to deal with ‘retirement stress’. Such a plan can include physical exercise, deep breathing and muscle relaxation. Open the door for clients to share their retirement challenges with you. Ask for their thoughts and suggestions on how to handle the situation. Show sympathy, understanding, objectivity, knowledge and encouragement. Remind your clients they are not alone – their friends, family and you are there to support and help.

D. Spirituality
Recently the U.S. National Interfaith Conference on Aging related happiness, morale and health to spirituality. People with less spirituality, in general, are not as happy or healthy as those with a high degree of spirituality.

As part of each client’s retirement plan, encourage them to think about how he/she can increase their spirituality. This includes: developing a positive sense of hope, leveraging past experiences to help resolve current situations, recognizing the power of prayer, finding and using artistic abilities and utilizing relaxation and meditation techniques.

As a caring advisor, include health and wellbeing as part of your client discussions. Provide thoughts and direction you have found useful when building a healthy regime and underline the importance of creating a retirement health and wellbeing strategy.

Richard (Rick) Atkinson, Founder and President of RA Retirement Advisors, is an expert in pre-retirement planning. He is author of the best-selling book, Don’t Just Retire – Live It, Love It! Rick facilitates workshops for clients of advisors and others. He is available for speaking engagements. Twitter: @dontjustretire.