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Beyond the Magic Retirement Number

Insights based on The Flexible Advisor podcast

A simple visual element may elevate your planning process

It’s a lot. It’s different for every person. And it’s often overlooked when planning for retirement. You know how to help clients prepare financially. But how will they compensate for the built-in structure, dozens of daily interactions, and engagement?   

Brad Connors, named one of the top 50 bank advisors in the nation by Bank Investment Consultant Magazine, talked with The Flexible Advisor about how he helps clients envision their retirement, and then uses that as the basis of the planning process. 


“Clients are not necessarily prepared for the realities of retirement,” said Connors. “So often, they were so worried about retiring from that job that they didn't think about what they were retiring to.” He offers an example in his book, “Fish Don’t Clap.”  A public speaker decides it is time to retire. What he always looked forward to, more than anything, was the freedom to go fishing wherever and whenever he wanted. One day, sitting in his boat, he finds himself wondering why he doesn't feel fulfilled. What’s missing? The answer was that fish don't clap. He missed being on stage and having people respond to him in person, in real time. Eventually he finds a way to get back on stage, so to speak. 

“If all you do in each meeting is go through a performance report, you're not providing much value.” – Brad Connors

The Tomorrow Story

This story led Connors to his own realization as a financial planner: "Just checking the boxes doesn't guarantee the client will be happy.” Having reached retirement, he said, “Many clients have money. They have options, but they are miserable. That spurred a crucial shift at iWealth, Connors’ practice: The Tomorrow Story, and the For Days Coming (FDC) Plan on Purpose tool.

“For years I've used e-Money as a planning tool and Redtail as my CRM. What was missing was a tool to integrate a client’s specific, personal information — the thinking behind their decisions around matters like Social Security benefits or long-term care insurance; the most gratifying elements of their job; the activities they want to pursue in the next chapter of life: their Tomorrow Story. We created Plan on Purpose to engage the client in writing that story. E-Money and Money Guide Pro are great tools. This tool fits alongside them so clients have a better picture of what they are working toward and what their advisor is doing for them.” 


  • Retirement is more than achieving the magic number. 

  • Visualization in the planning process is key.

  • Engaged planning clients are easier to retain.

Visualization Beyond the Magic Number

Every retiree knows there is a number they need to meet in order to be able to retire. What they forget is that the number doesn’t necessarily bring a fulfilling retirement. Being able to define purpose and to visualize what retirement will look and feel like is just as important as the magic number.

The Avatar

Connors leans into visualization through an avatar. “When a client walks in, they select a picture — Rome, or a boat, or fishing, or being with family. When it’s a couple, both pick their own. That’s so important because you want to establish a unique relationship with each person. I find that when the discussion is anchored to the avatar, clients are usually much more engaged. It helps them keep their eye on what they feel will make them happy.”

The "R Factor"

Connors borrows from strategic coach Dan Sullivan’s well-known question: “What has to happen for you to be happy when you are sitting in this chair 12 months from now?” Each client meeting starts with a look at the client’s avatar and ends by updating what needs to happen over the next 12 months. This helps to maintain a positive focus in every conversation. 

The Backstory

This is where the advisor and client document the relevant elements of the story and plan — tax planning, wills, power of attorney, health care, family meeting, Social Security, with a time/date stamp that syncs back to the CRM. Second-page items are reviewed together at every client meeting. The client has a lifetime plan score that they can see growing as they complete various goals with the advisor.

From Service to Experience

Importantly, addressing and readdressing financial planning needs and personal visualization helps address three of the most pressing challenges facing financial planners. It creates a deeper client relationship, a more satisfying client experience, and a differentiated service level to attract and retain clients.  According to Connors, “If all you do is go through a performance report and talk about a couple things, you're not providing much value. When your client is able to easily see where they are in their planning journey – the things they’ve accomplished and what is still outstanding in their lifetime plan, there's perceived value. I believe they become stickier clients because they're part of the process. They understand it's not just about alpha,¹ beta,2 and rate of return versus the S&P 500.3 It’s about their tomorrow and what brings them joy.”

You can access the full discussion on The Flexible Advisor, wherever you get your podcasts.

  1. 1 Alpha measures the amount that the investment has returned in comparison to the market index or other broad benchmark that it is compared against. (Banton, 2022)
  2. 2  Beta measures the relative volatility of an investment. It is an indication of its relative risk. (Banton, 2022)
  3. Banton, C. (2022, May 13). Alpha vs. Beta: What Is The Difference? Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/102714/whats-difference-between-alpha-and-beta.asp
  4. 3 The S&P 500 Index, or Standard & Poor's 500 Index, is a market-capitalization-weighted-index of 500 leading publicly traded companies in the U.S. (Kenton, 2023)
  5. Kenton, W. (2023, March 23). Understanding S&P 500 Index – Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. Investopedia.          https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/sp500.asp
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