The slog of middle age helps us to plan for the ‘next act’ of retirement

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The way Americans retire today requires that a financial adviser be more than just a money manager. Investing is just a means to end, after all, and that end is living well.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that there are “no second acts” in American lives. It’s a misunderstood quote, a line scribbled among notes for an unfinished novel.

He seemed to mean that Americans tend to want to skip the complicated middle of things. They seek reward without effort.

I’m sure anyone trying to save for retirement feels like they’re experiencing the complicated middle of life. Many of us have both aging parents and growing children who need education and guidance.

Somehow we’re supposed to help them and also save enough to finance our own retirement, too.

Of course, the great gift of life is precisely the people who came before us and the people who follow, those we love and care for.

The complicated “second act” of our three-act play, what we call middle age, also is the time when we most become who we are. We finally settle into the rhythm of the life we were meant to live. We are most connected to family before and after us.

And it’s often when we achieve the most on behalf of others and ourselves.

Retirement evolution

Once that periods ends and we approach retirement, many people feel unsure of what to do next. The ideal of the generation before us was leisure — golf, living by the shore, pampering grandchildren.

It’s understandable. People in previous generations often worked physically hard jobs that limited lifespans. It was reasonable to want to quit.

The most effort many of us make today is to remember to get out of a chair from time to time. Our biggest physical risk is being sedentary.

Our generation instead is about reinventing life’s purpose, re-creating our lives with new, meaningful goals. It’s a crucial part of understanding how retirement should work.

In fact, when I talk to clients, most of the conversation is about the problem of what to do. The money aspect is just how to finance what you plan to do.

Having that kind of detailed conversation with a financial adviser is hugely important.

The great gift of life is precisely the people who came before us and the people who follow.

Great advising

What you do with the later years of your life can be expensive or it can be cheap. A new career in retirement, should you choose that path, completely alters your financial plan. A continuing income source creates different goals for your savings and that can change your investments.

What’s your next act? How do you expect to achieve fulfillment once you leave a career or a profession? Can you step down in stages or find a way to stay involved on your own terms?

Or is the answer a completely new path, something you’ve always wanted to do, a dream, a plan laid aside, a curiosity long forgotten?

A good financial adviser is fundamentally concerned with these questions — not just the investments. A great financial adviser can help you set the financial stage for a great next act.