Retiring Without a Rudder? You May Need a Coach

Do You Need a Retirement Coach?
Do You Need a Retirement Coach?

Most people's worries about retirement are, first and foremost, about money: Will I have enough? How much can I spend? How can I make what I have last as long as I do?

But there are other questions to retirement -- the ones about all the nonfinancial stuff -- that can be just as complicated. What will I do with my time? What matters most? How will I transition into this new phase of my life? What can I expect?

These are big life questions, and increasingly, folks are turning to retirement coaches for help finding answers.

But what can a retirement coach do for you that you can't do for yourself? And at $100-plus an hour, are their services worth it?

The Game Has Changed

Truth is, when you're working the 9-to-5 grind, you know the deal. When suddenly there's no boss, when your days are your own -- well, that can be either a cause for celebration or a bit overwhelming. Will you work part-time? Volunteer? Will you want to travel the globe or visit the grandkids? Will you split your time between your primary house and a second home?

You'll face loads of options, and you'll want to make the right choices. And what about the questions that you might not have anticipated asking, or perhaps not so soon: What happens if I get critically ill? What if my partner dies?

"Getting help in this very big life change is priceless," says Bill Dueease, president of The Coach Connection, which brings together people and coaches. "If people retire without a purpose, they wither away. It is almost life-critical they develop a new purpose to get up, other than playing golf. But rarely do any soon-to-be retirees know much about themselves to even recognize their ideal retirement if it was given to them," says Dueease.

"Provide the Needed Nudge"

"A coach does a few things you could never do on your own," says Eric Dunavant, president of Dunavant Wealth Group. For example, a coach may help you stay disciplined, rather than emotional about tough financial decisions.

"It can happen with retirement decisions where someone is so anxious to retire they have never counted the cost to see if they could afford to do so," says Dunavant. A good coach will start by working with you to determine what you really want to do, lead you to resources to help you get there and provide the needed nudge to keep you focused on your goals. They will also track your progress in moving toward them and make necessary adjustments so that you get where you're trying to go.

"A coach will constantly challenge you to look at how you stack up against your desired results," says Dunavant. "There are instances when you can spend a lot of time and energy chasing an objective that was never one of your goals to begin with. It might feel really important at the time, but after it's over, you are no closer to your ultimate goal."

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But who most stands to benefit from hiring a retirement coach? "This is for people who want to have someone to hold them accountable," explains Pete D'Arruda, president of Capital Financial Advisory Group. "I think it's great to have a second opinion you can trust, someone who has your best interest at heart. Everyone could use a coach, but the do-it-yourselfers who don't respond to constructive criticism will never be a good coaching candidate."

Certified and Solid

As with any adviser, though, the key is to choose wisely. "Coaches should have training in coaching and retirement coaching in particular," says Barbara Adler, senior consultant and retirement coach at Impact Group."They should have experience working with individuals dealing with retirement related topics and useful resources to provide for your ongoing planning," she adds.

You're also not likely to get a rookie if you go for a coach certified by the International Coach Federation, especially one who has attained their mid-level certification, the Professional Certified Coach. That seal of approval means they have at least 750 coaching experience hours and 25 clients, among other requirements. 2Young2Retire offers a training program that certifies facilitators to work with people designing the second half of life. You might also check out Life Planning Network.

Prices vary greatly. You may be able to find a group retirement coaching session that starts at $25 per meeting, according to Candy Spitz, director of facilitator training for 2Young2Retire. But one-on-one advising isn't cheap. For example, "Fees can range from $300 to over $4,000 for a month's coaching. Some coaches require a three- to six-month contractual obligation," explains Dueease. If you're shelling out that kind of money, you want to get what you're paying for.

More Guidance Than You'll Need

As with any adviser, you'll want to interview several candidates -- thoroughly. For starters, suggests Mark Matson, founder of Matson Money, ask these questions: "What strategies do you follow for investing assets? How is your relationship with other coaches, advisers and brokers? How have you educated past investors to make better financial decisions? How long do you typically stay attached to and help clients? Why did you become a coach versus a broker?"

In addition, Impact Group's Adler suggests, ask about their approach to retirement planning, and ask what are some of the significant mistakes people make. Inquire how he or she will prevent you from stumbling into those pitfalls if the two of you work together. Of course, you'll want to know how long they've been coaching and how often they will met with you, among other thingss.

Don't be afraid to drill down: Experience and expertise counts, but so does personality. The best recommendations may come from your trusted circle: family, friends and existing advisers.

An Ongoing Relationship?

Not everyone is sold on the notion of retirement coaches. Richard Barrington, a chartered financial analyst with says, "It's a 50-50 proposition whether this is a good idea, because often financial planners and other 'experts' have been the source of bad ideas that have gotten retirement savers into trouble."

That said, it can make sense if you lack the discipline to follow through on retirement planning concepts, you find someone who is properly certified -- say, a certified financial planner -- and who charges a reasonable fee, and doesn't receive any form of incentive for recommending specific products. Once your plan is mapped out, the next question how much continuing attention you'll need.

"The word 'coach' implies an ongoing, intensive relationship, and it's questionable whether that is worth the money," says Barrington. "Once you have a long-term plan in place, you shouldn't need too much continuing help unless you find yourself off track from your goals."