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By David RichmanNational Director, Eaton Vance Advisor Institute

Most of my friends in their early to mid-60s are still working full time and have little to no interest in retiring. If you were to meet any of them, might you assume they are interested in retirement planning simply because they look like they should retire?

A classic discovery question is, "When do you plan to retire?" Step back and consider the presumptive nature of this question.

  • Can you appreciate how my "never-want-to-retire friends" might interpret such a question?
  • Might it unnecessarily place them on the defensive or create a barrier to deeper discovery?

What might be a better way to frame an initial question about retirement? Rather than apply the broad brush, perhaps you should try open-ended questions such as:

  • "Describe the vision you have for your life for the next 5 to 10 years?"
  • "How much thought have you given to the concept of retirement?"
  • "We have clients who want to build a retirement game plan and others who never want to retire? How about you?"

Open-ended questions help you avoid generalizing about a prospective or existing client. What is more, they help you learn by leading with curiosity about their unique perspectives because you are seeking to see the world through their eyes. These questions also set the stage to be a conscious collaborator.

What are friends of mine thinking about instead of retirement? The top topic of conversation is, "Where should we live?" as many can now visualize an ability to continue working remotely. Perhaps your 60-something prospects are also more interested in lifestyle planning than retirement planning.

Bottom line: Avoid the broad brush to be in a strong position to inspire prospective and existing clients to take actions that are in their best interests.