Retirement expectations unrealistic, planner says

Financial planners need to make sure clients have realistic expectations of retirement, not just financially but also in terms of their personal goals, according to financial planner and the Association of Financial Advisers (AFA) 2012 Female Excellence in Advice Award winner, Christine Hornery.

Hornery said financial planners can help couples create, manage, review and protect their "retirement dreams", not only because they have the technical expertise and professional qualifications to help them realise their goals but because they have a commitment to reviewing the advice and strategy.

She pointed to a misalignment between partners about what retirement means to them and how they imagine life after work.

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According to Hornery, there seems to be an expectation that they will want to do everything as a couple and would surrender everything they currently do as individuals, which is why couples need to discuss in depth what they wanted to do in retirement, long before they actually retire.

"The word retirement may conjure up a picture of relaxed lifestyle, being able to do all the things people never had the time to do while working, and an emotive image of calmness and serenity," Hornery said.

"But in my experience, with some clients in my own practice, retirement can be a period of frustration, sadness, emptiness and loneliness — and the level of dissatisfaction amongst retirees is not always directly related to their level of retirement income."

Financial planners' ongoing relationships with clients mean they can manage expectations and be brutally honest when necessary, she added.

"Ongoing relationships between financial advisers and their clients are what can make a positive tangible difference in the lives of everyday Australians."

After creating a plan for what they want to do in retirement, Hornery said couples need to then take responsibility for their superannuation, also taking into account their joint and individual needs.

"Generally speaking, men spend longer in the workforce and have contributed more in superannuation than their wives and therefore have usually thought about what retirement means for them financially," Hornery said.

"But they typically focus on reaching a lump sum. They don't think about the impact of retirement, about what explicitly they're going to do."

The reverse is often true for women as they have usually thought through what they want to do in retirement but have less in retirement savings.

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