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Hitting 65, Boomers Seek Out 'Retirement Coaches'

Christine Dugas
Wednesday, 16 Jan 2013 | 8:44 AM ET
Svetikd | Agency Collection | Getty Images

The Baby Boomers who grew up during the hippie counterculture movement are unlikely to follow in their parents' footsteps as they approach retirement.

But Boomers, many of whom are turning 65, have no road maps. They not only have to figure out how to make their money last, but they need to reinvent themselves in the second act of life.

"Before, retirement was a destination," says Dorian Mintzer, a therapist and board-certified retirement transition coach based in Boston."You had your retirement party and bought your condo in Florida. Now it's a process. It's a journey that can be daunting but can be very exciting, too."

Although money is often at the top of retirement worries, many Boomers also have non-financial questions that may not be answered by a financial adviser. But there are now many different kinds of services available to help them navigate retirement, such as retirement coaches, elder life advisers and certified senior advisers. And there are free websites and books that also provide retirement tools and advice.

The services offered can vary. A retirement coach generally will help clients develop goals and plans for their retirement, while a certified senior adviser or elder life adviser is likely to offer help with social issues, such as senior housing and health care. For more information, go to The International Coach Federation, at coachfederation.org and the Society of Certified Senior Advisors at society-csa.com.

Who needs a retirement trainer

It's not always easy for Baby Boomers to switch gears as they approach retirement age. Some have never given retirement a thought as they focused on their jobs and families. Many are more concerned about their retirement nest egg than on creating a second act of life. But suddenly retirement may be looming ahead without a plan.

Sometimes, dual-career married couples need more help than others because they can be out of sync with each other, says Mintzer, co-author of The Couple's Retirement Puzzle. In one case, a husband was ready to retire from work but his wife had entered the workforce later in life and wanted to keep working. The husband ended up using his skills to teach at a community college while his wife continued her career, she says.

Retirement planning can't only be based on dreams. Growing old requires funding, says Holly Deni, director of the elder life division at Locker Financial Services in Little Hills, N.J. And not all of the planning is fun as seniors prepare for the complicated and confusing world of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security rules.

One nurse came to see Deni because she needed help with Medicare. "She is 65 and is a very vital and athletic person who travels and still works full time and loves her job," Deni says. "She plans to retire in the next two to three years, and she said that she doesn't have an idea about what to do when she applies for Medicare."

Seniors who are single, divorced or widowed may seek a retirement coach to help them decide where to live. A single woman who likes music and hiking has asked Mintzer to help her find a place that has kindred spirits.

When Boomers retire from their job without a plan they may feel depressed because they are losing their identity, Deni says. A trustworthy retirement adviser can help them find a new identity.

How to avoid pitfalls and costly fees

But retirement advice can be pricey. The fees will vary, but in many cases it will cost $100 an hour or more. While seeing a therapist might be covered by health insurance, a retirement coach is not.

Before paying for the service, Boomers need to ask about a coach or adviser's credentials and check their references. But there are not many standards or regulations. For example, some insurance agents have called themselves a certified senior adviser without any qualification in order to sell annuities. In 2011, the New York State Insurance Department said it has prohibited agents and brokers from using the title if they have no qualification.

Even if a coach or adviser is well qualified you need to find one that fits your needs. Deni helps her firm's clients make retirement decisions that are closely linked to their financial planning. "I'm dealing with middle-income people who can't afford to make a costly mistake," she says. "And I'm not going to explore psychological tasks to the same depth that a good retirement coach would."

How to fill the time in retirement

Many Boomers want to create a new career in retirement. When Peter Johnson's children were graduating from college and he would no longer have to pay for their education he realized that he could make a life change. And it didn't involve retiring from work to play golf.

"I never thought about retirement in the sense of leaving the workforce," says Johnson, who is 63. "I have always wanted to stay active." For years he had worked in marketing, Internet advertising and was an entrepreneur, raising capital for technology businesses. In 2007, he went back to college to get a doctoral degree in marketing. Now he has a full-time, faculty job at Fordham University in New York City.

Marci Alboher, author of a new book, The Encore Career Handbook, has been following people like Johnson who pursue career changes for the greater good. "Teaching is one of the most obvious ways to do that," Alboher says. But what makes Johnson different is that he received a Ph.D. when he was 60. "But now that people will be working well into their 70s, I bet we'll be seeing more people doing what Peter did."

For some people, the second stage of life just falls into place, but for others it's a windy path, filled with detours, Alboher says. Johnson considers his new career a miracle. "I always thought that the aging Boomer demographic would remain valuable over time because of our experience and wisdom," he says. "I realize that this is something that I can do for another 10 years, or maybe longer."

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