At a time when divorce rates are dropping for younger adults, the divorce rate for older Americans is rising significantly. Among U.S. adults ages 50 and older, the divorce rate has roughly doubled since the 1990s. Among those ages 65 and older, the divorce rate has roughly tripled since 1990. As couples become empty nesters and begin contemplating their retirement years, they often realize that their visions of their “golden years” differ significantly.
A new application, Bliss from MoneyGuidePro, can help avoid some of the anxiety surrounding retirement planning by exploring a couple’s retirement compatibility and encouraging them to collaborate in planning a retirement future upon which both partners can agree. Bliss can be used on a computer, a tablet, or a phone. By gamifying the process, it can help couples engage in a discussion and reach compromises where necessary.
Of course, a couple does not need to be approaching retirement to use Bliss; in fact, one could argue that the earlier they use it the better, but it will probably be used primarily with couples who are 50 years of age or older, at least initially.
GAMIFICATION, COMFORT OF HOME
Bliss can be completed by the couple at home, before they engage in a retirement discussion with an advisor. This is important for several reasons. Research shows that two out of three clients prefer entering personal data and discussing their goals at home before meeting with a financial advisor.
The concept is simple. One spouse plays the game, then the other does (or they can do it simultaneously on different devices). The app then arrives at a score for their retirement compatibility. It then provides a benchmark, so they can compare their compatibility with others playing the game. It then walks them through a process to try and help them increase their retirement compatibility score.
When the first spouse plays, they are first asked to identify their expectations during retirement by clicking on the appropriate icons (active lifestyle, less stress, more time together, etc.). Next, they identify concerns (being bored, running out of money, etc.). Then, using sliders, they identify a retirement period for each spouse. If they want to move during retirement, they specify where and what type of housing. They then identify goals during retirement, answer some questions about spending, debt, and a primary financial decision-maker, if any. The app asks a few investment related questions including a risk question, and whether they work with an advisor or would like to.
The second spouse goes through the same exercise, at which time they receive their retirement compatibility score. Hopefully, the couple will achieve a high compatibility score, but if they do not, or if they want to make a good score even better, Bliss can help.
BLISS TALK CAN RESOLVE ISSUES
The app asks if the couple would like help improving their score by having a Bliss talk. The app then walks them through each section that they have previously answered, noting the areas they agree on (in green) and those that they don’t (in red). For example, in Expectations, they agree on more time together, but one spouse also wants more time with family and friends. The spouse that did not express that expectation is asked if he/she can agree with the other spouse’s need/expectation. If the answer is yes, they click on the expectation and it turns from red to green. As the couple, turns more icons from red to green, they continue to earn points, improving their overall score.
Once they have gone through all the areas of incompatibility, they can earn bonus points by bringing additional specificity to goals that they do agree on. For example, if they both agree on travel, they can get extra points for agreeing on where, how often, etc.
GOOD ADDITION TO ADVISOR TOOLBELT
Bliss might prove to be a very important addition to the advisor’s toolkit. If the couple knows going into a meeting with an advisor that they are for the most part compatible, and if they have already identified any differences in a non-threatening way, the meeting will be less stressful and more productive.
If there are serious difference of opinion, Bliss allows couples to begin a discussion about what could be a divisive issue in a fun, non-threatening manner in the privacy of their own home. It encourages them to interact, collaborate, and compromise where necessary. By gamifying the process, it motivates both partners to work together to improve their score. Finally, it better prepares them to have a conversation with an advisor about retirement.
There are also benefits to the advisor. If the couple is already a client, getting a sense of how compatible they are early on enables to advisor to better prepare to help the couple and to allocate an adequate amount of time to dealing with various issues. In the case of prospects, it can alert the advisor to serious incompatibility issues, if any, before they become clients so the advisor can better gauge his or her ability to meet the couple’s needs and set realistic expectations.
Bliss is simple, easy, fun an intuitive. It may not guarantee marital bliss, but it can help couples collaborate to build their ideal retirement.