Throughout 2021, nearly four million people in the United States quit their jobs each month, the highest average on record, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Early 2022 data shows few signs of this employment trend slowing down.
The reasons why millions of U.S. workers joined the so-called "Great Resignation" vary depending on the individual. However, a March 2022 Pew Research Center survey showed that low pay, a lack of opportunities for advancement, and childcare issues were among the top reasons Americans quit their jobs last year.
Some found new jobs, but many workers retired early, and many more plan to explore retirement options this year. A separate Pew Research Center report from November 2021 noted as of the third quarter of 2021, 50.3% of U.S. adults 55 and older reported that they left the labor force, nearly two percentage points higher than a similar Pew survey in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Preparing for the Great Resignation
Given this labor trend, advisors need to proactively ask clients about their career plans rather than be surprised to find out a client is leaving work.
Financial advisors need to inquire why their clients want to resign: Is there a health reason? Or a desire to do something different? Those answers will help advisors create a financial plan for the next chapter of their clients’ lives.
Here are three points to discuss with clients now considering retirement:
- What income is available for cash flow? Retirees younger than 59 ½ will be penalized for taking early distributions from qualified retirement accounts such as 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts. Social Security is also unavailable until clients turn at least 62. Given the restrictions on tapping common retirement assets for younger retirees, advisors need to explore if other potential income options are available, including income from rental properties, pensions, or investment portfolios, to ensure clients can maintain their standard of living. In addition, if clients hope to use investment portfolios for their cash flow, advisors must stress test the portfolios and show the impact of reduced performance those assets have on cash flow. That can give clients a realistic outlook for their portfolios if markets fail to deliver the returns seen in the past few decades.
- Is part-time work an option? Whether clients are younger than 59 ½ and can’t tap some of their savings, or if near-retirees don’t have enough assets to fund retirement completely, advisors may want to suggest working part-time. Part-time work can supplement cash flow for younger retirees until they can access retirement assets, and it can also help older clients bridge the income gap. Additionally, downshifting to part-time work rather than heading abruptly into retirement gives clients and advisors a chance to adjust financial plans. There's more to retirement than just quitting an unsatisfying job. Both psychologically and financially, it takes time for clients to figure out how to make their next chapter fulfilling and how their assets will support them in a stage of their life that could last 30 years or more.
Without proper planning, including a phased-in retirement, retirees may soon return to work. A lesser told tale of the Great Resignation is "unretirement." An April 2022 survey by Indeed Hiring Lab shows 3.2% of workers who retired last year are employed again, spurred by a hot labor market, waning fears over COVID-19, and high inflation. That figure is similar to the levels seen in the two years before the pandemic.
- What about healthcare coverage? Unless clients retire because of their own health needs and might be eligible for Medicaid, clients younger than 65 won’t be eligible for Medicare. One option is to get coverage from a spouse’s job; otherwise, early retirees may have to spend thousands of dollars a month purchasing individual policies. That could have a serious impact on their cash flow.
Personalizing early retirement
These three questions will help advisors frame key financial discussion points for clients thinking about retiring early. At the same time, clients want their advisors to spend more time personalizing financial planning to help fit their needs, according to an April 2022 survey released by Fidelity International. Michael Durbin, president of the firm, says personalization through digital engagement is a top focus area for Fidelity.
For advisors looking to craft a more personalized experience for clients, a centralized platform, such as the Client Experience portal offered by SS&C’s Black Diamond® Wealth Platform, gives clients and advisors 24-hour access to their accounts on any device. It also goes beyond portfolio metrics so clients can see a holistic look at their wealth in an easy-to-read dashboard and options to communicate digitally with their advisor.
The Great Resignation is unlikely to end soon as the number of employees quitting remains high as people rethink their work-life balance goals and what they want to get out of jobs and life experiences. However, the good news is that financial advisors have tools to assist clients who are now exploring the next step of their working lives.
 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Economic News Release, Table 4. Quits levels and rates by industry and region, seasonally adjusted
 Kim Parker and Juliana Menasce Horowitz, “Majority of workers who quit a job in 2021 cite low pay, no opportunities for advancement, feeling disrespected”, Pew Research Center, March 9, 2022
 Richard Fry, “Amid the pandemic, a rising share of older U.S. adults are now retired”, Pew Research Center, November 4, 2021
 Nick Buner, “‘Unretirements’ Continue to Rise as More Workers Return to Work”, Indeed Hiring Lab, April 14, 2022
 Jeff Berman, “Money Management Is Out, Personalization and Planning Are In: Fidelity Exec”, ThinkAdvisor, April 13, 2022