Most Overused Words in the Industry?

Some back-pocket phrases—holistic, retirement readiness and glide path—may seem tired not just to retirement plan participants, but even to retirement plan advisers themselves.

“Our industry is saddled with buzzwords whose meaning and understanding gets lost among both industry professionals and individual employees alike,” Jeff Snyder, vice president, senior consultant at Cammack Retirement Group, tells PLANADVISER.

Since the right language to communicate retirement concepts can really drive plan success and positive participant behavior, it’s critical to simplify messages to plan participants, Snyder feels, which can lead to the greatest success of retirement preparation.

To a specialized audience, jargon is precise, says Rod Greenshields, consulting director, Russell Investments, though he admits outsiders might find it off-putting. When some words are used indiscriminately with people who are not expert in a field, they can mean very different things to different people. “Words like robust, holistic and prepared don’t mean anything specific,” he tells PLANADVISER. “They must be followed up with specific details.”

Another reason to be careful about the words you use, feels Sam Ushio, director of practice management at Russell Investments, is differentiation. “Phrases with high frequency like holistic do not effectively promote the adviser enough to break through the clutter,” he tells PLANADVISER. “Advisers who frequently use jargon run the risk of jeopardizing the client relationship to a point where the adviser’s value is called into question because of a lack of comprehension. If the client doesn’t understand what the adviser is communicating, then it becomes incredibly difficult to value.”

Readers of PLANADVISERDash and readers of an email newsletter sent by Snyder were asked to weigh in on the most overused words in the industry.

Although “holistic” is the word that kicked off the discussion, “retirement readiness” won the dubious honor of most overused word (39% of respondents). “holistic” was second (28%), followed by “robust” (18%), “glide path” (11%) and “positive retirement outcome” (10%).

We also asked for suggestions on a word or phrase to replace “retirement” as the term for this phase in a person’s life. The majority of answers indicated that the idea of transition is central to this time, and words like freedom or independence were frequently invoked. Answers included “reinvention,” “self exploration,” “passion phase,” and “enjoying life phase.”

Optimism and anticipation infused a number of answers: “Freedom day, to choose or remake your life,” one respondent said. “Freedom or me time, or something to reflect the choice to do whatever we want vs. having to go to work for an organization,” was another.

Someone suggested a new concept to match a new word: “Sageworker: a person who remains employed, in any of various capacities, beyond where they may have otherwise, to keep their mind and body active. Other workers benefit from their wisdom.” Another word someone coined is “desirement: the time after their original career when they do the things they desire to do.”

The idea of exploration shows up in phrases like “sustained sabbatical,” or “repurposing their time, reinventing their talents, pursuing a healthy balance.”

Perhaps most interesting answer comes from another language: “I love the Spanish word for it,” one respondent says. “Jubilacion!!!”