I recently heard about a man who died within a week of his retirement party.
That’s an extreme case, but retirement can be very hard on people. Quick declines in health after retirement are common. One study showed that around 40% of retirees suffer from clinical depression.
Though many of us can’t wait to retire, the reality is often much more difficult than what we imagined.
Mark’s Unplanned Retirement: Irrelevant and bored
Mark, an executive at a Fortune 500 company, was a guy who made things happen. He developed teams whose effectiveness and high morale were the envy of his colleagues. But after decades of heavy responsibilities, he looked forward to getting off the merry-go-round of corporate life and communing with nature and his wife, Helen.
Much to his dismay, he found that Helen wasn’t happy with him being around the house all the time. In fact, he overheard a phone conversation in which she told a friend that he was driving her nuts.
To make matters worse, he just didn’t fit in with the old crowd from work. They were nice enough to him, but he wasn’t part of things anymore. As for his retired friends, he didn’t see them as often as he had hoped. They were busy.
While he enjoyed retirement sometimes, more often, he felt irrelevant and bored.
Do you have a retirement plan?
Executives are all about planning their time and their efforts. It’s what makes them successful. But many find themselves in retirement with no real plan. How will I spend my time? What will make me feel fulfilled? How do I make myself useful?
Transitioning to retirement can be tough. There’s no longer structure to your days. You don’t have to show up anywhere in the morning. The camaraderie and sense of purpose that you had at work are suddenly gone.
Retirement Planning: Let Passion Be Your Guide
In our work with retirees, we’ve seen many people find a passion that drives them. Sometimes, they find a new place to apply the passion of their career, while others go in a new direction.
One Retirement Plan: A Hobby Becomes a Business
When it came time for Tom to retire from his insurance agency, he wanted to stay active. No shuffleboard or bingo for him. On the other hand, he wanted to tone things down. The demands of his agency had destroyed his marriage years earlier. He was engaged to a lovely woman from Australia and didn’t want to screw it up by becoming a slave to his work again.
He was fortunate in that lots of people were interested in hiring him—especially for sales positions. He had three offers and was tempted to grab one of them. We advised him to slow down and make careful decisions.
As we examined the sales jobs offered, we advised Tom to say no, since those were likely to turn into sixty-hour-per-week (and more) jobs. Instead, we did some brainstorming with him. As we did, we learned that he was a yacht owner and loved boats. He’d been a boat owner since he was a teenager. He’s also very engaging and loves to be in front of people.
In fact, while he was in the military many years ago, he was part of a national campaign to educate people about the newly-discovered dangers of hypothermia. He would descend in a helicopter onto the football field of various high schools, then give a talk to the awed students. He’s a man who loves the limelight.
We suggested that he become a coach for boat owners, showing them how to operate their vessels so their outings are safe and enjoyable. People who don’t know what they’re doing can injure or kill themselves or others. He loved the idea. Not only was this an activity that he is passionate about, but it allowed him to work only as much as he wanted. It also provided tremendous geographic flexibility, as he could be a boat coach in both the US and Australia. An added bonus: his soon-to-be wife could share the activity with him.
Using Professional Passion In a Different Way
As an engineer at Motorola, Gerry had worked on a fascinating project: developing the cell phone. He’d been in the project from the development of the very first phones, and stayed on for years, working on the various upgrades. He loves to talk about the many challenges the engineers faced, such as how to keep these huge, clunky phones from “blowing up” if they were dropped. He loves to tell about the hostile reception he got when he suggested that people might want to send texts instead of calling. This idea so infuriated the boss that he was threatened with being kicked out of meetings for suggesting this “ridiculous” idea.
Now that he’s retired, he’s passionate about sharing engineering concepts and getting kids as excited as he was about the field. He began to make presentations at local schools about the development of the cell phone as a practical application of Science, Technology, Education, and Math (STEM) curriculum.
Another Retirement Plan: Rediscovering the Road Not Taken
Like a lot of people, Mary was talked into doing something practical instead of following her passion for the theater. After she retired, she decided to reignite that passion. She’s acting in plays at a community theater and helping with a weekend improv workshop that gives high school kids something fun to do, keeping many of them from boozing and causing trouble.
Retirement Strategy: Volunteer possibilities
The possibilities for getting involved are nearly endless. So many organizations are hungry for volunteers to contribute time and energy to their mission. Many retirees have found that a volunteer job that resonates with them plus quality time with friends and family is what a good retirement is all about. Retired Brains is just one site on volunteering that might get your thoughts flowing.
Are You Ambitious?
If you’re ambitious, being “old” doesn’t have to stop you. Many people shine brightly in the twilight of their lives. Grandma Moses decided to start painting at age 78 and became a great artist. After he retired, Colonel Sanders launched Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Some retirees challenge themselves like never before. Just one example is the Boston Marathon. A recent race featured an 83-year-old PLUS another 596 people who were 65 or even older.
No Retirement Plan? You’re not alone.
There’s no time like the present to make one. Contact us. We can set up a 2-hour Retirement Planning Meeting to help you develop a satisfying plan.