Abby Was Quoted In Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine

Kiplingers Article cover.jpg

Get In on a Stellar Second Act by Janet Bodnar

I retired as editor of Kiplinger’s, I was asked to continue writing my Money Smart Women column and to launch this new column on retirement living. One year later, I’m happy doing both. But I sometimes wonder if I should be doing something completely different from my previous profession—say, learning how to tap dance (which I’ve actually looked into). 

I put that question to Abby Donnelly, founder of The Leadership & Legacy Group, who counsels retiring executives on how to transition to their next phase of life. Donnelly responded by asking me a question: “Do you still feel you’re connecting with readers and helping them make good financial decisions?” Definitely, I replied. Then don’t worry, she said. “You’ve retired to something you find meaningful and rewarding.”

Donnelly draws a distinction between interests—in my case, tap dancing—and activities that deliver purpose and meaning, the holy grail of a fulfilling retirement. And there’s no one route to that goal. “Some people just want to do what they did before, but less of it and with more control, while others want to try something they never knew existed,” says Marci Alboher, author of The Encore Career Handbook. Alboher is also vice president of, which sponsors fellowships that encourage baby boomers to use their skills to help their communities (see an interview with her in the February Ahead).

Three Steps to An Endless Summer


Summer is coming and that usually drums up memories of long relaxing getaways to the beach or mountains, time with family and friends, and freedom from the demands of a business…even if for just a few days. If that is starting to sound more and more appealing, it might be time to take a serious look at bringing on a motivated successor. This does not mean your exit is imminent, it simply allows you some additional flexibility to evaluate who you might invite to assume more management and leadership responsibilities, and when you might be ready to reduce your level of responsibility in the business and create your endless summer. Ultimately, it gives you the opportunity to evaluate your timeline and confidence in an exit strategy.

First - Who?

The usual suspects include family members, key employees or third party buyers.  But your business isn’t ‘usual’. For your business, you need to consider what matters most to you. If you want the business to provide for your family, you have to realistically consider whether the family member(s) has the skills and experience to run the business profitably and sustainably. Are they motivated enough? Can you afford the options on a ‘sale’ to the family member and still fund a retirement lifestyle that meets your personal needs?

If you want the business to benefit your key employee(s), you have to realistically consider whether they have the skills, experience and motivation to run it? You also have to figure out what a ‘sale’ to them will look like and whether you can afford to do it.

Financing your Endless Summer

Most transactions occurring between owners and family or key employees will be financed, in part or whole, by the owner. And, these are the most complex and challenging transactions to work through. Why? Selling your ‘baby’ to family or loyal employees is so emotional. Your deep connection to them is what makes the sale so gratifying and yet for the transition to work for all, it requires you to let go and accept a different leadership model. It’s easier to do that with someone you are not emotionally connected to. Are you prepared to release the reins over time, while financing their strategic direction?

Building Value: Your Endless Summer

If a third party buyer is the best option for you, you need to build your strategy now. This is the most time consuming of the three options because you have to find them, negotiate and then sell. Starting now allows you to test interest, seek prospective buyers, and get feedback on the value of your business to a third party. We know it’s valuable to you, but what will someone else pay for it? With that information, you can choose to invest another 2 – 5 years or even 5 – 10 years, to make the timing and valuation work for you.

Is it time for Your Endless Summer?

You’ve invested in your business. Now invest in your life. It’s your time.

Read Abby’s response to Kiplinger Magazine’s article: How to Know It’s Time To Retire? by Janet Bodnar

Kiplinger Magazine’s article: How to Know It’s Time To Retire? by Janet Bodnar

Abby's Response: 

Dear Janet,

I enjoyed your article in the February issue of Kiplingers on ‘How to Know It’s Time to Retire’. I have been working with business owners, CEOs and C-suite leaders over age 55 for the past 10 years helping them figure out how to exit their business or role well and what that next phase of life might look like. I have a wealth of interesting observations and a recommended process for these hard charging leaders.

A few tidbits from my experience that you may find interesting:

  • Boomers are becoming more and more uncomfortable calling it ‘retirement’. New phrases such as ‘next chapter’, encore career (as has coined and AARP uses) are better received.


  • I have presented programming to hundreds of C-suite leaders over the past 5 years, and I ask every audience what they think are the top 3 things CEOs say they plan to do in retirement? Every audience gets it right: Spend more time with family, play a lot more golf and travel. Sometimes I get a fourth one – volunteer. The reality is that most of these leaders find they are totally bored with those choices within 6 months. At that point however, their community connections have weakened substantially making it harder for them to re-engage, they no longer have an influential role in their business and/or community, they have not yet redefined who they are and what brings meaning for them in this new phase of life. It can be a very difficult time as their identity and connections are still in the old role.


  • Today’s boomer women CEOs seem to have an easier time making the transition into their next chapter, presumably because women have been juggling more roles throughout their life than men because of the more traditional gender role stereotypes of boomer women. They have been everything from stay at home moms to primary caregivers for children and for their parents, have been in and out of the workforce more, have had more traditional careers, etc… It is changing quickly though, as more women enter and advance in the workplace.

The process I use with clients rejects the notion that leaders should just take 6 months off, commit to nothing, and see what evolves. In fact I recommend starting an intentional process of discovery before retirement and ramping into it over 6 – 18 months.

If these leaders don’t struggle with disconnection, they will likely struggle with the flurry of requests that will occur when others now want to command their time and attention by slotting them into all kinds of ‘volunteer’ opportunities. They can end up inadvertently overcommitting to things that aren’t important to them or accepting a volunteer role thinking they will enjoy it only to discover it is not very satisfying. 

In our process, we direct them towards finding meaning and purpose! We focus on identifying their favorite strengths to use, uncovering their passions and defining their lifestyle priorities. We zero in on the overlap between these areas and create a narrative, a story, that explains who they are using this lens. With that in hand, they seek out people and organizations that are interesting to them with the intent of sharing their story and seeking creative perspective, ideas and opportunities that might enhance their picture of possibility. Most are amazed to see the big wide world that is out there and how they might contribute outside of their business/industry box. Each conversation begets another set of people to talk to and increased clarity on what they do and don’t want in their life right now. As the picture becomes clearer, they create a filter that they can funnel every opportunity through. They can then further explore and say yes to those that resonate and no to those that don’t. They often come to see themselves in very new and different ways because they have intentionally looked through a different lens.

I’ve guided leaders to thrive at age 68 in brand new careers, to retire at age 58 into a new way of living – such as getting in the best shape of their lives, and I’ve guided others to find a new job after a layoff at age 62. Of course every situation is different, and every leader is different, which is why the process needs to be individualized. CEOs can’t just do what their buddy George did and expect they’re going to have the same feelings of purpose and meaning.

I am excited you are writing a monthly column on your experience and sharing others experiences and advice. I look forward to reading future articles. I have taken the liberty of linking to my web site and my process diagram/description in case you might find them interesting, and if you send me a snail mail address, I’ll be glad to send you a copy of my book, Straight Talk About Planning Your Succession: A Primer For CEOs, which includes some of the statistics, trends and dynamics boomer leaders are facing. 

I look forward to your next Kiplinger’s article.

Best regards,