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