I came across this article by Paul Keegan in the 13 Jun 11 issue of the Fortune magazine. I am on a spurt of needing coaches to help me get my life in order, well at least reassure me that I am recovering, so the title caught my eye. But I thought: “are you seriously joking? Retiring needs coaching?”
The article started off with a rosy picture that perhaps the majority of us dream of: XX aged 62, retired, big mansion, huge reserves, sports cars, young girlfriend, etc. I’d expect him to be living on Lizard Island and snorkeling everyday, and reading all the books he had not had the time to read prior to retirement. Instead, Mr. XX was sitting in the office of New Directions, a firm that helps retired executives figure out what to do with themselves.
Um, huh, pause. You mean those guys who worked that @ss off for the past 30 years to get to the point of a comfortable retirement don’t know what to do once they got there?
Apparently, they do not. And after 30 years of slaving away at the desk, 18 – 20 hours a day, these CEOs and senior executives feel “lost”. I can empathize a little, though I am not nearly as senior. The first days of being confined at home when I got very sick, without an office to go to, with less emails on the blackberry, and no meetings to attend, I felt extremely empty, useless and lost too. I was used to be being busy and needed. Suddenly, the phone does not ring anymore. So how would someone who’s been in this routine 3 times longer than me feel? Probably 30 times more empty.
Yet, I cannot say I sympathize with them. After all, it’s the consequence of 30 years’ of their actions and decisions. Is it surprising that their wives left them and their kids are distant if wives and kids get none of their time and attention, because they were “busy at work”? Does it shock to know that not exercising regularly in the last 30 years (golf hardly counts as a cardio work out) since they were so “busy at work” that they might have problems with their health sooner or later?
The bitter truth that stung me was: I could have ended up like that too! So like my shrink tells me which I find hard to agree with sometimes even now, is that I should be thankful I got sick, which gave me the space and time to hold still and think about if that’s the future I want to live. We think we have everything with a great job that pays the bills. Our tunnel vision towards getting ahead in the corporate world is such a bright and optimistic one. But once we enlarge our scope of sight and look peripherally, we wonder, where have we put our health, our family, our friends, our partners and spouses in the picture?
Why are we sacrificing what will ultimately mean the most to us for the quest of some 10-figure salary?
There must be a way to align financial security with other aspects of life. As the retirement coach in the article pointed out, start envisioning what your “retirement” will be like and how you will spend your years. Maybe with a picture in mind, we can work backwards to see if the life we are living now is conducive to a rosy picture 30 years later.