Published August 9, 2011
Get a retirement coach, and a Plan B
By PAUL HENG
I WAS much delighted when my eyes caught sight of a headline in a recent issue of Fortune magazine - 'Why you need a retirement coach?'
I told myself - ah huh, I beat you guys to it on this one - I (an Asian) thought of this one first. For over two years I have been sharing my views with my clients and through media articles that every one needs to have a career Plan B - something that we do, post-corporate. There are generally four groups of people - those who already has a Plan B, those that have an idea or two what they would like to do but do not know how to go about putting thoughts to action, those who have no clue what they want to do, and the lot that have no clue what I am talking about. Whichever the group you belong to, a retirement coach can add some value.
As I continued reading the Fortune article, I realised, to my dismay, that I actually did not beat my US colleagues to it. As it turns out, coaches who focus on retirement issues have been around in the US for over a decade - some own million-dollar businesses, and many others provide an online 'how-to-retire-gracefully' service.
In a nutshell, the Fortune article focused on senior executives who have retired from their corporate roles, and the challenges they face.
I have often heard such views from the people that I coach: 'When I am done with the corporate world, I am going to play golf every day and enjoy my life.'
'When I get out of this, I am not going back ever. I will use my CPF money, cash in my share options, and travel round the world with my wife/husband, and be happy for the rest of my life.'
Well, I don't think you can play golf every day, or every other day for that matter. Neither can you be travelling all the time, nor be happy all the time when you are travelling. Given the current average life span of Singaporeans, you will probably live for another 25-35 years before you 'retire permanently'. During this second half of your life, you will do well to continue staying active - mentally and physically. The longer you do this, the more you will enjoy your golden years, and have less to contend with in terms of old-age related illnesses, both mental as well as physical.
It is therefore very important that you give serious thought to what your Plan B will look like - not when you are close to receiving your last and final paycheck, but years before that.
Here are some key 'must-do' pointers on retirement planning:
· Discovery/affirmation of your embedded life interests: This may or may not be what you have been doing for
the major part of your corporate career or business. Whatever we do in life, we have to have an interest in doing it; otherwise, you will probably not have much satisfaction, not to mention the pain and agony you will feel. And if you don't, why do it in the first place? For some of us, it may well be a means to an end i e putting food on the table. That's fine. But if we were to pass this way only once, do we not want to enjoy what we do?
I may be a super-duper record breaking sales person, but this may or may not mean that I enjoy what I do well. I may well be deriving more satisfaction in the people-meeting component of my job, for example.
Your executive coach will probably use a combination of psychometric profiling tools and a series of skilfully crafted coaching questions to help you with this aspect of the self discovery.
· Think outside the box: Becoming a consultant and/or sitting on boards are two options quite logical for C-suite
level retirees to explore. However, for sure, they are not the only ones.
Variety is the spice of life - and this applies to post-corporate retirement too.
Once you have a deeper appreciation of your embedded life interests, your coach will work with you to come up with more options for you to consider.
For SME owners, having built your business and successfully listed it - and in the process enhancing your bank account substantially - you may find that you now yearn to do something different. In fact, you will be in a privileged position, financially speaking, to look at different options and do things that you truly want to. Side-tracking a bit, this is why I've always advocated to my children and anyone else who cares to listen - that they should try not to live a 'credit-driven' life; buy material things only when you can afford them, never before. Gain financial independence as early in your life as possible. Yes, big-ticket items such as a home of your own will need a banker's help, but try to repay the mortgage as soon as you possibly can. If you have to forego that holiday to Europe or the US, so be it.
· Seriously consider a portfolio career: Most of us perform a singular role in the corporate business world. You
can be the business founder, CEO, COO, CFO, CHRO, etc, and that would be all that you do in the company that you work in, or own.
Owning a portfolio career allows you to do different thing with different people - you may be a business coach to the aspiring entrepreneur, a business turnaround agent to a failing business, mentor to a group of MBA students, and maybe even fund raiser for your favourite charity. Life can be that much more interesting now as you get to do things that really make a difference to someone, a group of people, a business or the less-privileged in society. The view that you will struggle to find things to fill your days after retirement may well be a myth. I do know quite a number of retirees who are even busier than when they were in the corporate world, by choice. One of the benefits of having a portfolio career is that you can decide how much you want to do each day, month, and year. You are your own boss.
The other thing is that you now 'work' because you want to do so, not because you have to do so. Another good thing is that nobody can fire you now. And you can probably sleep better too, not having to worry about the axe-man hanging around the corridor in your office.
Here are two examples to showcase the importance of forward planning and having in place a Plan B before you need to launch it.
Ron was the top man in Asia in the pharmaceutical firm that he worked in for 13 years. When he finally called it a day - well, he didn't really call it a day as he was told by his newly-appointed Swiss-based CEO one afternoon that his services were no longer required. He had to vacate his office on the very same day.
Ron came to us via an outplacement programme that his previous employer paid for. It all seemed 'bad' for Ron. 'Why me?' type of questions loom over his head for over two months. Aged 63, it was challenging for Ron to compete with the much younger job seekers, regardless of his long experience and the wide circle of business and personal contacts he had built up. He had no clue what else he wants, and can do other than trying to re-enter the pharmaceutical industry, the path of least resistance.
It was a frustrating, and long 12 months for Ron as his efforts to try and get another corporate job got him nowhere other than a couple of exploratory conversations with potential hiring companies. One Chinese pharmaceutical company offered him US$1,500 per month to be their business development consultant! No prizes for guessing what Ron did with the offer.
Ron's coach continued to challenge him to think outside the box - something that Ron resisted earlier - and facilitated his journey of self-discovery to find out more about his other areas of interest. And to cut a long story short - 28 months after that fateful June afternoon, Ron began living a 'new' life as co-owner of an Italian restaurant. Depending on how you look at it, Ron potentially wasted 28 months of his life - if he had a Plan B he could have activated it shortly after receiving his pink slip.
Agnes, on the other hand, never lived under the false pretext that her job was guaranteed for life. She had seen enough colleagues getting outplaced to be wise enough to seek the services of an executive coach to help her map out her Plan B. Fortunately, Agnes is still gainfully employed - she has been the CFO of an electronics manufacturing firm for the past nine years. Agnes is able to sleep well at night with the confidence that if she were told that she had to vacate her office one day, she will launch her Plan B the very next day. For all we know, Agnes may eventually retire from her job when she reaches the official retirement age of 58 at her company. For sure, she will still be too young not to be doing anything useful with her remaining years. Plan B to the rescue.
The key learning point for all of us is that retirement planning is something that all of us have to do - the sooner the better. The choice is yours.
· The writer is founder/executive coach at NeXT Corporate Coaching Services