Opinion – More than one way to plan for retirement


By David Kennedy

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While society places a great deal of focus on preparing financially for life after work, many pre-retirees do not give as much attention to the non-financial preparation needed to achieve fulfilment as they age.

The longer we live, the more carefully we need to think about how we spend those extra years to maximise our health and wellbeing and achieve a meaningful life.

One of the ways pre-retirees can better prepare themselves for making the transition from the working years to retirement is by using the services of a retirement coach. While the social structure of retirement has been with us for the past 100 years or so, retirement coaching is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Its relevance has heightened in line with longer life expectancies, which mean more than ever, there are benefits in planning consciously for retirement – not just financially but socially, emotionally, mentally and physically.

After a 30-year career as a leader and senior executive in the finance and investment industry, Jon Glass was ready for a new chapter, but he wasn’t ready to retire. Glass has a PhD in pure mathematics from Cambridge University, and he was also the chief investment officer of Media Super among other senior leadership positions in Australia.

Rather than retire to a life of leisure – and after doing some specific training - Glass established a retirement coaching consultancy, 64 Plus, to share his experience and insights in order to help others make a more successful transition from the working years to the next stage of their lives.

He points out that the demand for retirement coaching is increasing for two reasons.

“Firstly, executive coaching has been popular in the workplace for some time, but not a long time. Secondly, the baby boomers represent a large cohort of retirees – the largest we have seen in this country,” he says.

So, what sort of conversation can you expect when sitting down with a retirement coach? Among those on the threshold of retirement, Glass often hears these sorts of expressions:

“I have no idea what I will do, but I will think about it when the time comes.”

“I can’t leave work yet because there is no one who can do my job if I leave.”

“Work stimulates me and provides me with friends.”

Among retired people, it is more common to hear these expressions:

“I really need to get out more.”

“I suffer RDS (relevance deprivation syndrome). I used to be in demand.”

“I am a slave to my free time.”

He works with his clients to explore some of the major questions that will confront them when they decide to transition to life beyond their career, such as what is truly important to them, how they would like the next phase of their lives to unfold, and what goals and objectives matter to the client and their family.

Some of the questions coaches ask are designed to encourage pre-retirees to think deeply about their identity before and after retirement, and importantly, how they might structure their life in retirement in order to fill the void that is often left when full-time work ceases.

For example, what combination of casual or part-time work may appeal? What new hobbies or community activities could a client pursue? What are their travel priorities?

“The job of the coach is to listen carefully to these individual expressions to get to the heart of the matter, which, put simply, is to locate that person’s meaning in life post-work,” Glass says.

While being an advocate of retirement coaching services, he says that before you engage a retirement coach, retirees must first begin a dialogue with themselves and the people who are most important to them.

“I would hope that the mind of a worker in, say, their mid-50s will turn to consider these matters. I think the average person does this with their finances – and that is good. But for their emotions, it seems that our society hasn’t yet grasped the nettle.”

This is the next big retirement theme that advisers and clients will need to grasp – how to emotionally as well as financially prepare for retirement.

David Kennedy is a director at Hillross Pacific Advisory and author of End of the Retirement Age: Embracing the pursuit of meaning, purpose and prosperity.

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