You may know people who at one point had retired, but then later returned to work through boredom. Those who had felt ready for retirement were, in fact, not. Most of their life up to that point had been consumed gaining recognition and reputation by building their careerThey worked hard to pay the bills, to support their families, to enjoy holidayssetting aside what money they could for that day when they could finally retire. However, people can often find their identity is defined by what they do, not who they are. 

Allow me to use an illustration. A conference speaker at a large US business conference stood up to start his presentation. He looked down at his Styrofoam cup and smiled. He went on to say that he had spoken at the same conference the previous year when he was Under Secretary of Defence in the US Government. He had been flown Business Class, picked up by limo at the airport and taken to a very nice hotel, taken in a separate entrance and straight to a very nice room. The next morning, he was picked up after breakfast and driven to the venue. He was ushered into the Green Room, where he was given a fabulous cup of coffee in a beautiful ceramic cup. This year, he was no longer Undersecretary of Defence. He flew economy, carried his own bags, got his own cab, checked himself in to the hotel. The next morning, he made his own way to the venue and upon arrival found his way backstage. When he asked if there was any coffee, someone pointed to the coffee machine in the corner, and said, “help yourself”. He poured his coffee into a Styrofoam cup. He then looked to the audience and said, “Here’s the point. The ceramic cup was not meant for me, it was for the job title. All I deserve is a Styrofoam cup!” 

My chance to step back from work came in my early fifties. I took it, mainly because the financial impact was softened by the generous package and the few months of ongoing salary payments. It would be six months before all the corporate goodies, the car, pension, and benefits would be gone, so it felt like being on holiday rather than training for life after work.  

I planned at least a six-month break before making any decisions. Here’s what I discovered… My wife wasn’t ready for me being around full-time. She had an established routine and I created havoc with her social arrangements. We lived locally but for almost twenty years I worked mostly in London and travelled extensively so was only home for weekends. There hadn’t really been time to prepare. One day I was presenting at a national conference, the next all phone calls, emails, and meetings had stopped. I became someone who loitered about the house. It doesn’t feel like a big issue until you are right in the middle of it. 

It wasn’t just my wife who was adjusting to the strange man lingering in the lounge. I was struck by a comment my younger son made during one of our after-church family lunches. He said, “Dad, you are a completely different person to who you were a month ago. You are much more human now!” He had been talking about a family trip and said previously I would have told them where they should go, which hotel to stay in, how to get there, when was the best time to go, etc. This time we all just chatted about his plans. I realised how task orientated I had been. I had always been the go-to person for solving problems and getting things done. It took a while for me to really unwind. But all the while I was enjoying unwinding, I was throwing everyone else’s plans and routines into chaos.  

Robert Burns was on to something when he said something along the lines of, “Seeing ourselves as others see us is a gift”. Your family and friends need you as a partner, confidante, and parent, not Mr Cash the banker or Mrs Pill the doctor.  

Planning for life after work for many appears to be about ensuring: 

  • You have a suitable financial plan in place, with enough money.
  • You have the resources you need to live the lifestyle you’ve planned. 
  • You won’t run out of money.
  • You make life easy for those left to make decisions when you are no longer able to.
  • You can pass on any legacies to the right people, in the right way, at the right time.

At Stewardship Wealth, we want to go further. What about the individual person, the emotional and relational aspects of these life changing events? We believe happiness and financial independence can and indeed should co-exist. As George H Lorimer, American author and publisher said, “It is good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good too, to check up once in a while and make sure you haven’t lost the things money can’t buy”. 

One of the highlights for advisers is hearing from clients that by guiding and coaching them it has allowed them to do what they’ve always wanted to do. This goes beyond “bucket lists” and the freedom to “go travelling”. It can mean making it possible to retire early, coach kids in sports, start working with a charity, or pass on their experience by volunteering to help start-up businesses get off the ground. 

Purpose is slowly becoming the dominant motivating force for many, especially the upcoming millennial generation. Employers can no longer retain talented employees by simply paying them more. They want to work for companies where purpose and culture meet and is lived out in practice, creating an environment that defines and reflects corporate vision and values where previously it was all about productivity and profits. 

The challenge has always been finding that balancing point between achieving sustainable profits and creating a culture and environment where people can thrive and feel good about what they do, that they are making a difference. 

We know from our recent Client Survey results that we are making progress towards being labelled as a “purpose-driven financial planning firm”, but recognise there is still more to be done! 

Final thoughts… 

We hope the impact of storm Arwen has not left any lasting damage. Alas, this has not been the case for some. My grandson loves his nursery in the forest at Haddo House, but we have just been informed that there was significant damage to the buildings and grounds, and the estate will remain closed for the foreseeable future. No one can predict every set back in life, but mitigating risks and having a financial plan for the future can provide the comfort to weather these temporary storms. As ever, we’d love to chat…