In my work with the Buckinghamshire Coaching network I had a conversation with one of the Coaches, Anne Cooney. We talked about the idea of retirement Coaching because of many people in the organisation coming up to retirement and the wider context of the changing demographics of an ageing population. For those interested in staying working in some capacity beyond “official” retirement age, it could be said that any possible ageism against older people will be forced out by the shortage of employees in the UK over the next 10-15 years. Counter intuitively, one positive of having a longer career could be a better work-life balance. Taking a couple of years out to look after children or ageing parents, for example, won’t be such a big deal when your career lasts for 60-plus years.
For those wanting (and able) to retire, current thinking on retirement planning for both individuals and organisations is that it is too focused on finance, and not on wider aspects of retirement like health and activities.
It is widely accepted that a successful retirement needs:
- A social network – research has shown that the quality of relationships is among the most important factor in determining life satisfaction after retirement. Loneliness has a detrimental effect on health equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
- Purpose – an outlet for talents, encore career, volunteering
- Personal Development – learning, physical activity
- Fun – follows on from previous three
- Awareness of how to age well and how to plan for frailty. Most people who come to social care come at a time of crisis which may not have been necessary if they were better informed before they needed it. This also includes appointing power of attorney etc.
Most people may have a short term plan but do not have a plan for all of these factors.
There is a brilliant series of Guardian articles on many aspects of retirement (see resources at the end of the article).
One of the articles picks up on the idea of 4 principles of retirement. Before they retire, most people will do financial planning to see how much money they will need. But life planning is just as important. Dr Jonathan Collie, co-founder of the Age of No Retirement, agrees. He has identified four elements of a successful retirement “in addition to the money bit”.
- “By far the most important element is a person’s social network,” he says. Entering retirement with only your immediate family and your work network is a frequent cause of retirement depression, he warns, which can be a downward spiral that is very difficult to reverse
- Having purpose and challenging one’s mind is the second element. This usually takes the form of some type of work – whether paid or unpaid
- “Ongoing personal development (the third element) should never stop,” Collie adds, pointing to the recent rapid increase in mature learners and the boom in retirement learning and development services, such as University of the Third Age and Men’s Sheds
- The fourth element is a serious one: to have fun. “In fact,” Collie concludes, “looked at through a slightly different lens, the elements of a successful retirement are no different to the elements of a successful life.”
Another of the articles features David Kelley, who runs pre-retirement courses for people coming up to this major watershed in their lives. “Those who are unsuccessful do one of two things, they either tend to atrophy or they do too much: they take on too many responsibilities or they fail to put boundaries in place to stop their families demanding too much from them.”
Distilling Kelley’s decade of expertise down to a core lesson isn’t easy but the phase “proper selfishness” jumps out. “We have to start thinking like a two-year-old when we’re thinking about retirement. We get forced into adaption throughout our youth and our working lives. Now we have to get out of that habit and into one that says ‘me first’.”
Kelley himself has no intention of wasting his time. Immediately after he retired, he wrote himself a business plan for the rest of his life. It read: “Two days earning. Two days learning. Three days just for me.” There are two addenda: “Don’t be afraid to say no,” and “Don’t travel anywhere before 10am.” “I hate the rush hour,” he explains.
Kelley has a second list he lives his life by too. It has two columns: “Three things to do more of” and “Three new things to do”. As the new things cease to be new, they become the remit of his first column and he thinks of more new things to explore.
Benefits all round
The benefits of retirement coaching are evident for individuals in terms of a more productive retirement. The benefits to wider society cannot be under-estimated either, for example a delayed need for support and cost of social care: the implication of delaying one person going into a nursing home for 1 year would be a saving of £35,000 – £50,000 per annum.
Coaching support can also help explore purpose and potential for volunteering. Volunteers save social care significant costs e.g. if one of these volunteers becomes a befriender to another lonely person – the result is two people with less need for social care. There are strategic projects happening at the moment within health and social care which rely on community and volunteer support. By encouraging our retirees to volunteer we have a virtuous circle.
- A link to the Guardian series of article on retirement
- The PATH Tool, an exercise that helps individuals plan the future starting with the end in mind and working backwards
- Ideal day, ideal week, ideal year exercise to help take a step back and allow yourself to consider what your ideal day, week and year would look like
- Wheel of Life Retirement Coaching the opportunity to look at some of the main areas of people’s lives and see how comfortable or not individuals are in each of the “compartments” of their lives
Co-written by Anne Cooney and David Crowe with thanks to the Guardian