Baby Boomers are increasingly seeking guidance from retirement coaches to reimagine their post-career phase as more than just golf, gardening, and family time.
At 71, Jon Glass, a former chief investment officer with decades of experience managing retirement funds, now provides retirement coaching services. He observes a prevalent sense of “relevance deprivation” among those transitioning to retirement and advises them to approach this phase with the same level of diligence they apply to financial diversification.
Glass emphasises the importance of cultivating a diverse range of personal interests and activities to establish a renewed sense of identity and bolster self-esteem. Actively engaging in different pursuits like writing, homemaking, surfing, or cycling can help retirees define themselves beyond their past professions and investments.
“Be brave,” Glass adds. “Try something bold – after all, you are your own boss.”
Significant advancements in life expectancy indicate that retirees may anticipate enjoying an additional 30 years of life post-retirement. According to medical research, maintaining active lifestyles can enhance health, fortify cognitive abilities, decelerate decline, and extend lifespan.
In the upcoming five years, more than 670,000 Australians are slated for retirement. Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are often perceived as having faced fewer challenges than preceding generations due to factors such as access to free healthcare and education, job stability, and escalating property values.
Despite possessing substantial retirement savings, 40 percent of retirees are expected to encounter difficulties transitioning from full-time employment to their post-career pursuits, as highlighted by Glass, the founder of 64Plus.
“What will you do on your first day of retirement? In the second week? At the end of the first quarter, the end of the first year? These are all milestones that can bring great joy – or despair,” Glass says.
René Vernon, once the human resources director at the Department of Defence, chose early retirement at the age of 59. Within just 18 months, he found himself plunged into severe depression and was considering taking his own life.
“I had lost my purpose and structure,” Vernon, who resides in Canberra, reflects on the stark shift from employment to retirement. “I missed the structure, socialising and meaning that work gave. I had nothing to call myself except a retiree.”
Though most people eagerly anticipate retirement, recent medical research in the UK revealed that individuals engaged in either full-time or part-time employment exhibited superior mental health compared to retirees. Also, the study suggested that women who extended their careers beyond the age of 65 showed decreased odds of needing long-term care and experienced less risk of decline in their daily functional abilities.
From Fast-paced Work to a State of Calmness
The workplace advantage applied to people of both genders employed in roles deemed fulfiling.
Research published in the Harvard Business Review revealed that individuals who retired at the age of 66, as opposed to 65 or earlier, experienced an 11 percent increase in lifespan.
Vernon melded his background in human resources with studies in retirement planning and life coaching to establish Next Steps Retirement Coaching.
His clientele includes a diverse range of people, including both men and women, primarily office professionals aged between 50 and 70.
“They are usually Canberra professionals who have demanding go-go jobs but are suddenly thinking what am I going to do 24/7 for the next 25 to 30 years,” Vernon says.
Craig Wachholz, the managing director of Let’s Go Surfing, the country’s premier surfing school boasting approximately 100 instructors, oversees Silver Surfer sessions tailored for retirees and those nearing retirement, generally ranging in age up to 70 years old. His most senior participant to date was a sprightly 90 years old.
“It’s about changing lives one wave at a time,” he says, adding that many seasoned surfers are grappling with ocean-related fears, recuperating from ailments, or simply seeking fresh experiences. “It’s also about getting fit in a spiritual and immersive experience,” he says.
Guy McKanna resigned from his full-time job in his mid-50s and shifted his focus to researching and writing non-fiction books. His most recent publication is titled “Survive Your Death.”
“After tackling such big questions that are thrown up when you retire, I found fishing and sailing were not enough to occupy me,” says McKanna, who is employed part-time in public relations and marketing in Sydney. “I still needed mental and spiritual stimulation.“
Leah Shmerling, who serves as the principal of Career Coaching and Training, providing online retirement coaching programs, suggests that retirement resembles adolescence in some ways “because you are asking all sorts of questions about your life, relationships and where you fit in the world. These are powerful questions.”
Shmerling emphasises that a fulfiling retirement involves being proactive and purpose-driven. In contrast, she distinguishes it from a passive approach where individuals simply wait for time to pass or for opportunities to come their way.
“Retirement is about working on your passions. At retirement, you can do what you want full time, part-time, casually or through a project. It is complex and important, but most people consider it purely in financial terms – that once they have enough money to retire everything else will fall into place.”
Glass, a former fund manager with experience at AMP, Bankers Trust, and Media Super, asserts that approximately one-fifth of retirees experience a sense of unfulfilment or lack of purpose.
“Prepare for retirement by having a discussion with your family or spouse because those people will soon have you around the house more than ever before,” Glass says. “Will they welcome that, or will you disrupt their own routine?”
Glass, who accepts roughly 6 to 10 clients annually, often engages in six one-hour sessions to delve into retirement aspirations.
“This is not in-depth psychology. It is emotional counselling. It is bringing to the surface feelings and emotions that concern their work life, their transitioning to retirement and their retirement.”
Aside from accumulating 40 years of experience in funds management, Glass holds a doctorate in pure mathematics from Cambridge University and has received training in counselling and coaching.
Addressing the Gaps
His counsel spans from addressing the loss of identity to suggesting the formation of a fresh identity, setting aside a personal space at home, like a library or workspace, and exploring new activities, potentially including a return to employment.
“Another key aspect of retiring is recognising that your work, your contribution, your colleagues, have provided you with a sense of self-esteem and self-worth for decades.
“Many miss the office banter, teamwork and problem-solving that made them feel good about themselves,” he says.
Harvard University studies reveal that the health advantages of working come partly from the physical activity often involved in commuting to an office, alongside the cognitive stimulation that keeps the brain engaged. However, the foremost benefit identified by researchers is the enhancement of social connections and engagement.
“All of a sudden those connections can be gone,” Glass says. “No one is asking them for advice, let alone to do something.”
Vernon provides one-on-one consultations and often serves approximately six clients annually.
“I give them a psychological test that assesses where they are now compared to what they hope to be in retirement.
“I can then discuss with them how to fill those gaps,” he says.
He offers guidance on structuring one’s week, finding personal identity and purpose, and effective socialising techniques.
According to Vernon, some of his clients discover fulfilment through different avenues such as exploring new hobbies, engaging in volunteer work, writing, embracing religious activities, starting businesses, or returning to the workforce.
Shmerling advises individuals to envision their desired lifestyle and then assess the obstacles they need to overcome or the steps required to attain it.
Contrary to the notion, retirement isn’t akin to a perpetual vacation. The initial thrill of travel fades, and instead, retirees settle into a new routine filled with daily tasks, hobbies, family time, social connections, and personal projects.
Tim Mackay, an independent financial adviser at Quantum Financial, emphasises the critical importance of the first five years of retirement both financially and emotionally.
“After a long, successful career, announcing ‘Honey, I’m home forever’ places stress on any relationship,” Mackay writes.
“While you are both working, you have independence and other relationships. When at home, you need to adjust and relearn what you enjoy doing together. It’s not wise for A-type personalities at work to try to take over the management of the home to fill the void.”
The A.S.A.G. Reverse Mortgage
Retirement coaching services generally range from $200 to $250 per hour. It’s estimated that there are approximately 20 retirement coaches in Australia. Since the sector lacks regulation, people seeking counselling should carefully assess the qualifications and experience of their chosen coach.
Given the longer life expectancies, retirement planning is more crucial than ever before. For retirees who are property owners, considering an equity release solution could serve as a practical approach to supplementing retirement income.
The A.S.A.G. Reverse Mortgage offers an avenue for homeowners to tap into the equity of their home. While this option can be an additional financial assistance, it’s important to thoroughly assess the terms, associated costs, and potential implications on your estate.
Should you require further clarification on how our reverse mortgage works, our team stands ready to address any enquiries you might have. Feel free to contact us either by phone at 1300 002 724 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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DISCLAIMER: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant as official financial advice. The Australian Seniors Advisory Group is not affiliated with any lifestyle coach mentioned.