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Life Planning Network

My partners and I recently held a client appreciation event and asked Sara Zeff Geber, Ph.D., a Certified Retirement Coach, to be our speaker. Our first hint that Dr. Geber was going to be a big hit was the larger number of RSVPs from the previous year and then that every person who RSVPed showed up! Dr. Geber’s talk was entertaining and engaged our clients in an active discussion about what their next phase, beyond having to work for a living, would look like. She explored the issue of friends and colleagues at work that currently fill our lives and how that connection may change. She covered the challenges of relocation after retirement as well as many other topical issues. I would highly recommend Dr. Geber as speaker to anyone who needs a speaker for a preretirement or newly retired group.

— Joanne D. Mungall, CFP®, San Jose, CA

Frequently Asked Questions

Older couple posing for photo. Got a burning question regarding your options for the next 20 years of your life? As a Certified Retirement Coach, I’m able to help you to sort out many, if not most of, those issues — to plan a happier and more satisfying future!  Contact me today by email or phone to discuss what’s available to you.

Answers

I need income but I am sick of my job/career.  What options do I have at my age?

What is actually most important here is to take a hard look at what you are doing.  If you are starting to think about retirement, is it because you are ready for a change?  Do you have a pension that will be kicking in somewhere in your early 60s?  Have you recently become empty nesters and want more discretionary time - to travel or garden or pursue a hobby?  Are you feeling less capable at your job?  Are you having problems performing at an optimal level?  All of these can be legitimate reasons for considering retirement OR they may be signs that it’s time to find a different job, switch to part-time work, or negotiate a more flexible schedule with your employer. 

If you have planned well financially and have at least partially recovered from the economic downturn, you may be able to retire at any point you like and move on to the next chapter in your life.  However, if you still need to bring in an income you have lots of choices.  Just because you have done social work or accounting or pharmaceutical sales or plumbing for the past 30-40 years doesn’t mean you have to continue doing exactly that to make a living.  There are lots of options out there. 

You may be able to live comfortably on just a portion of your income.  If that is the case, you might want to consider talking to your employer about part-time work or changing your status from full-time to contractor.  You may discover you can do much of your work from home or from the road. 

Here’s a couple that did exactly that:

Jenny and Ruben (not their real names) wanted to move out of state to be closer to a large, extended family.  Both turning 60 this year, they determined they could not quit their jobs entirely, so they got creative.  Ruben talked to his employer and discovered that his company was starting a program that would let him work remotely and Jenny decided it was an opportunity for a career change.  They have now sold their suburban townhome and are on their way to a new lifestyle in a nearby state.  Ruben will have to travel back to headquarters once every 4-6 weeks at his own expense, but it seemed like a small price to pay for the chance at a more appealing lifestyle.  Jenny is now studying for her real estate license in her new state – an entirely new career for her. Employers differ in their willingness to provide flexible work options, but it may be worth exploring. 

Like Jenny, you might decide it’s time for something entirely different – maybe starting your own small business or going into partnership with a previous co-worker.  Starting a whole new venture in your 50s or 60s will probably take some cash and it will definitely take some energy, but people are doing it all the time.  Most people capitalize on what they know and form small consulting firms or other home-based businesses.  Baby boomers also buy franchises or start their own brick-and-mortar business.  Make sure you do your homework on the financials and study the demographics to make sure your business has a good chance for success.  I also advise interviewing people who have made similar decisions and getting some legal advice.  If it still looks like a winner, go for it.

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When should I start planning my retirement lifestyle?

Whenever you are ready! It’s almost like clockwork - people start to think about retirement in their mid-50s.  Most of us are unable to retire anytime short of that, and many of us will need to work into our 70s, thanks to the recession and the decline in the value of our investments.  The good news is that a very large percentage of the baby boom generation is physically capable of working into their 70s.

As with most planning, the earlier you start the better.  If you wait until you are 75, you may pass up a chance to make some earlier changes, have some new experiences, or (worse) make some erroneous assumptions.  The most common mistake I see people making is not talking to their spouse about what retirement should look like.

Jeff and Judith (not their real names) are a couple that fell into the ‘erroneous assumption’ trap:

When she was 64, Judith asked me to coach her on her retirement plans.  She told me she and her husband had agreed to retire from their jobs when they were 65 and 66 in order to spend more time together, scale down their lifestyle, and do some traveling.  I was happy to work with her and asked her to invite her husband to come along as well.  He declined, telling her he didn’t think they needed any coaching.  As I look back on our ensuing discussions, I believe she had a feeling they had left too much unsaid as they approached that retirement year, and getting the coaching was her way to open those discussions. 

As part of the coaching homework, I asked Judith to talk to her husband about where they would live after retiring.  She discovered that they each had very different opinions on that and on what kind of house they would live in.  She also discovered they had very different opinions about how much travelling they would do and whether or not she would do some solo travelling in connection with the volunteer work she planned to do.  Judith discovered that they had a lot of work to do before they could reach agreement on these things. Fortunately, these differences came to light in the pre-retirement coaching sessions rather than after they had retired.  Thanks to these early discussions, Judith and Jeff are now making several trips a year to evaluate possible retirement locations.  They are also looking at how much time they will commit to spending together versus pursuing their separate interests.  They are a very committed couple and I have no doubt they will work it out.

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Retirement Planning vs. Financial Planning – what’s the difference?

These two types of planning are very closely linked.  You could say that retirement planning is a part of good financial planning. However, it would be just as correct to say that financial planning is a part of good retirement planning!  The right conclusion here is that it’s actually impossible to say you’ve done a good job on one of them without having addressed the other as part of the process. 

Financial planning is making strategic investment decisions that will provide you with an income in your later years.  A competent financial advisor will help you look at a variety of ways to put your money to work. S/he will make sure your financial portfolio is well balanced and will sit down and review it with you at least once a year.  As part of the initial meeting, most financial advisors will have you fill out a lengthy questionnaire (on paper or as an interview) about your financial goals, focusing on how much you are able to save currently, how much you believe you can invest, and what your risk tolerance is.  As part of that initial discussion, many advisors will also ask about your retirement plans and goals for the future.  These questions can be hard to answer if you are in mid-career or just starting out, but as the years go by, it will become more and more critical to know exactly where and when you want to retire and how much your desired retirement lifestyle will cost.

Retirement planning takes a broader look.  Most people start thinking about retirement when they are somewhere in their 50s or 60s.  Certainly, good retirement planning involves a realistic picture of what you will be able to afford once you leave your current career or job, but it goes far beyond the financial aspects of the second half of life. 

The baby boom generation will be spending a lot more time in that “second half” than any previous generation in history.  Retirement planning includes decisions about where you will live, how you will spend your time, who you will ‘hang out’ with, and how you will bring meaning and purpose into your life.  Should you decide to retire at age 60, you have a very good chance of spending 20-25 years more on this earth.  For most people, that’s simply too long to spend just playing golf or bridge. 

Comprehensive retirement planning requires a holistic look at who you are, what you know, what you enjoy doing with your time, and who you want to spend your time with.  A good retirement coach will provide you with the opportunity to explore these things, through discussion and assessments.  If you are married you will probably want to go through this process with your spouse.  However, if your spouse is reluctant to be part of the coaching process, he or she can remain on the sidelines while you go through the process, as long as s/he is willing to participate in the homework with you - a series of worksheets and discussions between coaching sessions.

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