Saturday, May 03, 2008

Managing the Second Half of Your Life

Have you thought about what you are going to do with the second half of your life? One of my co-workers retires in 27 days. When asked what she plans to do with the rest of her life, she didn’t have a clue, other than relax and have fun.

This conversation comes shortly after I had the opportunity to talk to two of our former employees. Both retired at age 62, both are comfortable financially.

Employee A worked as our company’s sales manager for 30 years. Upon retiring, he sold his home and moved to Northern Wisconsin where he and his wife run a seasonal souvenir shop. When asked how he was enjoying retirement, he emphatically stated, “I hate it." He misses the camaraderie of the office; his customers and the thrill of getting the deal. He manages to keep busy, but feels his life has no meaning. He inquired about our business; upon hearing we had just snagged an incredible deal, he was visibly upset. He had not even heard of our current #1 customer.

Employee B worked in our industry 30 years, 15 of them as Operations Manager for our company. He too sold his home and purchased a small fixer upper in Michigan (a lower tax state than Wisconsin). When asked how he is enjoying retirement, he enthusiastically replied “I love it.” He is busy working on his home; is active in his community (he was here as well). He and his wife own a motor home and are planning on traveling south this summer. He also volunteers at our state tech schools where he recruits high school students into the trades. This was an activity he performed while working with our company; enjoying it so much he agreed to continue after retirement. He is also planning on attending a company camping trip Memorial Day weekend.

Many of us long for the day when we can do whatever we want whenever we want. We put a lot of time and effort into calculating how much money we will need when we retire, but don’t put equal preparation into planning what we will actually do; other than travel, visit the grand kids, and maybe do a little volunteer work. Is that enough?

In the Harvard Business Review article, Managing Oneself, Peter R. Drucker discusses the importance of knowing yourself and offers valuable advice for managing the second half of your life: "The one prerequisite for managing the second half of your life: You must begin long before you enter it." Another, noteworthy point; "If one does not begin to volunteer before one is 40 or so, one will not volunteer once past 60."

In the above scenarios, employee B adequately planned for the second half of his life and is happy in his retirement. He continues to perform the aspect of his job he enjoyed the most on a volunteer basis. He is in contact with former co-workers, even attending work social events. Employee A has virtually cut himself off from all contact with former co-workers. He started a new business he does not enjoy. He did not adequately plan for his retirement never realizing how much he would miss sales. If planned appropriately, he could easily have taught sales techniques on a part time basis to entry level salespersons in our industry.

Do yourself a favor begin managing the second half of your life long before you enter it?

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