Now What?Planning for the Rest of Your LifeBy Joyce Owen
You’ve sold your home and business and traveled halfway around the world to a remote island. Sitting on the beach, you wonder: What’s next in my life?
That’s the situation Joan and Steve Carter faced when they sold their consulting company in 2006 and headed to Fiji. They had financial security but needed a plan for the rest of their lives.
As they pondered their future, a wonderful thing happened. Realizing their dilemma was one many others would face, the couple decided to use their skills to design a program to help people through the transition into the next chapter of their lives.
Now living in Florida, the Destin-based couple have adopted the laid-back beach life but retain a professional attitude. When scheduling a meeting to discuss the book they wrote, Joan Carter inquires, “Should we suit up?” But whether in casual attire over coffee or in business suits at a workshop, the Carters exude the professional confidence they developed in more than 30 years of career counseling.
“We’ve seen it all and know the pitfalls,” Steve Carter says.
Well, maybe you didn’t make it to Fiji but instead arrived on the sandy beaches of the Florida Panhandle. The question, however, is the same: What’s next?
For guidance on where to begin, consider the Carters’ book, “What’s Next in Your Life? How to Find Meaning Beyond the Money,” a guide to planning the non-financial aspects of life after 50.
Their philosophy is that it’s never too early to start planning.
“Don’t wait until you’ve reached the point in your life when you are ready to retire to plan for the future,” Joan Carter advises. “Start thinking about your plan about five years before you anticipate leaving the work force.”
The couple’s program is primarily geared to those who have the financial capability to make the decision whether or not to work, but even that group’s dynamics has changed.
“Many folks’ 401(k)s are now 201(k)s, thanks to the downturn in the stock market last year,” Steve Carter says.
While the Carters have worked with many clients who have saved enough to retire comfortably, not all of them are highly paid executives.
“A ditch digger may have saved and have a goal, but he gets stuck,” Steve Carter says.
It’s for people who need a push in the right direction that their book and workbook are intended. Originally Joan Carter thought the publications would be enough, “but most people aren’t that self-directed. Adding the workshops has been enormously helpful,” she says.
From the workbook planning to the workshop interaction, the program has been the catalyst for soon-to-be retirees to create a plan to guide them to a successful future. Participants fill out the workbook and create a plan that provides a timeline to help them prepare for retirement.
“By going through the process, you build a foundation to make a plan,” Joan Carter says.
The key, she says, is figuring out “you.”
Completing the self-assessment is one of the most powerful aspects of the program, Joan Carter says. By discovering the drivers that make them tick, clients create a profile of who they are.
Then they can find what plan will work for them.
This Is Your Life
For those who can’t attend the workshops, the book is filled with “Real Life Examples,” stories from real people who have faced the same issues. These examples bring home the reality that you are not the only person struggling with the difficult problems that can crop up when preparing for the second half of life.
For instance, there is the situation in which one partner has a plan for retirement but has not really shared that with the other, as in the “Real Life Example” of a wife who doesn’t agree with her husband’s plan to drive the drink cart at their private golf club after he retires. The example provides a powerful reminder of just how important one’s work identity can be — to both the husband, who is ready to walk away from the executive life, and the wife, who is reluctant to abandon her status as an executive’s spouse.
The moral of this lesson is to communicate and collaborate to have a retirement that is satisfying to both parties.
There are other discussions that a couple should have, Joan Carter says. One of the biggest issues facing many couples is that the money they thought would carry them through retirement is no longer there.
The Carters have seen this come up in many of the workshops. Generally, it’s the wife who has depended on her husband to manage the financial aspects of retirement; when it becomes apparent that there are problems, she complains, “You said we’d make it. What happened? What are we going to do?”
Although a lot of people have had to put off retirement to rebuild their finances, it’s still important for them to discuss this and get started on a plan for retirement, the Carters say.
By the Numbers
Statistics are frequently cited in the book and on the Web site, whatsnextinyourlife.com. “Boomer Fast Facts” is one of the guides to the numbers that provides insight into the reality of the impact of retirement by baby boomers.
There are more than 76 million baby boomers. The first turned 62 in 2008. According to the statistics, 83 percent of baby boomers intend to keep working after retirement.
The reality is that some people love to work, and for them retiring is not always the best option.
Only 22 percent of those over the age of 55 consider retirement as an extended vacation or a time to “wind down.”
Many others who leave a career with a plan to relocate to a beach, play golf every day or travel around the world soon discover that their work life was a huge part of who and what they were.
Fortunately, there are many avenues for up-and-coming retirees to find a way to work — but the Carters believe it’s likely that many retirees will want work to look differently than it did.
Making a Difference
Steve Carter says that many of the executives the couple advise don’t need another job. They are financially secure, but they’ve always been career-focused and are defined by what they do. Finding a new sense of purpose is the goal for these clients.
“They want to turn success into significance,” Joan Carter says.
The nonprofit sector can benefit from those who are looking to be productive but don’t require a paycheck. Joan Carter advises that nonprofit organizations should capture the talent of these baby boomers but realize they aren’t looking to make copies or collate data. She suggests putting their skills to use as mentors, to chair fundraisers and to consult on projects.
Resources to Make It Happen
The Carters’ Web site offers a variety of sources, including after-retirement work options, lifestyles of the newly retired, an interactive planning tools section, and even helpful hints to find a coach if you need additional guidance.
The couple provide a road map for the future and have dubbed themselves “travel agents for life after 50.”
Their company, Life Options Institute, is a result of the journey the couple started when they realized it wasn’t enough to have financial planning for retirement.
“We learned that even people who say they have a plan don’t really have one,” Steve Carter says.
“Or they may have a plan but have never communicated with their spouse,” Joan Carter adds.
But the Carters suggest that the program also is a valuable resource for college graduates, those in their 30s wanting to figure out the next chapter in their lives, and even the 35- to 45-year-olds who are locked into a career but have lost enthusiasm for their jobs.
Traveling across the country holding workshops encouraging others to make a plan, not only have the Carters helped others through this stage, they’ve discovered a new career that has become the next step for them.
Deciding ‘What’s Next’
What is the hardest thing to deal with in life after retirement?
Health and the cost of not having health insurance are the biggest worries for retirees. Health changes are unpredictable and have physical, emotional and financial consequences.
The loss of social connections at work is the least anticipated loss in retirement. Only 13 percent of pre-retirees surveyed think it would be the hardest thing to deal with in retirement, but almost double that number of retirees identify it as their greatest challenge.
Most baby boomers underestimate the importance of the social network they have developed through work. Clearly, developing new social connections is important.
Workshop: $100 per person; $150 per couple
(Book and workbook included)