John was the managing partner in his law firm. He was respected as an expert trial attorney and was considered by all as knowledgeable and successful. As he approached the threshold of mandatory retirement, confidence was replaced by fear and uncertainty. Over John's forty year career, he had amassed assets and lived a comfortable life supporting his family. As is frequently the case, John didn't devote too much time to planning or thinking about his future.
John found his way to our offices and began the discussion.
"I have been extremely successful in my career; I have a great family and everything seemed to be going just great until I was faced with this retirement issue."
"Tell me more." I urged John to continue. I could tell by watching John's eyes and fidgeting fingers that he was extremely uncomfortable.
"I haven't exactly prepared for what's next. I don't mean financially, because I think I have enough money; although, that's just my thought. I haven't worked with planners, I tell my stockbroker what to buy and my firm's CPA does my taxes. I am in unchartered territory and that is really uncomfortable."
"Well, John, think of planning for retirement like you would preparing for a trial. You gather evidence, take depositions, formulate a case and present it in court-fighting tooth and nail for the success of your case and your client. This isn't much different. Financial life planning is all about your preferred outcomes and whether or not you have thought through what retirement means to you and matching your available resources with those outcomes."
John sat quietly thinking for a few moments.
"That's the problem, I have no idea what I want my retirement years to be. I am a trial attorney; it's all I've ever done and it's all I know. I have no hobbies to speak of and family time was usually traveling on vacations. I am not handy-I don't build things; I don't care about golf, playing three or four times a year is plenty for me. I see nothing but a nightmare ahead!"
"John, I can assure you that your story is not unique. Retirement years can be anything you want them to be, provided you have financial resources, health and a desire to open your mind up to possibilities. Forget the idea that you have to know exactly what it will look like, I suggest you begin with a discussion with your family, with friends who have retired and I will connect you with some of our clients who have successfully made the transition. But it begins with a blank canvas-it's up to you to create the picture. Let's go back to the image of creating a case for trial-it begins with a premise. Our job together will be to create that premise and apply it to an overall plan that will carry you into a successful retirement."
John left the meeting a little more encouraged with the following assignment:
1. Think back to an earlier time in your life, was there anything you wanted to do or be?
2. Think about possible activities that would be interesting to explore.
3. Consider how you can use your skills and abilities to benefit others in a way that would be gratifying to you.
4. Consider whether you wish to change where you live.
5. Evaluate your current health and health history; are there any challenges or obstacles present?
6. Think back to a time when you experienced a successful transition. What was it? How did you manage it? What was the outcome?
Armed with these questions, John embarked on the most difficult transition of his life.
How are you meeting these challenges? Do you face transitions with positive expectancy or dread? It is up to you to maintain a positive attitude and build a methodical plan into your next life stage.