Executive couples almost always discuss and negotiate various career moves and options. But when it comes to retirement the most significant transition of all they tend to make large assumptions based on very few facts. If they talk about retirement at all, it is to discuss where they might want to live, or to calculate the answer to the all-important question, “Do we have enough money?”
What most couples completely ignore is the importance of asking and answering the single most important question “What are we going to do with the rest of our lives?”
Today’s executives are retiring younger, healthier and wealthier than any generation in history. They have the opportunity to escape the pressures of a top job and pursue other interests while they are in the prime of their lives. Yet, they often have difficulty adjusting to full-time relationships with their spouses and balancing day-to-day family responsibilities with leisure pursuits.
Retired executives no longer have the structure and focus that their former positions imposed. To make the transition even more difficult, their spouses are often redefining their own personal and professional goals as they hit their mid-life stride.
Despite these challenges, retirement presents a unique opportunity for a couple to reconnect and redefine their goals, and to make conscious decisions about how they want to live the next stages of their lives.
Ironically, senior executives who routinely use sophisticated planning tools to solve problems in their business lives rarely invest equivalent resources to make complex decisions in their personal lives. They often think that once they complete a financial plan, their work is done. They haven’t even considered the broader issues that directly impact a financial plan health, lifestyle choices, family responsibilities, work and leisure pursuits.
The majority of executive couples need help thinking through the issues involved in retirement planning. Whether you work with an executive consultant or do this work on your own, we recommend that you include clear goals, action plans and metrics to measure your progress and to keep yourselves on track. Draft individual goals and then come together to refine them in an open discussion that ensures that the final plan reflects the needs of both partners.
Here are some examples of topics worth exploring.
Health and wellness. Address exercise, nutrition, preventative strategies, stress reduction, and other such topics. This issue more than any other, impacts future options and possibilities.
Financial planning. Revisit your financial plan since your life plan will capture how you want to live and provide far greater insight into the financial structure required to support it.
Work. This category focuses on paid work, because it is of great importance to executives who want to remain engaged in a more limited way in business for the intellectual challenge.
Family. Develop individual goals for your spouse, children, parents, siblings and others, since family issues can directly impact or constrain your options.
If you are a 40-something, invest the time and money required to create a written plan that reopens lines of communication, aligns your values and goals, addresses each spouse’s needs and accommodates unforeseen events. A Life Plan is both a journey and a destination, and like all journeys, it begins with the first step. Take your first step today.
Gail R. Meneley is a principal in Shields Meneley Partners, a firm that provides confidential career and life-transition services to senior executives. Reach her at (312) 994-9500 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Shields Meneley Partners, visit www.shieldsmeneley.com.