Retirement is not an end. It’s a new beginning. A chance to explore your interests and passions. The Retirement Boom: An All-Inclusive Guide to Money, Life and Health in Your Next Chapter (Career Press, 2015) provides tips, tricks and advice for those nearing or in retirement. Jaye Smith, who co-authored the book with Catherine Allen, Nancy Bearg and Rita Foley, recently shared some insights for aging Baby Boomers and the companies that employ them. Smith is head of Breakwater Consulting, an executive consulting firm, and a co-founder of Reboot Partners, which advises on sabbatical and retirement planning.
How is the concept of retirement evolving?
Baby Boomers are not approaching retirement like our parents did. We are redefining what this next chapter looks like. For most, planning for retirement is evolving along with new rules and approaches. Many companies are encouraging their older employees to stay on beyond the ages when they traditionally would retire. Some organizations are providing a phased retirement where the employee works two to three days a week, continues to share expertise and organizational knowledge, and also mentors those who will eventually take over their role.
Some companies offer employees sabbaticals or unpaid leave. What’s the value of these programs for workers nearing retirement?
My co-authors and I interviewed nearly 500 people over the last several years. Many of them had taken sabbaticals or unpaid leave to reboot and recharge their batteries and their lives. Some, however, were experimenting—testing the waters of either a new place to live or something new to do.
Others took what they called a pre-retirement break. That time away with family or on their own enabled them to experience what it will be like after their current job ends. They began to develop new interests and contacts. It better prepared them for the day when they left their job for good.
What else can companies do to help employees prepare for retirement?
Organizations are beginning to pay closer attention to their Baby Boomer employees. Many financial services companies, for example, are providing financial advice to employees about making the most of the retirement investments the company has helped them accumulate in preparation for retirement.
Some companies are setting up their own retirement planning programs that not only address the financial side of retirement, which of course is critical, but also help employees plan what they will actually do with their time post-retirement. This, unfortunately, is the exception.
Some organizations are finding ways to leverage the talents and perspective of both their Millennial and Baby Boomer populations. These employees are more similar than even they realize. One company is creating a mentoring program between these two generations to maximize the benefits of Millennials’ fresh perspectives and Baby Boomers’ solid business experience. It’s a win-win strategy.
What are a few practical steps retirees can take to prepare for a second career?
Be clear about your vision for your future. Start with your ideal vision for the next chapter. What would you be doing, where would it be and who would you be with?
Network. Identify a network; who can help? The assistance may not be a specific job offer but rather advice, contacts and support. Keep your friends and advisors involved and in the loop on what you are thinking.
Keep current. It is always good to stay on top of what is happening in your areas of interest and focus. Go to conferences, take classes, retool and be ahead of the trends or at least on top of them. There are so many new ways to learn about an industry, and much of them are online.
Many employers are reluctant to hire older workers. What’s your reaction?
Of course it is a mistake. There are so many myths about older or mature workers—most of which Boomers are changing by the second. Older workers bring maturity and confidence that younger, less experienced workers have not yet developed. They bring knowledge and experience so that some typical mistakes are not repeated. They are also more flexible and resilient than many of their younger counterparts think. Providing Baby Boomers with new opportunities adds value to organizations, benefits the economy and contributes to the social fabric of our communities.