Retirement. It’s a concept that certainly means different things to different people. But is it time to change how we define it—completely?
While I was away on my abolutely blissful vacation in Belize last week, I finally had time to dig into Marc Freedman’s book, Encore: Finding Work that Matters in the Second Half of Life. It has me utterly inspired. It’s no secret that I’m passionate about retirement planning—and not simply from a financial perspective. I feel part of my personal mission is to help people of all ages discover how to be truly happy both pre- and post-“retirement,” however they choose to define it. But as I read the book, I found myself swimming in new ideas.
First, I realized that I am in an “encore career,” Freedman’s term for a later-in-life career that has a greater purpose and serves a greater good. My path to becoming a financial advisor wasn’t straightforward, but once I found my passion, I was able to apply the myriad skills I’d learned in my prior career and in my life to help others. The result: I’m fulfilled every day because my life has greater meaning and value.
I’m not alone. In his book, Freedman shares his experiences watching others go through similar shifts. But it’s not always easy, in part because of society’s expectations of those of us in the second half of our lives. Think about it: Here is a person at the height of professional ability. A person who has accumulated a career’s worth of knowledge and personal insight. And our culture suggests that now is the perfect time to bring that growth to a screeching halt and, in essence, dive into a second childhood. To reduce our activities to simple leisure as though we’re no longer capable of achieving or providing any good in the world. So we substitute busy-ness for purpose. We focus on building a better golf game instead of building a better world. As a result, people who have been successful in their careers are often thrown sideways when facing a traditional retirement. It’s no wonder!
But what if we took a completely different approach to “retirement”?
This is precisely what Freedman is trying to help foster. He founded Encore.org, a non-profit organization with the mission of “building a movement to tap the skills and experience of those in midlife and beyond to improve communities and the world.” By engaging millions of people in later life as a vital source of talent to benefit society, he hopes to help create a better future for young people and future generations. If it sounds lofty, just take a look at some of the personal stories on the site, and you’ll soon see how very real it can be.
What Freedman found is that highly skilled individuals—attorneys, physicians, volunteers, business leaders, artists, teachers, and more—thrive by finding new ways to apply their expertise in new, meaningful ways. He even created the Purpose Prize to recognize and reward passionate change-makers in the second half of life who are tackling the world’s most urgent problems though social entrepreneurship and innovation. The organization has awarded over $5 Million in prizes to people working in everything from early childhood education to eradicating homelessness.
As I read his ideas and stories, I couldn’t help but wonder if our highly publicized “retirement crisis” isn’t a crisis at all, but rather a major shift—and an incredible opportunity for change. What if every one of us was able to find an encore career that not only gave us greater personal purpose but also helped build a better world? How much change could we drive together? How much happier would our communities be when filled with older, wiser women and men doing good for others? How much stress would be diminished if these encore careers could support the financial needs of those who have been “aged out” of their earlier careers and are seeking something new?
Of course, as a financial advisor, I understand that this type of change takes money (see my blog on creating a freedom fund for more on that topic!). I was lucky when I transitioned into my encore career; I had a solid “freedom fund” on hand, so I was able to take the time to explore options, identify dreams, and discover my purpose. I was blessed to work with Stanlee Phelps, an amazing life and business coach who helped me find my path. Since becoming a financial advisor in 2003, my passion has never waned. After reading Freedman’s book, I decided that now is the time to take it one step further. Before I made it home from Belize on Saturday, I signed up for a year-long course to become a Certified Financial Transitionist™ (CeFT™), beginning in June. This training will give me even greater knowledge and skills to guide my clients through financial transitions, including managing the physiological, sociological, and psychological impacts of change. I can’t wait.
No matter where you are in life, I urge you to read Freedman’s book. You just may find yourself no longer looking for a “job,” but instead looking for a way to help others. And that small but significant shift may lead you to a new life’s work that is much more fulfilling—and financially rewarding—than you ever dreamed possible.