Baby boomers and retirement – not the best mix!

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 The baby boomer generation has long been characterized by the demographers as the generation that runs hard.  As many baby boomers retire or are contemplating retirement, more and more individuals in this generation are seeking coaching to help them develop a new purpose or focus for their lives.   When you don’t have to be at work every day, and the joy of lounging at the beach or travel  wears thin, the walls can start to press in as you try to keep busy.  Slowing down to smell the roses becomes empty and unfulfilling.

 Retirement can be particularly daunting for professional people who have the pension plans and the means to retire in their 50’s.  These people still have a long stretch of potential productivity ahead of them and moving from running at 200 miles an hour to a dead stop is not the best way to transition for a generation that is driven, goal-focused, and used to being in the driver’s seat.   A recent conversation with a Vice President of Human Resource about when he was planning to retire resulted in his revelation that he had no picture in his head as to what his retirement would look like.  He has not spent any time trying to visualize a life after retirement.   This executive confided that he is anxious and worried about his retirement in 3-5 years.  He will not be ready with the retirement party streamers float down and he walks out the door for the last time.  Another coaching client who took early retirement, fears he is losing his mind from boredom and questioning his value and skills.   He is currently working with me to understand what his new purpose will be based on his values, interests, and skills.  For some, this is a formidable exercise and takes a great deal of time and dogged determination to clarify goals and direction.  It is a time of change, uncertainty, emotional turmoil, and reflection for the individual but will end in a worthwhile outcome.

 My advice to baby boomers who are thinking about or approaching retirement, think about the impact of not working at your job or profession on your purpose.  What will your purpose be?  Some things to think about are understanding yourself and who you are, what is important, and what do you enjoy doing.  Many baby boomers will not enjoy retirement because they will not be ready.  In fact, one of my baby boomer clients hates the word retirement and refuses to discuss his “retirement” with others.  His response to those who inquire as to how his retirement is going is “I’m evaluating my options and opportunities, and looking to refocus my skills.”  Retirement?  Perhaps the word will disappear as the baby boomers transition to the next productive and interesting phase of their lives.  After all, they are the generation that instigated significant societal change and they will continue to wield influence by the sheer force of their numbers. Vive la vie!


About the Author:

Peggie leads both executive search at InTell Executive Search International and the performance improvement practice at Koenig & Associates. Her forte is organizational and individual performance improvement through pragmatic human resources strategies and executive coaching. Peggie lives in a part of Saskatoon she calls the Urban Forest. When she’s not bird-watching on her deck, she trains for marathons by running up the banks of the South Saskatchewan River.

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