Ida O. Abbott is the author of the new book Retirement by Design: A Guided Workbook for Creating a Happy and Purposeful Future. A lawyer and legal consultant, she has focused on mentoring. Her other books include The Lawyer's Guide to Mentoring and Sponsoring Women. She lives in Oakland, California.
Q: Why did you decide to write this handbook about retirement?
A: My consulting practice focuses on professional talent management.
A few years ago, several of my clients (and friends) in their 50s and 60s, who were enjoying successful careers, started asking me questions about their next moves if or when they retired, e.g., What will I do every day? Who will I be if I’m no longer a ___? I’ve always worked, I can’t stop now - can I? I’ve only had this career; what else could I possibly do?
They had ample sources of financial advice regarding retirement planning, but wanted guidance about what retirement might actually look like for them. I started researching the issues and conducting interviews so I could advise them competently, and soon realized how complicated retirement transitions can be.
The more I learned, the more I saw the need for a resource that would help people prepare for, transition into, and deal with retirement in a way that was both practical and creative. So that’s what I set out to write.
Q: You write, "Forget the traditional notion of retirement." What would you say are some of the most common perceptions and misconceptions about retirement?
The biggest misconception is that retirement means withdrawal, cessation of work, the “end." Because it is usually age-related, it makes us think about frailty and mortality. People are afraid to retire because it conjures up these negative images and feelings.
Yet people are living long, healthy, and productive lives into their 90s and even 100s.
I much prefer the Spanish term for retirement, “jubilación,” which suggests joy, liberation, freedom to do what you want. When you look forward to doing something you enjoy, want to try or are excited about, you tend to have a more positive view of retirement.
I hope my book persuades people that retirement is a new stage of life filled with countless opportunities and possibilities, and then helps them design the kind of life they look forward to.
Q: You suggest that people planning for retirement have a Personal Advisory Team. Can you say more about that team, and who might be included?
A: Your team consists of people you can all upon for emotional support, guidance, information, encouragement, ideas, advice - whatever comes up as you move into this new stage of life.
Retirement involves a very difficult adjustment. Even if you are prepared and have a plan, it can be tough emotionally. It’s important to have some support from others along the way.
If you have a spouse or partner, you will need their support more than anyone else’s. They should be involved early on, including discussions about how retirement will change things for you both.
Other team members could include children and other relatives; one or two close friends; people who have already retired who can share their experiences and offer advice; a mentor or coach; a therapist, health professional, personal trainer, financial planner, almost anyone who can help you in some way.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from your book?
A: An eagerness to design and live the retirement they want, and confidence to know they can do it.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m working with individuals as a retirement coach, and with some firms on how to design retirement processes that balance business needs and individual concerns.
I’m planning some presentations for upcoming conferences on these subjects, and thinking about producing some virtual programs, either short presentations or group coaching sessions.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Retirement by Design is a workbook. It offers guidance and suggestions, but it's primarily intended for people to work through its questions and exercises, find their own answers, and design a personalized plan for themselves.
You can also use it with other people - with your spouse, with another person or a small group of people (e.g., working individually through a chapter at a time, then discussing it together), or with a coach. Plus, if you’re stuck at home for a while, this is a good time to work on your retirement!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb