Consider your life as a gift of potentially up to ten periods of ten years each. From birth to age 10, you’re a kid, growing and learning. In the next ten year’s you morph from child to teenager to young adult. In your third decade you are “adulting,” perhaps establishing your career, joining the military, extending your education.
The average age of first marriage in the United States is 27 for women and 29 for men. If children arrive, your next decade will focus on parenting, household formation, joint career decisions, etc. You see the point. For every ten year period of your life you go through significant life transitions. Some transitions may be voluntary; others forced by circumstances beyond your control. The University of Life will throw challenges at you, positive and negative. You are confronted with choices, and “choices made” impact your ensuing ten year periods, for better or worse. That includes “retirement,” however you define it and shape it.
Regardless of the challenges posed, the transitions faced, the goal of comprehensive financial planning is to give you (and a spouse or other loved one) the freedom of choice. The career, business, marital, spiritual, financial, and physical fitness choices you make today will influence heavily the quality of life in the potential last two or three decades of your life.
A successful transition means leaving something behind, choosing from an array of alternatives, and moving ultimately to a new normal. Christopher Snider, CEPA®, is president of the Exit Planning Institute, and author of Walking to Destiny: 11 Actions An Owner Must Take to Rapidly Grow Value & Unlock Growth. Aimed at closely-held business owners, the book has implications for everyone. Surveys have shown that of business owners who sell to an outsider, or transition their business to family or employees, and retire, roughly 70% are sorry a year later. Why? They’re bored. A psychiatrist with a long career in government medical services recently told me he was contemplating retirement. Boredom was his biggest fear, he noted. “I gotta find something to do,” he emphasized.
When you consider a major life transition, personal, financial, and business and professional goals need to be aligned. Which of these often gets short shrift? “Personal planning,” notes Snider. “You probably didn’t get where you are by putting your own needs ahead of your business or your loved ones.” But, he emphasizes, “What was a strength in your career can manifest as a major weakness in your transition. You have sacrificed the other parts of your life for so many years that planning for a meaningful third act gets pushed aside as a soft topic.”
In other words, when you are not using your strengths that power success, your innate talents, post whatever you leave behind, you begin to lose meaning, passion, and energy. You increase the possibility of physical deterioration and loss of mental acuity. As Snider recognizes, “Getting in touch with your personal purpose is vital to having a successful, growing business (or any rewarding career or position), and even more so, to building a successful and fulfilling life after you exit. It requires that you wrestle with things like age and health, personal identity, goals, purpose, family responsibilities, lifestyle, community involvement, motivation, and enthusiasm.” To which we add, spiritual involvement, and what God is calling you to do. “Where will you be in 100 years?” Answer that quintessential question and it may change your focus as to purpose, meaning, and “net worth.”
God gave you certain talents at birth, and with the addition of skill and knowledge, you have developed strengths. When you are not operating from strength, in any aspect of life, you become disengaged, bored, restless, lost, dissatisfied, unhappy. The Gallup Strengths Finder process, widely used in business, churches, and educational institutions, helps people to discern their talents and strengths. A holistic financial life planning process goes beyond money issues, into strength development and application.
Post-retirement, post-succession, post-sale of a business, how do you carry on in strength to make your future even bigger than your past? That’s another quintessential question!