CEOs in particular have issues with retirement and often they can’t seem to transition from the waves of false friends that surround them hoping for some advantage who mostly disappear when they retire to develop real friends with common interests. Some of the loneliest people I’ve met are retired CEOs. They acquire this massive amount of wealth, surround themselves with pretty things including a trophy spouse and then discover that once retired all of this stuff becomes a burden, often including the spouse. And it isn’t as if they don’t see it coming either, it is likely they watched their predecessors have this same issue, but like Lemmings they jump off the same damn bridge.
Sudden death and retirement
One of the saddest things I observed years ago was when one of my friends died suddenly. He was working incredibly hard to earn a rich retirement and spent much of his time on the road. As retirement approached, his wife and he anticipated the time they would finally get to spend together, but that wasn’t to be. He spent so much time on planes he developed a blood clot in his leg and when it migrated it killed him rather rapidly. Those moments they were living for never happened.
Earlier this week I got a call from an old friend who works, well worked, for one of the biggest firms in our industry. After 25 years at the company he was terminated effective immediately. No gold watch, no goodbye party, no thanks for all the hard work. And now they won’t even help the transition to private life. The firm has a bit of a rep for treating people poorly, but this exit takes the cake.
Both experiences showcase that we need to take life as it comes. Not live for some big future payoff that may never arrive, and certainly don’t bet that your employer is going to take care of you. But focus instead on doing what you love and loving what you do now.
For a lot of us who have learned this lesson, working is better than retirement and when we are asked when we are going to retire we don’t know or care. But by focusing on the now we are likely better prepared for it when it does arrive.
Enjoy the journey
Rather than working to retire early, the smart folks tend to find work they enjoy so they don’t really want to retire. In a way that gives them a payoff that happens decades before someone working for retirement who discovers retirement often sucks. As you plan for your retirement spend some time with folks who have retired and decide what would work for you and what won’t. You may realize you’d be better off finding a job you love that you never have to retire from. That way, the happiness you discover will be something you don’t have to wait for, it will simply always be there.
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