What Will They Say at Your Retirement Party?
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” —Warren Buffett
A principal of the architectural firm that I work with recently retired. As I listened to his colleagues speak and watched the video interviews with employees, managers, clients, and fellow principals I started to wonder, “What will people say when I retire?” Have you ever given it any thought? Here are a few of the things that contribute to your reputation and what others will have to say at your retirement party.
What did they see?
Actions speak louder than words. Were your actions authentic? Were you willing to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty? Did you set a good example for others to follow? People are always watching; your behaviors have a great impact on others and their perception of you. What did they see?
What did they hear?
Were you true to your word? How did you speak of others? Were your words encouraging or were they biting? Was your communication style open and honest? Was it consistent regardless of who you were speaking with? What did they hear?
How did they feel?
Did they know you cared? Was there a sense of mutual trust and respect? Were you willing to invest your time and resources into helping them become the best they could be? How did you make them feel?
What will they say?
When that day finally comes and people gather together to acknowledge the contributions you have made to their work lives, what will they say? What did they see? Were your actions authentic? What did they hear? Were your words encouraging or biting? How did they feel? Did they know you cared? Your legacy lasts far longer than the years you put into any position. What will you leave behind in the hearts and minds of those you worked with?
Retirement Planning Has Its Limits: How to Prepare
Retirement planning is one of the issues that commonly leads clients to consult financial advisers. One of its essential aspects is creating a plan to save and invest in order to provide a comfortable retirement income. Ideally, this starts many years ahead of retirement, even as early as your first paycheck.
As retirement comes closer, planning for it expands to take in a host of other considerations, such as deciding when to retire, where to live, and what kind of lifestyle you hope to have. When retirement becomes a reality, the focus shifts to carrying out the plan.
All of this planning is crucial. Yet, for both financial advisers and clients, it's good to keep in mind that planning has its limits. In the post-retirement years, it may be helpful to think in terms of preparing for old age rather than planning for it.
The older we get, the more important this distinction between planning and preparing becomes. Too many life-changing things can happen without regard to our best-laid plans. Often they occur unexpectedly, resulting in emergency situations where urgent decisions have to be made. A stroke or a fall, a diagnosis of terminal illness, a broken hip that leaves someone unable to go back to independent living—and suddenly, right now, the family needs to find an assisted living facility, arrange for live-in help, or sell a home.
What are some of the ways to prepare for these contingencies?
- Explore housing options well ahead of time. Find out what assisted living, home care, and nursing home services and facilities are available where you live and whether they have waiting lists. Have family conversations about possibilities like relocating or sharing households.
- Research the financial side of these options. Investigate the cost of hiring help at home, assisted living facilities, and nursing care centers. Find out what is and is not covered by Medicare and long-term care insurance. For example, people are sometimes surprised to learn that Medicare does not pay for nursing home care other than short-term medical stays.
- Designate someone to take over decision-making, and do the paperwork. Execute documents like a living will, medical power of attorney, and contingent power of attorney. Update them as necessary, and give copies to your doctors, your financial planner, and appropriate family members.
- Start relatively early to downsize. Well before you're ready to let go of possessions or move into smaller housing, start considering what to do with your "stuff." Focus on the decisions rather than the distribution. There's no need to get rid of possessions prematurely, but decide what you want to do with them—and put in writing. Do this while it's still your choice, rather than something your family members do while you're in the hospital or nursing home
- Do your best to practice flexibility and acceptance. No matter how strongly you want to live in your own home until the end of your life, for example, it may not be possible. The physical limitations of aging can limit our choices, and even the best options available may not be what we would like them to be. It is a profound gift to yourself and your family members to accept these realities with as much grace as you can muster.
Finally, please don't underestimate the importance of planning financially for retirement. Because the bottom line is that you can't plan for all the things that might happen as you age, but you can prepare to deal with them. One of the most useful tools to cope with those contingencies is having enough money.
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