The matrix of life

Let’s discuss these three ages of man (Shakespeare, being much smarter, got to seven), by thinking of three decades across three different features of a life:

·       How much time do you have at your disposal

·       How much money do you have

·       How much energy do you have 

We derive (with N for no and Y for yes) in a rough and (possibly) uncontroversial way the following matrix:


Decades           Time          Money            Energy

20s                      Y                   N                      Y

40s                      N                   Y                       Y

60s                      Y                    Y                       N


How can this matrix apply to retirement? Perhaps a successful retirement for you may depend on the extent to which you can turn the RED N into a RED Y?

Retirement: You won’t know what it is like until you get there.

The retirement game: a brand new Aussie board game for two

Suitable for couples where the successful husband retires and is suddenly not himself.

The Retirement Game has its own set of rules:

Rule 1: The players are a husband and wife in their 60s. He has built a career over 40 years and she has been maintaining the family home. (I know it’s stereotyped, but it is only a game!)

Rule 2: The husband has recently retired and wants to join his wife in all her pursuits: shopping, golf, bridge, movies etc.

Rule 3: She already does these things, but without him and with her friends.

Rule 4: Each puts their counter at start. In turn, each rolls one die.

Rule 5: If the husband lands on “Get a life” he goes back two spaces. If the wife lands on “I have a life” she advances 2 spaces.

Rule 6: The first to reach start is the winner. 

Rule 7: If playing this game reveals issues that you can’t resolve then perhaps the husband would benefit from seeing a retirement coach. Here are the details:


Tel:     0409116766





“For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. Hamlet.

Think of yourself looking through a window to the world outside. The window has a frame and this frame cuts out a section of the world for you to admire. But it’s only a small section, not the entire world, and you know that.

In addition, this concept of frame has an abstract cousin. For example, the world of advertising is very canny and exploits the difficulty we have in distinguishing 90% lean from 10% fat on a packet of beef. This is an abstract version of a frame and we have to decide which of those – lean or fat – we will use to make sense of our purchase. Even in our language we frequently hear the comparison between the glass half full and the glass half empty; over which definition optimists and pessimists compete.

In retirement you can also frame your outcomes. So, in your world of work you probably thought that you were time poor and constrained; whilst in retirement you can think that you will have acres of free time that will set you free.

Free to do what exactly? Free to experiment and settle on activities and a lifestyle that gives you pleasure. That has to be worthwhile.

Retirement: You won’t know what it is like until you get there.

Empty nest syndrome

Empty nest is the description of how it feels to be a parent all of whose children have grown up and left home. They say that this can be a difficult transition in the life of the parents; that may bring forward the emotion of loss or of sadness.

It reminds me of that other transition which I always blog about: retirement. Both are transitions, both can involve profound change that leads to negative feelings. In the case of retirement this is typically a loss of meaning.

 But with the empty nest there are clearly some benefits to dwell on:

·      The house becomes instantly tidier as there are fewer people to make a mess.

(This is even before the Marie Kondo moment);

·      Financially there are fewer dependents in the house;

·      The consumption of food in the refrigerator is now controlled by the parents;

·      The car belongs to its owners.

Are these benefits enough to outweigh the negatives mentioned above? How do you reconcile these two opposite feelings: missing the children on a daily basis whilst engaging positively with the changes caused by their absence?

These are good questions to ponder.

Retirement: You won’t know what it is like until you get there.

Three myths of retirement

What is retirement, how does it feel to be retired?

Before you go through the process of retirement yourself you can:

·      observe and/or talk to all the retired people you can;

·      not think about it at all;

however you will likely still be hostage to some foundational myths about retirement. Here are three:

1)   Retirement is all about how much money you have. Well yes, it is probably good to have more money than less but it turns out that the emotional aspects of retirement are much bigger than this.

2)   Retirement is the phase of life where everything becomes easy. I don’t really know what “easy” might mean; but the truth is that all stages of life present problems.

3)   Retirement represents a dead end of life. I would say no to that: it’s as lively and challenging and exciting as you want to make it.

If you think about some of these myths more deeply you will get closer to understanding what you can make of your own retirement. It’s worth the effort, and a retirement coach can assist with this process.

Retirement: You won’t know what it is like until you get there.

Meaning and measurement in retirement

Thinking of your career, how many were the ways in which your success was recognised, and even rewarded?

Perhaps you received a promotion, a new job title, a pay rise, a bonus or maybe a worthwhile pat on the back.

In retirement such things don’t happen, or if they do it’s in a different way. You may have a struggle on your hands in the absence of such clear and tangible validation in retirement. But there is always an answer. 

If, for example, you engage in voluntary work then the reward can come in the form of a show of appreciation from those you have helped.

On the other hand, you may enlarge your circle of friends and gather appreciation from them for the friend that you are.

In another direction, you may simply enjoy the dawning of each new day and the possibilities it brings you.

In summary, a retirement coach can help you to frame your thoughts on this critical topic. 

Retirement: You won’t know that it is like until you get there.

Balance sheets and retirement

Balance sheets belong to the world of finance and accounting. They have a column for assets and a column for liabilities. What has this got to do with retirement you are thinking.

There are many ways to construct a parallel:

The assets are your achievements you are most proud of and the liabilities are your greatest fears for the future.


The assets are the things you want to keep treasuring and the liabilities are what you can safely let go of; the best example being attachment to your job pre-retirement.

I offer you the challenge to start to draw up your own personal balance sheet: think of what you want to hang on to and what you want to dispense with.

If you reflect on your own balance sheet for some time, I think the results that you obtain will be interesting.

Retirement: You won’t know what it is like until you get there.


Someone told me about five “features” that can characterise a friendship and they are 1) similarity 2) proximity 3) ability to communicate 4) expression of positive emotions about the other 5) frequency.

I agree with some and not others. More importantly, how can these features help us to understand our friendships: past, present and future.

In reverse order, I like frequency, and would argue that to see someone once a year would make it hard to develop a friendship. If being positive about each other is the opposite of shouting and screaming then I also agree with number four.

The third needs no discussion as long as we allow “to communicate” to have a very general sense that can go beyond talking and listening.

But I don’t much like proximity and similarity. The internet, through FaceTime and Skype, gives us the ability to talk to friends all over the world. So why would we not exploit it. The thornier one is similarity. I think it is natural to fall into friendships with like-minded people; but it might be worth the challenge of exploring a friendship with someone who is unlike you.

 Do you have friends who are quite different from you?

 If you don’t, what about the idea of finding some?

 Perhaps it could be a warm friendship, but with a hint of challenge.

 Retirement: You won’t know what it is like until you get there.

Who am I part 2

The first version of this article “Who am I?” posed the question: 

“This is one of the interesting challenges of retirement: how to define your role in the world: what exactly do you do? Who are you now?

Before you retired perhaps you had a business card with your name, details; and underneath were written some key words that described your role in the workforce. In retirement would you want to have a card that designated you as “retired”?

If that is your answer then read no further.

On the other hand, you could ponder three questions in retirement:

1.   What is your potential: what are you good at, passionate about?

2.   What is your goal: what are the desired outcomes to match this potential?

3.   Implementation: how will you reach your stated goal?

 It gets better. Do all this once, then repeat, experiment, have fun. 

Retirement: you won’t know what it is like until you get there.