Richard and Elizabeth were sitting at their kitchen table with their daughter Caroline drinking coffee. Richard, 65 years old, has recently retired after a very successful corporate career, whilst Elizabeth enjoys a very busy life of looking after their house and spending time with friends. Although they would never admit this, Caroline was their favourite child and one who could always speak the truth to her parents, particularly her father.
The conversation soon turned towards Richard and the difficulty he was having in the adjustment to life post work. Caroline knew that her parents were arguing frequently about the matter so, under the pretext of getting some advice on an intended apartment purchase for herself, she wanted to get to the bottom of these discontents. She was a helper who always tried to sort out family disputes if she could. The conversation went as follows.
Caroline: So Dad we’ve been talking for over an hour and you haven’t had much to add.
Elizabeth: Your father has been brooding a lot lately.
Caroline: I remember when I was young how you would come home to dinner each night after work and talk all throughout the meal.
Richard: That was because I had something to talk about. I loved my job. I really miss it.
Elizabeth: That’s in the past dear. Besides, you spend enough time on the internet Richard, you must have something to say, other than boring me with details about price discounts at the local supermarket.
Richard: I am only trying to help.
Elizabeth: That is precisely the job I have been doing for the last four decades and I am rather good at it, sorry but I don’t need help.
Richard: I only want to be useful to you Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: I can answer that for you. Find a way to occupy yourself each day. Feel free to experiment.
Richard: That’s pretty harsh. I try.
Caroline: Whoa. C’mon let’s not get heated. Dad tell me what are your friends up to these days.
Elizabeth: Leading a life.
Richard: Now, now Liz. Well, Bill – you remember him, the guy with red hair, not that he has much of that any more – he is off travelling the world.
Caroline: That sounds really cool.
Elizabeth: Not for us. Bill doesn’t have grandchildren to care for.
Richard: True. Then there is Terry, he can’t stop working. He retired and then got so bored that he went straight back to work. They will take him out of there in a pine box for sure.
Caroline: You were never really the sporty type as I remember.
Elizabeth: You used to play a lot of golf when you worked.
Richard: That oiled the wheels of business, I wasn’t really any good.
Caroline: You can’t play every day, that’s what professionals do.
Richard: Too right.
Elizabeth: It might help to keep the weight off.
Richard: I’m trying with my diet.
Caroline: You look great Dad, don’t worry. Hey Dad you were always the life of the party: jokes, stories to tell, you love an audience.
Richard: I got that from my colleagues at work. Great bunch, but they aren’t in my life any more.
Elizabeth: Then make some friends.
Caroline: Exactly Mum.
Richard: How do I do that. Do you want me to hang around with senior citizens.
Elizabeth: That’s so negative Richard. Everyone has something to add, something to say that is interesting in its own way.
Caroline: Join a club. Make friends at your local coffee shop. Take up a course. Find something you love doing and meet other people that way. I hear tell of retired people – sorry to use that word Dad it’s so negative – who are so busy that their feet don’t even touch the ground.
Elizabeth: I like the sound of that.
Richard: So you want to get rid of me.
Elizabeth: Not at all. I want the old Richard back. The one who was busy all day and then came home with tales to tell and talk to share. That’s what I want.
Caroline: As I said before, that is how I remember you Dad.
Elizabeth: I think they call that a legacy.
Richard: Don’t worry Caroline there will be plenty of money left for you after we pop off this planet.
Caroline: Oh Dad that is so silly. That is not what Mum meant.
Elizabeth: Thanks Caroline; I meant how other people will remember you, not your money.
Richard: I don’t understand.
Elizabeth: You could do some charity work or mentor some people at your old workplace, I don’t know, go out and talk to people and find out for yourself. You never had a problem finding your own path at work.
Caroline: What Mum is trying to say is that there is a big world out there to explore. I can help you if you like.
Richard: No thanks darling, you have your own life to lead, I can look after myself.
Elizabeth: I’m glad to hear that.
Caroline: That’s it Dad, be your old positive self.
Elizabeth: Oh I forgot to ask you Richard, you haven’t talked about John. Didn’t he get some sort of an advisor to help him with his life after he sold his business? Certainly money was never the issue for him.
Richard; Oh yeah, he saw this retirement coach, I think is what he called himself. I was very skeptical at first but then John kind of transformed himself before my eyes. I could hardly believe it. He changed from this sad sack into a vibrant, interesting guy with so many friends and activities that I hardly get to see him anymore.
Caroline: I am catching up with his daughter Lucinda tonight, I’ll get the name of this coach.
Elizabeth: Please. And phone me tomorrow with his name, telephone number, website and email address. Alright Richard?
Richard: Sounds good to me. But there is one thing.
Caroline: What’s that Dad?
Elizabeth: I know what you want to say Richard and you know what, I don’t think retirement coaches charge a lot of money. You understand investments, think of it as amortizing the cost of your psychological well-being for the next few decades. Then all of a sudden it won’t seem like any money at all. That is certainly how I will view the matter.
Caroline: Mum’s right.
Richard: No she isn’t. That was not my question. It’s not the money, we can certainly afford that, and more. No, my question is this: just because a retirement coach was good for John, why should he be good for me?
Elizabeth: Oh Richard. As you know, life offers no certainties, but how good must it be to sit with someone for a number of sessions where the topic is you and only you; not politics, not overseas travel highlights, not finance, but you and your future.
Caroline: How good would that be. I almost want to be old enough to have a retirement coach myself.
Richard: So are you telling me that this retirement coach will listen to my life story, and then tell me what I need to do with my life.
Elizabeth: Yes and no. From what I understand he will certainly want to know about your work background and life more generally, but then his job consists in helping you to understand yourself better.
Caroline: Which, I think, means that he will assist you to come to your own conclusions about your life as a retired person; and what you want to achieve and how you want to occupy your time.
Richard: Come to think of it, that is what John told me about his experience. Those were pretty much his words.
Elizabeth: I know you trust John and you certainly can’t get a better endorsement than that.
Richard: Imagine someone listening carefully to my story, I like the sound of that. That doesn’t happen too often.
Caroline: Now, now Dad.
Richard: OK I will try it. Thanks Caroline.
Caroline: I am glad to help.
Elizabeth: I am glad to be helped.
Jon Glass Retirement Coach.
Jon runs a retirement coaching practice called 64 PLUS. Details can be found at www.64plus.com.auor by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.