What will you do when you retire?

Author: Russell Haworth
Published: 5th February 2019

Have you ever wondered what you will do when you retire?

In our work we are often faced with the issue that retirement and succession means there will be nothing for business owners to do with their time when they retire, and that they wouldn’t know what to do if they stopped working. This is very common, and it is linked to the issue of emotional independence.

You have probably heard the saying, ‘Retirement has killed more people than hard work ever did.’ Well, we see the reality of this every now and then.

We see people who have worked hard all of their lives. They get to retirement and, for some reason or another, just stop. Their bodies, which have become used to hard work, are barely used, so they start to shut down.

This used to be far more common, but people are living much longer now. If you retire at sixty-five you may have another thirty or more years of life left.

You can check when you are going to die here (don’t worry it is only a statistic!)

The world is far more accessible and the possibilities open to you are huge. Leaving your business allows you to grasp these opportunities. You can become even more of an inspiration to your family by fulfilling your dreams and enjoying the fruits of your labour.

This also provides an important message for younger family members when you show them the possibilities the world has to offer. This powerful life lesson will hopefully instil in them the aspiration to follow in your footsteps one day so that they too can enjoy a long and happy retirement away from the business.

You may wish to volunteer with a charity or become more involved in philanthropic work. This can provide an immense sense of satisfaction and replace the need for an ongoing, day to day role within the business.

Time is your most valuable resource…spend it well!

I am often faced with people who state that their most valuable asset is their money, but I would argue that money, in itself, is worthless.

Money is an enabler and it allows people to exchange money for other things. In general, you can swap money for three things:

  1. Stuff
  2. Peace of mind
  3. Memories

When you are absorbed in a business, and particularly in a family business, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that our time on earth is limited.

We get caught up in the here and now, and before we know it we’re on our deathbeds full of regrets.

‘I wish…’ are words we should never speak or hear. We have one opportunity to make the most of the time we have on earth, yet there are huge numbers of us who get to their eighties and think, ‘I wish…’

‘I wish I had taken more holidays with my spouse.’

‘I wish I had spent more time with my grandchildren.’

We have explored the top five regrets of the dying in detail here(it’s not as depressing as it sounds!) but they are;

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
  5. I wish I had let myself be happier

Understanding that time is our most valuable resource is essential when it comes to gaining focus and clarity and avoiding these regrets.

Imagine that you will retire at sixty-five. Your succession has been well planned and you are financially independent from your business.

You had a big retirement party on Friday night and it’s now Monday morning.

What will you do?

We hear a lot of people say they will travel, spend more time with the grandkids, play a bit more golf or focus on gardening.

Are you really going to travel every day for the rest of your life? I suspect not.

Will your grandkids want to see you every day? Possibly, but they also have their own lives to live.

Depending on how much you love golf and gardening, I would question how much of your time – your most valuable resource – you would use in pursuit of either.

This may sound negative, but it could also be inspiring!

Use your imagination

We are often restricted by our own limiting beliefs and thoughts. The reasons listed above are typical answers for a reason. It’s not necessarily true that people actually want to do those things, but more because they are appropriate answers to the question, ‘What will your retirement look like?’

If time is our most valuable resource, a large part of your succession planning should focus on understanding how you want to spend that time, avoiding the stereotypes of what we are told retirement should comprise.

Think about all the things you love doing, all the things you care about the most. If you had the financial resources, what would you choose to spend your time doing when you retire? What are your motivations, dreams and aspirations?

When was the last time you were selfish? When did you last sit down and think, ‘This is what I want to do?’

It doesn’t have to be grand, but we have worked with several business owners who are now using their time to tick off items on their ‘bucket lists’. You might want to go to the 24 hours of Le Mans or spend your winters away from the British weather.

Experiences and memories like these are far more valuable than the ‘stuff’ people could be spending their money on.

They are also inspirational for your family and friends, allowing you to demonstrate that you can live your life to the full having stepped away from the business.

We understand that it is difficult to go from CEO, managing director or boss to ‘retired’, but the word ‘retired’ shouldn’t define you; the way you spend your time when you retire should.

Thinking about how you want to spend your time when you retire can be really exciting if you let your imagination run wild.

Jot down these thoughts in a notebook as they crop up. You may be out one day and see someone doing something and think, ‘I wish I could do that.’ If so, write it down.

Make that part of your planning, because time is precious and regret is a poison that can eat you up when time has run out.

Seeing as we already know that we are going to die one day, let’s get some pre-emptive revenge by living well and dying with great memories rather than regrets.

Parallel planning

One concept that is becoming more widely used is that of parallel planning.

From a financial planning perspective, this involves having an overall business plan, while combining and incorporating individual financial plans for each member of the family. This approach can help to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

As individuals, we all have different aspirations. We may agree about what we want the business to achieve on a fundamental level, and values can be aligned. Yet what we need the business to do for us as individuals can be very different.

Dad may want to continue in the business into his seventies, Mum may want to stop working in the business in her sixties, while the next generation may be chomping at the bit while you are still in your fifties.

Having held the difficult conversations and agreed on a way forward, using professionals to promote healthy communication, you will have a clear idea of what everyone needs from the business, both emotionally and financially.

It’s important when putting a succession plan together to engage all stakeholders. This means being open and honest with each other about what each party wants from the business so a plan can be put together that takes all the relevant information into account.

Embedding this information into the family business and incorporating it in your overall plan can also help to define roles within the business.

Coherency in planning your own affairs along with those of the business should lead to better outcomes for everyone involved.

Plus you get the added advantage that your advisers will do a better job of advising you if everything is joined up.