According to Canadian retirement savings statistics, 90% of Canadians overlook the importance of setting post-retirement lifestyle goals. And less than half of those who have a plan are actually confident they’ll be able to achieve it. We’re living longer, and that positive shift in our health and longevity also means our retirement life stage could last more than 20 years. Aside from the obvious financial implications (over 60% of Canadians worry they will outlive their retirement savings) that’s a big chunk of our life spent out of the workplace. While many people would easily say they cannot wait for retirement, the reality can often look (and feel) a little different than expected. This is especially true for executive level leaders and business owners who have taken a great deal of their self-worth from their work (whether that’s consciously or subconsciously). Their work and business are so important that it's merged with their identity and sense of self. They know who they are in their role; but who are they after they leave? As much as a full schedule of golf, travel, and grandparenting (retirement plan favorites) sounds appealing, many business leaders need to find something more substantial to replace their “purpose”. Recently my focus has been on family business owners and leaders transitioning into retirement, and the importance of having a personal continuity plan. While we always account for time spent on leisure, hobbies, and family, I also work with leaders to identify ways they can find purpose, personal meaning, and meaningful connection. Before we can even address this, often there is work to do around getting ready for the shift into retirement and creating a transition plan for the business. For those that find purpose through their business, letting go of the reins and truly supporting the next generation who is stepping into their role, can be quite challenging. In family business this shift can feel even heavier. When leaders leave a business that was built from the ground up, it signals a time of great change, and can initiate a time of grieving whether consciously or not. It doesn’t matter if the exit is voluntary, business owners are saying goodbye to a substantive stage of their lives and entering one that is unknown and often unplanned for. There is the outward process of the physical changes to their environment, location, and daily routines combined with the inner transition and emotions that go along with it.
Personal continuity plans as part of the succession planning process for the business can be a welcomed addition, but they need to take a holistic view of the multiple areas of a person’s life for the leader to find fulfillment elsewhere. Although the leader is leaving the business it doesn’t mean they will not continue to work or participate in some way. They may sit on a board, give time to a nonprofit or begin a new project that has been a long-standing dream.
We are complex human beings with a hierarchy of needs that contribute to our happiness and fulfillment in life. When we leave full time work, we unwittingly leave behind a way of life that met those necessary needs. Taking the time and making the effort to face and plan for the future can determine a leader’s success in retirement and their ability to thrive.
We are on the cusp of the biggest transition of wealth and assets. While it makes sense to support and pay attention to the rising generation it’s clear that it’s in everyone’s best interest to ensure exiting leaders have the guidance and support necessary to make their next stage of life exciting and engaging.
Russel Baskin has been working with families and advisors in a variety of capacities for the past 15 years. She brings a human development background and a passion for family enterprise to her coaching, consulting, and education work. Before joining Trella, she was the National Director of Education and Programming for Family Enterprise Canada. Russel has persistently prioritized the development and implementation of insightful, comprehensive education opportunities to guide individuals, families, and their advisors to make better decisions, gain clarity and think strategically.
Learn more about Russel and the rest of the Trella team on our About page.