By Joe Casey
We’re living life differently these days. Many people are rethinking their definition of what retirement and good living will be in the future. We’re getting used to quarantine life in some ways. But thoughts of when things will return to some semblance of normal are never far away. We wonder what things be like in the months and years ahead. I wonder how we will be different.
Mellody Hobson, co-CEO and president of Ariel Investments, posed a challenge to her team: “Okay guys, are we coming back fat or fit?” A good challenge, indeed.
It is time to look forward. But we’re missing a lot these days.
When I talk with clients these days, this topic comes up early and often. People desperately miss hugs with their grandchildren. For others, they miss their adult children living in distant cities – or in nearby neighborhoods. One client longs for the hope that a new baseball season promises. The smell of the grass. The crack of the bat. The unmistakable thump that a 98 MPH fastball makes when it hits the catcher’s mitt. Listening to the sounds of the game on the radio while firing up the grill. And haircuts. Everyone is missing their barber or hairdresser. “I’d give anything for an awful haircut right now,” one laments.
Then most people share a realization. We’ve taken these simple joys of life for granted. And they don’t want to do that anymore.
It’s still unclear when the re-opening process will unfold, depending on where you live. But it’s time to think about moving forward. And the decisions you make today can make a big difference in how you’ll be living life down the line.
Many of my clients are rethinking their plans. Their vision of retirement and good living was clear and they were on track to achieve it. Now, some realize that they’ll need to work longer and delay their impending retirement. And some are worried that making that decision may not be up to them. They’re thinking through a Plan B in case they are forced to retire earlier than planned.
Others sense an opportunity. And they want to negotiate a new deal. They were never the ‘work-from-home’ types. They hate the lockdown, but they realize that their jobs can be done virtually. And less commuting and travel may reduce the toll on them and offer a glide path toward retirement.
And a few are considering moving up their retirement date. These are people who survived 9-11 and the 2008 financial crisis. They know what it takes to work through the aftermath. And they do not want to go through it again. They are done. But they want to do something else. They’re looking at what life can be for them after full-time work. And they’re ready to take time now to explore the possibilities.
While reconsidering their future, some of my clients are doing something else. They’re taking up new things. Many are doing that thing they always wanted to do, but they were too busy to do. Meditation. Yoga via Zoom. That home project you’ve been putting off for some time. The one for which all of your credible excuses are gone.
Others are testing the waters and taking online courses. A cooking class online with new meals outside their usual cuisine. A Yale University class on Happiness that’s open to the public on Coursera. And perhaps my personal favorite: a course on juggling. Several are tackling decluttering and are amazed at the results.
One client is working on building new healthy habits and untangling a bad habit.
They are all starting small – but moving forward. As one put it:
“We’ve all been dealt a bad hand. But I want to use this time as well as I can. I want to be a bit better when things do return. And I don’t want to take the most important things for granted ever again.”
We’ll all be different in the New Normal. It’s still uncertain when that will come and what it will look like, But we have a great degree of control about how we’ll show up. Choices we make now can help us be even better and be living life aligned with our true priorities and never taking the simple joys for granted again.
Joe Casey is a former senior HR leader at Merrill Lynch, who is in his second act as an executive coach and retirement coach. You can hear Joe on The Retirement Wisdom Podcast, where thought leaders and retirees share their wisdom on creating a fulfilling life in retirement from a non-financial perspective.