Retirement & Pensions

Your life as a corporate executive is the worst possible preparation for retirement

By January 24, 2020 No Comments

One of the biggest changes in later life is retirement. This phase sees something important vanish overnight – your professional career. That career has been your constant companion, providing you with purpose, structure, discipline, social interaction, competition, drive and a sense of achievement.

Although you might be pre-prepared to fill the financial ‘hole’ in your life, how will you plug the inevitable hole in your personal life?

Executives are a dedicated, professional bunch. They have given their heart and soul over to their business endeavours. They put in long hours, sacrificing personal and family time for their career, especially in the early years when are climbing the corporate ladder. For many corporate executives, work becomes life itself. Their career has often taken precedence over everything else, because life can get in the way of promotion which leaves them firmly rooted in the rat race so they can fund all those necessities and the outward trappings of professional success. For many executives, their sense of meaning or self-worth becomes linked with the corporation, and the success scorecard in the corporation becomes money, which is easy to measure.

This connection with money and self-worth reinforces the corporate career cycle of working harder to move up the ladder as fast and as far as possible – self-worth equals net worth. Financial interests are put before life interests and these sacrifices are justified in the mind of the executive, firstly because they get a real buzz from it and secondly by the lifestyle they are able to provide for their loved ones. The spoils of their labour are nice toys, great holidays and the latest gadgets – the ego rewards of consumerism. The corporation can quite easily absorb the corporate executive, sucking everything from them and purging anything other than work. Everything has to revolve around career to fit in with its timetable, neglecting everything else and disconnecting with other areas of life, including family, who can get more remote. The corporate executive can be an empty shell, bankrupt emotionally, and with little to offer when not working or talking shop.

This is brutal stuff, but I am sure it is something you will recognise and with which you will have empathy.

And then retirement looms. While you may have dreamed about your freedom for years, when it is suddenly just around the corner, the prospect of replacing something that has dominated your life feels a lot more real, and serious.

You no longer think about enjoying that month-long holiday of a lifetime, and instead your thoughts turn to what it will mean to give up your authority, status and professional identity. Understandably, these late-night thoughts are often scary and downright difficult to deal with.

Living the life as a dedicated employee with a few scraps of time for yourself over a sustained period is the worst possible preparation for a life in retirement.

This professional strength can become your personal weakness, particularly when faced with leaving behind what you have excelled at for years to move into a place that is alien to you – free time.

Preparing for retirement means taking time out from work and building a life outside of work before you retire. This is essential if our executive is going to successfully transition from work into retirement.

How executives can become retirement ready are further explored in my book – available on Amazon – https://amzn.to/38QmR9R – or if you prefer a pdf version contact Yvonne at our offices – 0121 313 1370.