Coaches are everywhere these days. What used to be the province of the playing field or the ice arena, now is common to the board room, the gym, the hospital delivery room, the concert stage, and more recently, the retirement arena. I have been coaching recent and prospective retirees for the past eight years. It was a very small field when I started and it’s still relatively new to many, but more and more people–men and women–are discovering that retirement is a very difficult transition to make and are benefitting from someone who knows the pitfalls and sand traps along the way.
Most legitimate retirement coaches have received some specialized training in the psychology of retirement as well as the evolution of retirement over time. We have studied the retirement transition and received certification from organizations like Retirement Options. We understand the ingredients of success and why some people can make the leap effortlessly and why others struggle mightily and sometimes end up in deep depression…or worse. We can offer a great deal of guidance, some helpful assessments and (for many coaches) the benefit of their own experience. Because people in the U.S. are living much longer, retirement coaching is really transition coaching. In fact, today many people are trying desperately to retire the idea of retirement; they want to move on to their next chapter, often with a whole new identity.
With boomers retiring at the rate of 10,000 per day, the need for coaches is big and growing. However, there are still relatively few coaches certified in the retirement transition, so it can be a lonely field for practitioners. Enter the Retirement Coaches Association (RCA). Started by Robert Laura, a certified financial planner, in 2017, RCA today has over 140 members. Since 2017, RCA has held a yearly conference, organized by Laura, and the participation has more than doubled since that first gathering. I attended (and spoke at) the 2017 conference and returned again this year to speak and participate. It was a very interesting and productive conference. Since it is the only time in the year when many coaches can hear from and share experience with other coaches, the energy was high and overwhelmingly positive.
This year, the first speaker was Rich Eisenberg, managing editor and senior web editor for Next Avenue, the PBS-spawned e-zine for older adults. If you are not familiar with Next Avenue and you are over 50, check it out. They post the best news and information for and about older adults of any site on the internet today. Rich was a great choice for kicking off the learning sessions for the conference. His topic was “Retirement Trends, Opportunities, and Advocacy. It was just what we needed to focus our attention on ways we could level-up our knowledge of the retirement landscape today.
Rich talked about the four trends he sees in retirement today:
- Pensions are a relic of the past. Most people today must rely on their 401Ks, IRAs, or savings
- Working in retirement. People are working longer and taking part-time jobs to help them get by, financially. A few employers are offering “phased retirement”–a way to ramp down gradually–but most employers are not that enlightened. Many retirees participate in the gig economy to bolster their retirement income, doing consulting work in their previous field or entering a new area of work altogether, and more and more baby boomers are starting their own businesses.
- The question of where to live in retirement is bringing attention to the alternatives that exist and spawning some new ones. Many retirees need to face the challenge of downsizing, even if they choose to age in their homes of several decades. The biggest question for most people is whether to re-locate, either to a more hospitable climate or to be near kids and grandkids.
- For many in the baby boom generation, their debt burden is no lower than it was when they were middle-aged. They are paying off homes, college for their kids, and sometimes needing to support their aging parents.
The biggest tasks for today’s retirement coaches is helping people find meaning and purpose in their lives.
Rich also shared with us the opportunities he sees, for coaches and for retirees. Retirement coaches can help their clients find a new vision for their next chapter, either by switching fields or starting their own business. One very big opportunity–for both retirees and coaches–is becoming an advocate for better policies for retirement at all levels of government. Creating age-friendly cities, friendlier zoning regulations for housing and work, and more transportation options are three of the areas most needed.
The larger message in what Rich told us is that retirement today is truly a misnomer for most people. The generation of retirees today is looking for a new identity and Rich talked about the many ways he sees people achieving that goal.