8 Steps to a Successful Do-It-Yourself Retirement Planning Retreat

As a business woman, I try to take an annual retreat  to reflect on the past year, review my three-year vision, and plan the coming year. It was my brilliant Virtual Assistant Donna Gunter who first turned me on to the idea, after she learned of the concept from successful Business Coach Chris Barrow in the UK.

I've enjoyed my annual retreat tremendously. It's been incredibly useful in helping me continually expand the outer of edges of what I think is possible – in my business, and in my life.

It's worked so well, that I now encourage my clients to use an adapted version of the retreat to help plan their encore lives, formerly known as “retirement”.

Here's how you can do it:

1. Book 3 days on your calendar. Sure you're busy, but we're talking about planning the rest of your life, so carve out some quality time for your retreat. Ideally it'll be three consecutive days, and at a time of year when you can breathe a little easier. If you can't manage three days in a row, spread them out over the month, but make sure that they're three whole days. You'll need them.

2. Get away from life's distractions. A cabin in the woods or a cottage by the beach would be terrific. Not in the cards? Don't let that stop you. Find a nice library where you can hang out for the day.  Leave the cell phone at home, and if you're using a laptop, don't fire up the Internet.

3. Find a peaceful place to be. You'll want to be in a place where you can quiet yourself enough to hear your Internal Guidance System, or what I like to call your IGS. It's like the GPS in your car, only better, because it'll never let you down. Your IGS is your own wisdom, your deep inner knowing, and it's impossible to tune in to when there's a lot of commotion in your space.

4. Ask yourself the really hard questions. Start with what kind of a life do you really want? You'll want to answer this one as if money is not an issue. Then, ask yourself what's enough . . . what do you really need to be happy? And, finally who do you want to be in this next stage of life? Have you spent decades turning yourself inside out being what was expected of you in your work? Then you're ready to let the “real” you out, and live your most authentic life.

5. Be brutally honest about the good, the bad, and the ugly of your life. Writing down everything about your life that you really like is a great place to start. But, don't stop there. Write down everything you don't like about your life as it is right now in all arenas of your life including health, purpose/work, play, love, relationships, money, spirit, and any others you come up with. Then, flip each one of the sentences on your “don't like” list into the positive, and you'll start to clarify what you do want.

6. Write your ideal encore life vision. This is where you really get to have some fun. Let go of your dinky thinking and really use your imagination to create the best possible what's next in every arena of your life. Keep working it until everything in this vision puts a great big smile on your face.

7. Write your three-year vision. It doesn't matter if you're “retiring” tomorrow or 5 years from now. Armed with your encore life vision as your road map, write down what you would like to accomplish in the next 36 months towards your vision. Know that this is a living, breathing document that will continue to evolve and change at least once a year at your annual retreat.

8. Create a 90-Day Goals List. Finally, you'll want to design your action plan for the next three months. Take the seven (or more) life arenas you worked with in number five, and create three goals for each arena. Create a new 90-Day Goals list every quarter, and be sure to mark it on your calendar, so you'll continue to be fueled toward your encore life vision.

One of the advantages of this do-it-yourself retirement planning retreat, is it offers you a terrific opportunity to think big, get in touch with what's real for you, and start aligning your encore life with the real you. Enjoy!

Retirement Transition Plan: Three Brilliant Ways to Segue Into Retirement

suspension bridgeAre you looking forward to no alarm clocks, nowhere to be, nothing to do for some undefined period starting day one of your retirement?  Dreaming of no one to answer to?  Craving some serious down time before you figure out what's next for you?  Beware.  You need a segue plan.  And no, it's not endless days of open-ended nothingness.  It's a plan that takes you 180 degrees away from your career, doing something that really gets your juices going.  It will take you successfully from your last day of work through some pre-determined period of time, so you can avoid post-career depression and other assorted woes that happen to those who fail to plan an excellent segue. You may not know what's next for you, but you can make sure that you set yourself up for a painless transition.

Here are three terrific ways to segue from your career to retirement:

1.  Plan a year-long adventure.  When Don Kjelleren retired in 1993 after 37 years of service with DuPont, he instinctively knew that if he went to a dead stop from traveling non-stop around the world and managing over 1000 employees running international marketing for the company, it would be, well, deadly for him.  As a lifelong mountain climber, Don had already climbed many of the planet's most famous mountains.  He is also an adventurer, so he combined his love of travel with his passion for mountain climbing and his competitive nature and created a year-long goal to climb the highest mountain, run 10 miles and swim one mile in all 50 United States.

And, in case you think this was all a slam dunk for Don, you need to know that before this adventure he was terrified of the water.  Not only did he overcome his fear and reach his goal, but Don successfully decompressed from his high-powered career and was recharged and ready to create the life he's enjoying today.  He currently serves on the Governor of Delaware's Commission on Lifestyles and Fitness, is Vice Chairman of the National Senior Games Association (the Senior Olympics), Chairman of the Advisory Council for the New Castle RSVP, and belongs to a number of additional organizations associated with health and well-being.  Don loves focusing his time and energy on his mission — encouraging others to take responsibility for their health.

2.  Get a degree in a topic that fascinates you. When Jean Shula left her career as a successful therapist at 62, she, too, was ready for an adventure.  She's curious about the world, loves meeting people of all ages and exploring new cultures, and has had a lifelong love of learning.  She thought learning something new would be a kick, and while exploring what was out there stumbled upon the European Peace University, and a year long master?s program — one academic year spent at the University in Austria and then finish her thesis at home.

Jean found the program exciting, stimulating, and intellectually challenging, but her greatest joy was living in a dorm with people from every continent, many of whom were living side-by-side with their “enemies” (i.e. Israelis and Palestinians, Indians and Pakistanis.)  She found it a great place to lose one's fears and prejudices, and she came away from the year with an understanding that she'd already led a full, rich life, and had accumulated some wisdom to share. By the time she had completed her thesis, she knew that she would pursue her lifelong dream of writing. Today, the success of Jean's first book, The Coming of Aging: Learning to Live from the Inside Out, takes her around the country keynoting and leading workshops, and her second book will be published shortly.

3.  Shift down in your work, as you gear up for the next thing.  Claire LeSage  retired at  the end of 2008 and created (and is already living) her segue plan.  At the beginning of the year, she decided that she was going to take control of her life, and her future.  So, she began exploring – through coaching – what might be next for her.  Claire was pretty certain she wanted to start her own business, and it didn't take her long to hone in on the idea of Wittz End, a relocation concierge service specializing in helping seniors, their families, and estate executors prepare, organize and coordinate the entire moving process.  Her personal experience of moving friends and family over the years had led her ultimately into the moving industry where she's worked as an administrator for the past 17 years.

Halfway through the year, Claire's website was launched, logos, business cards and brochures were printed, and her home office was coming together. She began working 4 days a week at her job, and three days a week on her new business.  She began networking, joined BNI (Business Networking International), and was negotiating offering her services through the company she's working for.  Who knows?   One thing's for certain.  Using this last year of work as her segue is setting Claire up for a strong start to her new “retirement” life.

Remember — that dream life of nothingness could well be a nightmare.  Think about how you'll segue into retirement, and create a plan for yourself that's fun and challenging.

Retirement Transition Plan: Don’t Leave Work (for Retirement) Without These 3 Plans in Place

plan ahead scrabble tiles smallOkay, so you can't wait to get out of the day-to-day work grind. You're not alone. A lot of the US working population can't wait to retire. But before you pocket that gold watch and run gleefully from your work place into the great unknown, make sure you've created an infrastructure that will support you in thriving, not merely surviving, this next stage of life. If you're panning to start a business, or launch a new career, then no problem. Your goal for what's next automatically incorporates these three must-needs. If you're looking forward to no timetables and nothing definite planned, you could be headed for real trouble. You won't want to leave work without:

1. A Money Plan. Of course, everyone knows this one, so if you're set, great. Did you know, though, that one of the biggest regrets many women have is around money and retirement? They regret not starting sooner, saving more, and being better informed about finances. Yes, even women with high-powered careers, making buckets of money. Many of these women have hidden their heads in the sand around money and haven't planned for the future they deserve. It's not too late to start, so if you're not set financially, get creative and go for it.

Sarah, divorced in her 50s, had a successful business on the West coast and a very handsome settlement from her ex. She moved to the East coast, started a new business, and ten years later found herself with no retirement and in debt up to her you know what. Did she throw in the towel because it was too late to start? NO! She found a terrific financial adviser who helped her create a plan to first erase her debt, and then refocus her business by doing more of what she loves doing. Today in her mid-70s she owns her own apartment in Boston and has accumulated enough wealth to take care of herself for the rest of her life. P.S. She's having the time of her life.

2. A Time Management Plan. Yes, I know one of the lures of retirement is not having to have a schedule. Beware, though, for therein lies one of the biggest traps of retirement. Without a framework for your days, weeks, months and years, you can slip into a deadening non-routine. For example, Jessie retired from an executive director position with a national non-profit organization at the age of 63. She didn't have a plan, but couldn't wait to dive into the laundry list of projects she'd been wanting to do for years. She cleaned out her basement and garage, fixed everything that needed to be fixed, redecorated a number of rooms in her home, caught up on her reading, created an herb garden, and turned the boxes of photographs in her closet into scrapbooks,  all in the first 5 months. By the end of the next 5 months, she found herself taking a whole day to pick up the cleaning and buy a few groceries. Some days she didn't even get dressed. On one such day, she caught a glimpse of herself in the hall mirror and realized that this was NOT what she had dreamed of in retirement.

Five months seemed to be the major number for Jessie, because after five months of coaching she had identified her top values, uncovered a long-buried dream, and had begun crafting a life that fit her perfectly. While she had given up her dream of becoming an artist in high school, she was finally free to express herself creatively. Now, she spends five mornings a week painting, two afternoons as a docent at the local art museum, and is mounting her first art show. Oddly, Jessie finds that her schedule, rather than confining her, gives her a sense of freedom she didn't think possible.

3. A Purpose Plan. Admit it. Whether or not your love your career, it's given you a purpose. A reason to get out of bed each day; a place to be where people are counting on you; a focus for your skills, abilities, and energy. Listen up then. If you can find a purpose for this next stage of your life, one that ignites your passion and literally pulls you out of bed in the morning, you'll be golden.

Helen's purpose found her, and while in a million years she would never have guessed her retirement would look like this, she has a purpose that literally lights her up from the inside out. Sixty-eight and never married, she has taken in her late sister's 13-year-old granddaughter and is bringing everything she has to raising this young woman. Has it been easy? No. Would she trade it for anything? Absolutely not.

Work provides money in the form of income you can count on, time management in the form of a framework for your life, connection, engagement  and purpose in the form of getting you out of bed in the morning for something that brings meaning to your life. As you design what's next for you, make sure you provide each of these for yourself.

Retirement Transition Plan: Three Ways to Clear the Decks for Retirement

shipdeckresizedThere's so much to think about when planning for retirement — what you want to do, where you want to live, how to stay healthy, and how to cope with the changes that are bound to come your way.  It's easy to go into overwhelm.  You wouldn't think of building a beautiful, new house on a pile of rubble, so why hang on to the debris that will keep you from living the life you're meant to be living?

Sometimes, in your eagerness to move on to the next thing, you might not realize there's a pile of rubble in the way.  Before you begin to create your future, take some time to:

1.  Make peace with the past.  You may think the past is past, but most likely it's holding you back from what you really want.  Releasing the power the past has over you is crucial to achieving the kind of freedom you yearn for in this next stage of life.  Forgiveness is the key.  Before you run screaming from the room, hear me out.

I've found that when something feels very intense in the present–it's usually partly connected to what's happening in the present but part is connected to what it's triggering the past.  So, it's helpful to deal with your past if it's interfering with the present. Sometimes you're able to step back, change your “lens” and get a 30,000 foot view of the situation. If you're holding on to anger, for example, you may find that once you confront your feelings and the situation and let go of your anger you can move into the life you really want.

2.  Perfect the present.  In the coaching world, there's a saying, “the present is perfect, even when it's not.”  Like forgiveness, this isn't an easy concept to grasp, but once you do, life gets so much easier.

Doreen, for example, was working in sales for a major financial institution, and was consistently producing in the bottom half of her division.  She blamed the company, and was so vocal in her discontent, her boss would turn and run the other way when she saw Doreen coming.

With coaching, she realized if she left for another job, she'd still be the same person.  Staying put for awhile gave her the opportunity to work on shifting her perspective, explore what was next while still getting a hefty paycheck, and try on some new ways of being.  She made a game of changing her attitude, and within six months was #3 in sales.  Her boss even began to come to her for advice on ways the company could improve.

Doreen recently left the company to start an online business.  She's excited about the future, and knows her new attitude, and ability to see the opportunity in every situation will be invaluable in growing her business.

3.  Re-orient your life around your gifts.  I'll bet like many of us, you've spent a lot of years doing work that you're good at, but it doesn't fully use your gifts — those skills, abilities, passions that light you up from the inside out.

JoJo had a successful career in publishing, wanted to move on, but wanted to do it differently this time.  She wanted to figure out what she really wanted to be doing and pursue that, rather than pursuing a career just for the sake of making money.  With coaching, she began to explore her desire to paint.  She set up a small easel, canvas and paints in a corner of her office and committed to painting just 15 minutes every day.

JoJo was surprised to discover that while she loved painting, she also loved making money to be able to take care of herself, as well as entertaining friends and family in her home.  Before long, JoJo bought a lovely B&B in need of some TLC, painted every room a rich warm color, filled it with art (hers and others), and opened it to guests year round.  That was five years ago, and JoJo loves her new life.

By taking stock of where you've been, where you are right now, and who you are at your core, you'll ready yourself for the retirement you really want.

Retirement Transition: 4 Reasons to Get Unstuck NOW

WomanStuckinBoxresizedAs a coach, I'm always looking for the silver lining in every situation for my clients, and for myself. At the very least, I believe we can learn powerful lessons from everything that happens to us, and even the worst circumstances can open doors to wonderful opportunities.

So while the economy is in freefall, I'm excited about what possibilities may become realities. One of the most powerful things I already see happening with a lot of 50 to 60-something people  is an awakening to the reality that they're stuck in a life they no longer want to be living.

They want to retire the part (or parts) of their lives that no longer fit, but they don?t have a clue what's next. They know it's time to move on, but don't know where or how to start planning the next thirty or more years of their lives. Instead of feeling alive and excited about the future, they're feeling anxious and afraid. Overwhelm has turned to paralysis. They're double stuck — stuck in a life that no longer fits, and stuck again, because they've not yet gotten unstuck.

If this is you, beware, because being stuck is:

A waste of precious time. Let's face it. You're not getting any younger, and unless you're planning to live to well over 100, there are more years behind you than ahead of you. And since none of us knows exactly how much time we have left, why would you squander even a moment of it? This next life stage is your chance to get it right. What are you waiting for?

A poor excuse for living. In fact, not even half as good as “the dog ate my homework.” Sure there's a certain sense of comfort in being stuck. You're not risking anything. You're playing it safe. But it's really a false sense of comfort. It's just hiding out in your comfort zone. Spend too much time in your comfort zone, and it is lot like flatlining. You just plain stop living.

A lousy feeling. Are you bored, frustrated, disappointed, discontented, resentful, deadened, depressed, angry, anxious, fearful, unfulfilled, or any combination thereof? Not much fun, is it? These feelings end up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more negative feelings you experience, the more negative you feel, and the more stuck you stay.

Totally lacking in passion and purpose. This is the really big one, because it's passion and purpose that gives life its meaning. It's what makes life worth living, what makes it juicy and delicious. Without passion and purpose you're just going through the motions, and that's what?s keeping you stuck in place. When was the last time you felt truly excited about life? Isn't it time to do something about it?

Don't worry. Being stuck doesn't have to be terminal. The first step is acknowledging that you're stuck. Then, admit to yourself that you want to get unstuck. Then, begin taking even the tiniest step to break your log jam. It almost doesn't matter what it is, just anything that will get you moving again. It can be as simple as taking out the garbage, or calling a friend for support. Just do it. You've got nothing to lose, and everything to gain.