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Have You Started Thinking About Retirement? | Women at Work | Podcast

AMY BERNSTEIN: Amy G, how do you
think you'll introduce yourself when you're no longer a writer
and contributing editor to HBR, and you're no longer a
co-host of this podcast, and all the other things you do? I know you'll
always be an author, but how else do you think
you'll describe yourself? AMY GALLO: Is it bad that that
question makes me want to cry? Because I don't have an answer. I mean, I don't know. And I know I'll have to do
a lot of work between now and that moment, whenever it
is, to actually figure out what is my identity
as a person, post all of these work identities. AMY BERNSTEIN: Yeah. AMY GALLO: How about you? How do you think about it? AMY BERNSTEIN: Well,
god, it kind of sends a chill through me.

And I'm a lot closer to
that moment than you are. And you know, I've
thought about what I would do I. I so love what I do now. The idea of not doing
it kind of scares me. AMY GALLO: Right. AMY BERNSTEIN: And
then I tantalize myself in quiet moments
with what I could do. You know, I could volunteer
at the animal shelter where we got one of my dogs. I could teach, as if somehow,
anyone could go teach. AMY GALLO: You could,
I'll take that course. AMY BERNSTEIN: All right,
well, you're very generous.

I could always continue to edit. But yeah, it feels like I've
got a lot of puzzle pieces but I'm not sure they're
all from the same puzzle. I don't know. AMY GALLO: That image
of the puzzle pieces and some hunches, right? Like, oh, I could do this, or I
could do this, but not a plan. That makes sense to me. I'm not even at the
puzzle piece yet.

I'm tightly gripping
to my current identity, and can't really
imagine it going away. AMY BERNSTEIN: Yeah, and
neither can I. And I probably, given my age, should start
imagining it going away. You're listening
to women at work from Harvard Business Review. I'm Amy Bernstein. AMY GALLO: I'm Amy Gallo. And clearly, we
haven't thought enough about what comes
after we stop working, or come to grips with how
we'll think of ourselves. Because retirement– even
semi-retirement– changes us. AMY BERNSTEIN: Maybe
you're in the same boat.

In your early 60s or late 40s,
either avoiding the subject or feeling uneasy about it. The experts say
we should actually be thinking about retirement
sooner than later, Amy G. So this episode is
really for women of any age. How can we prepare
ourselves to make this major life
change as smoothly and successfully as possible? Don't we all want to end up
active, engaged, and healthy, not bored, lost, and lonely? AMY GALLO: Yes, please. AMY BERNSTEIN: Yes.

Yes. So let's start by hearing
from two women who very recently retired to get a
sense of what the experience is like these days. AMY GALLO: Audrey Michaels had
been working in the aerospace industry at just one
company for nearly 44 years, and most recently, as a leader
in supply chain management, before she said
goodbye to all of that. Donna Hall's last job
before leaving the workforce was being the publisher of the
Atlanta Journal Constitution. Before that, she was in
different Vice President and executive roles
at Cox Media Group, where she worked in broadcast
for over three decades. I spoke to them about making
the decision and the transition. Audrey, Donna, thank
you both for joining me for this conversation today. SUBJECT 1: Thank
you for having me. SUBJECT 2: Yes,
thank you so much. AMY GALLO: Yeah. Well, I first want to understand
what led you to retire.

Audrey, maybe we
can start with you? SUBJECT 1: What
led me to retire. After 44 years in the
aerospace industry, I thought it was time. I actually knew, probably
five years before I actually retired. I started thinking about it
more, and more, and more. It started to become a
predominant thought in my head. So I knew I was
approaching the time. The actual date I
didn't really know, but I knew I would
know when it was time. And I knew that
because people who had retired before me that I
kept in touch with they said, you'll know. AMY GALLO: Was that
helpful advice? SUBJECT 1: It was very helpful. It was very helpful,
because it prompted me to really listen to myself. AMY GALLO: Yeah. And how about you, Donna? What led you to
make the decision? SUBJECT 2: Very
similar to Audrey. I've been in media for 37 years,
and with one company for 35.

And I'd been thinking
about it for a while, and I had been intending,
when my children got close to graduating
from high school and I had one boy
graduate a year and a half ago and another
boy nearing graduating. And had been talking
with my husband who was a stay at home
dad for 20 years, and my finance people,
the people that have managed my money. And I started talking to
about three years ago, am I prepared, and am I
ready, not just financially, but mentally, and emotionally? And looked at the organization
I was leading and whether or not they were ready, whether
or not the leadership team was ready, whether or not
the organization was ready.

And really felt like it was
time, in all of those respects. AMY GALLO: Yeah. Audrey, I see you nodding along. SUBJECT 1: I was going to just
comment on what Donna said. It's not just financially. You have to be psychologically
ready to do that, because it's a big step. It's going to be a big change. And fortunately, I watched
my father transition from his work life
to retirement, and we would talk a lot. So I felt I had
some good reference points from not
only ex coworkers, but my father as well. AMY GALLO: Yeah. It's interesting that you bring
up being ready financially. Of course, that's a huge
concern for most people. But then it's also
the mental shift. My mom worked for her
entire adult life. She retired five years ago. She said, for years,
I just can't do it. I can't do it–
meaning, financially. And then one time
she was like, OK, I'm going to retire in
five to seven years. And I was like, I thought
you couldn't do it? And she's like, I could,
I just didn't want to.

And she said, I just
had to get serious about the financial side once
I was ready, emotionally. SUBJECT 2: Yeah, so
the financial people that I work with they had me
begin filling out a clock– a weeks period of time
to see whether or not I was mentally ready. And how are you going to start
filling your time, Donna? When you stop working, what are
you going to do with your time? And the first time
I filled out a clock of what are you going to
do, how many hours are you going to sleep? How many hours are you
going to have leisure time? Are you going to read? Are you going to–
how much time are you going to find to eat
and prepare your food, like down to that
granular level. And the first time I
filled out the clock, I had like 30 hours in the
week left over and they said, hm, you're not ready,
because a bored Donna is a dangerous Donna. So let's start
thinking more about what are you going
to actually do. So I would just say
that financially, it's what we spend a lot of time
preparing for and thinking about.

But my goodness, if
that's the only thing we think about and
prepare for, we're really in a host of trouble. AMY GALLO: That exercise
is so interesting because I think we think of
retirement as stopping working. We don't think about what you'll
actually do with that time. So what a smart
exercise to go through. Audrey, did you do
anything like that? SUBJECT 1: No, I was going to
say, that was pretty granular. SUBJECT 2: It was very granular. SUBJECT 1: But I won't
say I was just frivolous.

Of course, I planned
and of course, I sought financial advice
and went to planners and went to seminars. I did the whole thing. But ultimately, you have
to make the decision. And then you just kind of
have to step out there. And prepping my mind
about it five years ahead, I knew certain things I was
going to get involved with. I knew that I was going
to be more involved with a lot of volunteer work,
because I just felt like it was my time to give back.

And thank god I have a really
busy church that I attend. And so I knew a good
chunk of my time was going to be devoted to that. But I also– I like to be active. And so I also knew
that a big part of it was going to be doing
some things that would make me feel good. Like, I play golf twice
a week with a group. And I've just picked up
pickleball twice a week. So that's four days a week with
a couple of hours of activity. And it's social, too. I've met new friends and
those kinds of things. So I knew it was going to
be a good mixture of that. And then, of course, spending
a lot of time with friends that I hadn't
talked to and family that you kind of push off.

I know Donna had a really
big and important job and took a lot of her time. And same with me, I
was traveling a lot and I just wasn't there,
even at family gatherings. I was on my stupid cell
phone or answering– oh, just give me a
minute, I got to answer this email or some
dumb thing like that, I think about it now.

But it was important
to me at the time. But I really wanted
to be present again, be present with people. AMY GALLO: Yeah. I want to come back to that
question of being present. But I first want to ask, because
you had been– both of you, sounds like, you planned
at different levels for what you would
do after you retired. How is that aligned
with the reality of what you're actually doing? How is it different? SUBJECT 1: Go ahead, Donna. SUBJECT 2: Well, so it actually
has aligned very, very well with what I'm actually doing. I'm involved in my church. I've joined a Bible study,
which it's the first time– oh, goodness, in
30 years that I've been able to do something
in the middle of the week. I've worked 60 hour
weeks for the better part of a very long time. I've had big jobs, I've
had jobs that have taken me around the country,
I've traveled, and I've just worked like a
dog for a really long time.

And so to think that
I could do something in the middle of the week,
just for me, is pretty unusual. So I'm doing that. I'm in the best shape that I
have been since I was a kid. I walk every morning for a
couple of miles with my dog. My dog is also in very
good shape right now. I'm getting a lot of
good physical activity, as is my puppy.

And I'm also taking a
class, which was my plan. I'm taking an executive
coaching class at one of our local
universities here in Atlanta, which has
been my long-term plan. And so all of that was
what I intended to do. And I'm spending a lot more time
with my boys and my husband. I love the words
that Audrey used. Being more present. Not looking at my phone during
dinner time with my kids and my husband,
who'd have thought I could do something like that. And so I love– I love the words that
she used, because I'm getting to do that as well. And it feels right,
like Audrey said, being present with the
people that I love. AMY GALLO: Yeah, gosh,
you're both making retirement seem really, really appealing. SUBJECT 2: Amy,
the water is warm. The water is so
warm, come on in. SUBJECT 1: I wish I could
have done it sooner, because I felt like I missed
so much, time has gone by fast, and missed important
things, I think, by, I'll repeat it again,
by not being present, really listening.

And I'm doing
everything, I believe, that I thought I would do. And I hope for some
surprises as well. I'm open to some new
experiences and some surprises. So yes, I think everything
is coming to fruition, just as I thought it would. AMY GALLO: Right. Yeah, I've heard
people say, I'm not ready to retire because
I haven't done X or I have one more
job in me, I know it. And it sounds like
both of you had felt like, no, I've done it. I've done what I needed
to do and there's not something else I'm really
itching to get done. SUBJECT 2: Yeah. No, I don't know that
I'm done working forever. I think I'm done working
full-time forever and I'm done running businesses. I don't wish to run
a business again. I don't want to
work 60 hours again. I don't want to
work 40 hours again. I would love to be
an executive coach and I'd love to work
20 hours a week.

I'd love to have a handful
of clients at a time. I would love to do
that, and that's been a long-term goal of mine. For the last several
years, I thought it would be my
post-retirement plan. I just don't want to
run a business anymore. And I really don't want that to
be one of my biggest priorities in my life anymore. And I think I've spent a lot
of years being distracted, no matter what I do, and being
a working mother, you know, you're guilty when
you're at work and you're guilty
when you're at home. And I don't want that anymore,
even though my boys are mostly grown. I don't want to be a
guilty wife anymore. I want to have much
more peace and balance. I want to have less distraction. And all of that said,
I will be really transparent in saying
that one of the challenges I'm facing today– and I'm entering
my sixth month– is I have a little bit of an
identity crisis right now.

You know, I've had big
jobs for a really long time and I'm struggling with what
is my value outside of my home. And so I think that
it is something I don't know that I was
well prepared for it. I think it's something
to think about, for sure. I think I was
prepared for a lot. I think I planned for more,
maybe, than the average bear. I don't think I prepared
for that well at all. And I would say,
yes, I absolutely am struggling with
an identity crisis. AMY GALLO: Yeah. What would have prepared
you, Donna, for that? What would have been some advice
that someone could have given you, you think, that
would have helped? SUBJECT 2: Well, I think at
least to think more about it.

So I do know myself pretty well. And I think if I had
at least just given some pause, given
some thought about, how are you going to feel? How are you going to process
that on a day to day basis? Is it really going
to matter to you? Yeah, darn straight, it's
going to matter to you. It's going to
matter to you a lot. And I just didn't even
think about it at all. And so would it make me
feel differently today? Probably not. But maybe I would
have been prepared for that little bit of–
it's maybe an empty feeling. And I don't know,
but I don't even know how to describe
myself right now. I could describe myself
by the jobs I had. That's how I always led. This is the job I have. And I loved it. And I had great pride. And I am wildly proud of the
young men that I've raised and the husband that I have.

But then what else? And right now I am struggling
with that a little bit. AMY GALLO: Audrey, are
you in a similar boat, in terms of the identity? Or how do you conceive
of your identity? I guess, let me actually ask
this in a very practical way. When you meet someone new, how
do you describe who you are? SUBJECT 1: I guess I don't. And I don't have the same
experience that Donna's having. Once I decided to let go of
it, I let go of all of it. And I said, here's an
opportunity to start anew, start afresh. But I will say that a lot
of my skills or the skills that I used, I'm using
in other places now. In some of the things
we're doing at our church.

I attend the board meetings. And we have a lot of
women, strong women at our congregation,
participating in the board meetings, and we're
working with the leadership. Because we have a
lot of women who were in pretty
significant positions. We're taking those
attributes and those skills and we're bringing
them, I feel, to an area where it's more meaningful. So I really didn't
have the same feelings, and I didn't think
about it much. I just said, hey,
you know, I'm just going to transfer all this
stuff over to something else.

And so if you know
how you want to live and what you want
to do– and that's why starting five
years ahead of time was so important,
because it was like, OK, do you have the right
stepping stones in place to be able to say, OK, I'm done. AMY GALLO: Yeah. And you mentioned
three years– you've been talking about it five
years, those time periods. Do you wish you had been
thinking about this sooner? Is there advice
you'd give people who are younger, earlier
in their careers, to help them get ready for this? SUBJECT 2: Well,
I would say, first of all, when I started with my
company, I was 20 years old. And when I joined
that company, my dad said, Donna, they
have a pension. And I said, what's that? And so he had to explain
to me what a pension was. And then he said they
also have a 401k. And so as soon as you can start
putting money in that 401k you need to start doing that.

And so I started saving
money for my retirement when I was 20 years old. SUBJECT 1: Wow,
that's impressive. SUBJECT 2: And so it
is never too early. Never, ever, ever. If you're just starting your
career and you're 22 years old or you're 30 years
old and you think, eh, I've got 30 years before
I'm going to call it a day. Now. And you start by a little bit
here and a little bit there. It's just steady. Steady is the name of the game. And build, and find an
expert that can help you. And while I started
thinking about it in earnest three years ago, I actually
started thinking about it 36 years ago. AMY GALLO: Yeah I was one of
those people who the first 15 years of my career, when
I was given the paperwork to opt into the retirement
account 401k or 403b, I never said yes, because I
was like, no, I need that cash.

I can't actually pay my rent– I can't do. And I felt a lot of guilt when
I got to be in my late 30s and thought, oh, gosh, I
haven't put a cent away. So as much as I agree
it's never too early, I also think it's
never too late. So if you're
sitting there going, oh no, I already messed it up. It's like no, no. Just start now. Just start now. SUBJECT 2: That's right. I'm so glad you said that. That's exactly right. So if you are 40 years old and
you haven't put a dime in, go. You must begin. It's not too late.

You have to begin. And so no matter your age,
start thinking about it and start getting help. And don't despair. Don't despair. Just go get some help. AMY GALLO: Yeah. Audrey, what was your experience
with the financial piece? SUBJECT 1: Well, I
wasn't as good as Donna, I'll tell you that. But one thing, I know my dad
and my mom would say early– and I didn't do
this until later, but they said, pay yourself.

When you're paying your
bills, pay yourself. And I was like, what do
you mean, pay myself? Pay yourself. If you can't get around
the idea of saving, then look at it as your bill,
and you need to pay yourself. AMY GALLO: One of
the other hurdles I had to get over– because
you both have mentioned financial advisors– was
I remember in my late 30s thinking, if I'm
going to start saving, I need someone to
help me do this, I don't know how to do it. And I was embarrassed to reach
out to a financial advisor, because I had more debt
than I had savings. And I thought, who would
want to work with me? Like, I don't have any
money, how would they– But one of the things that
was really helpful when I did find someone who I
felt comfortable working with is, he told me, no,
no, it's about future.

This isn't about what
you have right now. He's like, we're
working on your future. So I'm not judging you
based on what you've done. I'm judging you based on
what the decisions you make going forward, and I'm trying to
help you make those decisions. SUBJECT 2: That's exactly right. AMY GALLO: Aside from the
financial investing right now, any other advice you
would give people who are 10, 20, 30 years
out from retirement, so that they're ready to
make the transition you all have just made? SUBJECT 2: Yeah. You said something at the very
beginning about many times we think of retirement
as the end of something. And I would encourage
everyone, no matter where you are in your career,
whether at the beginning, the middle, the end, to really
think towards retirement as the beginning of something
and to plan for that.

The beginning of a new
phase of your life. Don't just take for
granted that it's all going to work out exactly
the way the back of your mind thinks it will, to really
have a plan, whether you're a planner by nature or not. It can be the beginning
of something fantastic. And while I admit to having a
smidgen of an identity crisis, that's one small part of what
I'm experiencing right now. It's the beginning
of what I hope to be a really fantastic part
of maybe 35, 40 more years. I'm young, I'm in my
mid-fifties, right? And so yes, it's the end of
what has been an amazing career, but it's the beginning
of something fantastic, a new phase of my marriage, a
new phase of maybe a new part of a career in
executive coaching, a new phase of my
parenting of my boys, and I have
grandchildren in Ohio. And so much newness, but
only if you plan for it.

And it can be so
much more wonderful if you give some thought
and intentionality about it. And so you want to
plan for it now. You want to think
about it and jot down what would bring you joy and
bring you a lot of happiness in new phases of your life. SUBJECT 1: Exactly, exactly. AMY GALLO: Yeah, well,
it's not just a new– I'm hearing– what I'm hearing
or what I'm taking away, I should say, is that it's not
the end, it's something new. But it's also a return. It sounds like for both of you,
a return to what you really value and care about in life.

SUBJECT 2: Yeah, absolutely. SUBJECT 1: Absolutely, I agree. AMY GALLO: Yeah, and that
just makes me so hopeful. So thank you both, so much. SUBJECT 1: Oh, yes,
thank you so much. This has been both a joy
and cathartic, as well. SUBJECT 2: Oh, absolutely. Audrey, it was good to meet you. SUBJECT 1: Good to
meet you too, Donna. SUBJECT 2: Amy, thank you. AMY GALLO: It was great to
hear two firsthand perspectives of what this process
is like, especially just a few months out. AMY BERNSTEIN: Yeah, it was
so good to hear their stories. AMY GALLO: And, of course,
we had more questions.

So when we were thinking about
who else might help us better understand how women
are retiring these days and how we can prepare to make
that transition ourselves, Ann Bundy came to mind. I know her because
for over a decade, she was part of the same
executive coaching network as I currently am. She spent much of
her career advising individual leaders
on their careers, and also teams of people
on how to best manage big, complex
projects and changes. A few years ago, she applied
that knowledge and those skills to writing a practical
guide to retirement. It's called Encore,
Living Your Life's Legacy.

The book covers everything about
preparing for life after work. And then a few months
ago, she retired herself. Ann, thank you so much
for joining me today. ANN BUNDY: Oh, it's
my pleasure, really. AMY GALLO: So you have
both personal experience and professional experience,
then, with retirement. I'd love to just pick up on
our conversation with Audrey and Donna. Audrey talked about how she
intuited it was time to retire, she just felt it and she
knew it would be time. And Donna talked about how
really financial planning and working with her financial
planners drove the decision. How else, in your experience,
do women make this decision? ANN BUNDY: I think that
listening to yourself is really number one,
because everybody wants to offer advice. And I think that have to
really be honest with yourself, because I think there's a lot
of myths about retirement. And even though I'd
done a lot of research, talk to tons of people, it's
kind of like childbirth.

You don't know what it's
like until you personally go through it. Sometimes there's
external triggers that are making it happen. But oftentimes it's, how do
we, inside ourselves feel, and what is it that we want
from this next phase of life. AMY GALLO: Yeah. So when you work with
women who are on the cusp or trying to make
the decision, what do they tell you
that feeling is? Like what's the voice
or thoughts they have that it's really time? ANN BUNDY: I think
part of it has to do with the post COVID
workplace and feeling like they're not really
getting their groove on and maybe they're feeling
a little bit obsolete.

Maybe they've read an
article by Arthur Brooks, who writes a lot about
professional diminishment. And when I read
his work at first I thought, oh, that's so scary,
but it really is kind of true. Others, they find their
attention wandering and they can't kind of keep up. And ironically, they
don't want to keep up. And so that's kind of
a surprise to them. And they kind of keep it
quiet because it's almost like a shameful, private thing. And what I do know,
universally, is that people want to
control the discussion and the actual announcement
of it very much themselves. AMY GALLO: Yeah. What is professional
diminishment? I'm not familiar with that. ANN BUNDY: Well, Arthur Brooks
has done a lot of research. And he said that if you look
at our natural lifespan, that around 55, 60,
our performance starts to go down even if we
think it's not going down.

And that's a tough nut to
swallow for those of us who have been very much identified
with our work, our career, and serving others
in our career. But if you think
about it, you start to really watch yourself
and observe yourself without judgment, I think we
can see little glimmers of that. And I was starting
to see it in myself. And I thought, I do not
want to go out on a mistake or have a lapse. But I've seen it happen. AMY GALLO: You have,
yeah, It must be heartbreaking for those people. ANN BUNDY: Exactly. So how do you architect your
own decision making process, and how do you get
the support you need so that when you do
retire, you feel like it's a really positive experience? But let's be clear,
it is a death.

It's a death of the
way you used to be in the world and your identity. And it takes a while
to kind of reconcile this new version of yourself. AMY GALLO: Yeah,
one of the things that Donna and Audrey
really articulated, that I found helpful as
someone who's a few decades– we'll see– but a few
decades out from retirement, is that it did also feel
like either a reconnection or a rebirth. And I think that's one of the
things you say, it's a death.

And I think, oh,
gosh, that's terrible. I don't want to go there. But that's not the
whole story, right? ANN BUNDY: Absolutely not. I think what's so hard for
people talking about retirement it is associated with death,
because it's the last stop, if you will, in our
productive life before we leave this planet. And because our culture is
afraid to talk about death, we're often afraid to
talk about retirement. And so there's a lot of
mystery and shame associated with even discussing it. And during COVID, I did a
lot of observing nature, my own and mother
nature, and things have to die for new
things to come up. And I think the people
that are most successful in their retirement,
like what Audrey said, is those who plant seeds
to their next future self. So when that old
self dies off, you're saying hello to someone that
you've already been kind of cultivating and enjoying. AMY GALLO: Has that
been your experience? ANN BUNDY: Absolutely. AMY GALLO: What
seeds did you plant? ANN BUNDY: Well, I knew that
I wanted to have the latter– last part of my life be
dedicated to the arts.

I'd already spent so much of
my life dedicated to business. And I took a docent
training class so I learned how to be a
docent up in National Park where we live. And I teach kids how
to be at the farm camp, and that's really joyful. I took a fiction
writing class and I've been writing short stories
and taking workshops. I play water polo and I
have done that for 20 years. So that was my way
to offset the stress. So I'm still doing that. So I felt like I
already had a community, I had some intellectual pursuits
and I had taken some classes. AMY GALLO: Yeah. So let's talk about
the identity crisis, because Donna's very clear. And you can even hear
the emotion in her voice when she's talking
about how she's sort of feels lost in her identity.

And Audrey is sort of
like, no, I'm fine. So I'm curious, are
there any indications for how easy or
hard the transition will be, emotionally? ANN BUNDY: Yes, and I
think the clues to look at is how do you identify yourself? So when Donna walks into a room
and she hasn't met anybody, I'm guessing that
previously she would say I'm an EVP for XYZ company. And I think if she's trying
to bridge from her past self to her future self, she might
say something like, well, I'm taking my skills and
competencies as an EVP in media and merging that with
academic research that I'm learning in
my coaching program so I can be an executive coach
in service to other women. So that's bridging her world. AMY GALLO: Beautifully said. Is that something you recommend
people begin to think about before they even decide what the
next evolution is going to be? ANN BUNDY: Yes, because it
is a huge, huge transition. And I thought I
was being so smart. I had my glide path all worked
out, and it all was different.

And I had so much more
emotion than I ever thought I would possible. AMY GALLO: Yeah. And that's actually– I
don't know if reassuring is the right word, but
that's comforting, I guess, to think, even with
all the right planning, it's still going
to be unexpected, it's still going
to bring up things you don't realize it will. My mom retired a few years
ago, and I remember the summer after she retired, she was
hanging out with a friend. And he just looked her in the
eyes and said, you're unmoored. And she said– she
just started crying and was like, yes,
that's what it is. And she had prepared
a lot, financially. I do think her identity was
very wrapped up in her work. And I think that, to
me, is an indication, that it might be hard.

Although, I got the sense
that Audrey loved her work, identified as an
aerospace engineer, but she seems OK on that front. ANN BUNDY: She does. So her seeds that she had
planted with her church. So she already had
a board position, she already was very
active in that community, and they knew her outside of
her professional capacity. I think if all your contacts–
and I was guilty of this. A lot of my energy went
into work, my family, and I didn't have that much time
for friends and other pursuits.

And so it's kind of a
shock to the system. I look back on my
calendar, it was so packed. And I would spend
my days thinking, how am I going to
get this all done, you know, I'll get up at 5:00
in the morning, I'll do this, I'll do this, and this. And now it's the opposite. You have to create
all this structure for how you're going to spend
your time, and it is daunting. AMY GALLO: Yeah. So I want to get
some practical advice for those listeners
who are starting to make this transition
or think about it. And for example, if you're
planning to retire, say, in five years or three
years, but you're not ready to tell
anyone, you're still making those plans in your
head, just figuring it out for yourself, how transparent
do you recommend we be with our boss
or others at work, especially if they ask us about
our future at the company? Where will you be in five
years kind of questions? ANN BUNDY: Well, I think
you have to really look at what is the organizational
culture, what is your role, and what are the expectations
around communication.

Because I'll put it this way–
once the cat's out of the bag, you can never put it back in. And so I think it's really
incumbent upon the person that's thinking about this
to maybe make a one page, almost like business plan
of how they would actually make that transition. Because what I hear over
and over from all the women I work with is they
don't want to leave their organization bereft,
and that's very laudable, but also, you don't want to
put yourself in a situation where you're squeezed
out a little bit early or you lose your opportunity
to actually leave when you want to leave.

So I think it's a little
bit of a delicate dance. And I think you have to really
pay attention to the nuances. AMY GALLO: Yeah. And I guess it
doesn't even matter if you're going to make the
announcement next month, because I hear what
you're saying, which is that at some point, you start
to lose control of the train, right? And it either moves faster
or slower than you want, and you really need to maintain
your control of the narrative and of the process
by which you leave.

ANN BUNDY: In an effort
to serve others and serve our organizations, we overdue. And so I think the tendency
to overdo and over worry about the organization, I
think you need to turn it back to yourself and
say, let me really be very clear– what is it
that I want, why do I want it, and how am I going to get it. And I think asking those three
questions are really important. And I really, strongly
suggest that people that are at the start of
this journey get a journal and actually start to write
their thoughts and ideas. And one of the things I always
did throughout my career, which helped me a
lot in retirement, is I would do vision
boards for myself. And it's kind of like
hearkens back to high school when we make collages
with magazines– those of us of a certain age,
drawing or the stick figures.

Where do you envision your
life five years from now? Where are you living? What are you doing? And it's a right brain
activity, and for so many of us who are left brain, it's
a really good exercise, and things pop out that
you don't even realize. AMY GALLO: Yeah, I
shared an office once with someone who
used vision boards. And it was actually really
fun to see where she was and what she was
thinking for her future. I'm much more of a
spreadsheet kind of person. But those three
questions you point out, that can be the beginning
of a journal prompt. That can be the headers
on my spreadsheet. There's so many ways to
engage with those questions, no matter what type
of tool you use. ANN BUNDY: Exactly. AMY GALLO: So let's repeat
the question for people.

It's what do you want– ANN BUNDY: Why do you want
it, which is a harder question to answer, and then how are
you going to make that happen. So this goes back to the
question you were asking, how would you let
the organization know and what do you say or
what do you not say? So that you've really,
really clear and honest with yourself, because there's
a lot of myths around retirement and what's going to happen,
what's not going to happen. AMY GALLO: Yeah. You mentioned myths earlier and
I want to just pick up on that. What are some of the most
pernicious ones that you hear? ANN BUNDY: That if
you have enough money, everything's going to be fine. And that's the
most dangerous one, because if you do not have
purpose in your retirement, even if your purpose is
self-care, that's a purpose.

And I actually wrote
my down, because I would feel moorless
to like your mother, like, how do I judge a good day? What have I learned? And so I wrote down my purpose
statement and I look at it when I'm feeling
a little unmoored and it says, yeah,
no, this is what I'm meant to be doing right now. AMY GALLO: Yep, yep. We had a lot of our
listeners write in about their experiences or
questions about retirement and I wanted to just share
some of what we heard and get your reactions.

So one woman who's
60 and is planning on retiring in eight years. She emailed us asking
us for examples of how women spend that stretch
of time that she's in now. So when you know
it's on the horizon. And she's entertaining the
idea of going part-time at some point, just because
it seems daunting to abruptly stop, she told us. Any advice for her? ANN BUNDY: Yeah. So I think that taking a page
from the millennials and job crafting, how could she
look at her current set of responsibilities and
maybe make an is/is not list. On the is list, this
is what I love doing and I want to continue doing. On the is not, this is
what I don't want to do. And is there a way for me
to take my current role and make, again, a plan for how
to telescope that down to my is list and package it so that
it's part succession planning and part an opportunity for me
to actually have my glide path to semi-retirement.

AMY GALLO: Yeah, I love that. And that's– I don't know
if luxury is the right word? But maybe one of the
privileges or advantages of being toward
the end, is really having that clarity of like,
this is what I like to do. And hopefully, having permission
from those around you, because you've given
so much in your career, to actually do
that job crafting, being able to get rid
of some of the is not's.

ANN BUNDY: And this
goes back to what's. What do I want to do,
why do I want to do it, and how am I going to do it? And I think what the
why part, you also have to add what's the value
creation for the organization, because you can't just make
it all about you, obviously. It has to work for the
organization as well. AMY GALLO: Yeah, right. The is list can't be things
that no one else cares about. That's right. OK. So let me tell you what
another listener wrote to us. I'm going to read her quote. I'm nearing the end of a 35
year career in human resources, and planning how and
when to make the leap to post work life. How do we, as women,
define ourselves, if not through our work achievements? Our employers open to
phased retirement schedules, how does the fractional
or part-time executive fit into the succession plans? ANN BUNDY: For some of
us who have lost touch with who we are
outside of work, I would invite you to think
about your 10-year-old self.

What is it that you
loved to do when you were younger and unencumbered? And then back to selling
it, to the organization, I think organizations are way
more flexible than we give them credit for. And I think a
part-time executive, as long as it's creating value
for the organization, that can be very, very
helpful, especially if it's paired with succession
planning and/or mentoring. One of the things that I've
learned about millennials and younger people coming to
the work world is they really, really, really want mentors. And so there's a way to be able
to make your pitch and say, I may cut back on
my executive duties, but here's what I'm going to do,
and be very concrete about how many people you would
take on and what the value creation would be for
them and for the organization. And that can help
ease the transition. AMY GALLO: Yeah. Well, and what I hear you
saying in that answer, Ann, is that just
because you haven't seen someone do it doesn't
mean you can't, right? You really have to
craft the request, back it up with what the
value is to the organization and then negotiate.

ANN BUNDY: Exactly. AMY GALLO: All right. So one more listener question. And I'm going to
read this quote. I already have a
fairly balanced life. I travel, lead a
healthy lifestyle, enjoy time with
family and friends. And I genuinely enjoy building
a values based business. I don't look at retirement
the same way my parents do– as freedom– and a time to be able
to do all the things you couldn't while you were working
and looking after a family.

So I wonder whether I even
want a traditional retirement at the age of 65? This gets to the question
of, is this the end? I did get the sense, I have
to say, from Audrey and Donna, there was this sense of
freedom, even if that's not what they were planning. Any thoughts about that
idea of freedom and then also what a nontraditional
retirement might look like for this person? ANN BUNDY: Yeah, well, it
feels like she's actually done a really good job of doing
a values based life planning. Good for her. And I think that, just
keeping her finger on the pulse of how she's
feeling as she goes through because, 65 is different
than 67 is different than 70. So what works for a
65-year-old may not work 18 months, two years from now. And just, again, to be very
honest with herself about that. And also, I think what is
the definition of freedom.

For some people, that means
having a totally empty calendar on a given day. If that were me,
that would panic me. So I think, she's got
to, again, figure out as an architect
of her life, now, are there things that she
wants to add or subtract, and if so, why? AMY GALLO: Yeah. Listening to this
listeners situation, it sounds like she's
exercising, she's spending time with family. She's doing all these things
we know that are great for us. And I get the sense– I'm totally reading
between the lines– but that she's
afraid of upsetting that balance by removing work. That's something
I can relate to, is that it's a very full
life but it feels complete. And so when you subtract work
from that, how do you make sure the pieces still fit together.

ANN BUNDY: Right. And I think what I'm
hearing between the lines is intellectual challenge, and I
worry about that for myself, because I love solving problems. I love thinking about
new ideas and things. And that's why I had to
have writing as a way to exercise my
intellectual growth. And I think without something
like that is really meaningful, yes, you can do Wordle and
you can do crossword puzzles and that's all great and good. But I think either creating
something or participating in something larger
than yourself where you actually have
to use some of the skills that you've developed
so carefully and so lovingly all these
years really is important.

And I think that's
what's important to her. And I think that a lot of us
who were working full time plus being moms, we were like– it's like disembodied heads. And I think our spirits
and our bodies took a hit. And I know a lot of
women that I worked with have exhausted
adrenal glands, and they don't
realize how exhausted they are until they
actually stop working and like almost have to go
through a detox process. AMY GALLO: Interesting. Yeah, well, and Audrey
talked about that too, of just that being present. She was talking
about being present with the people in her life. But I also think being present
in your body, in a way, you probably haven't been. I do feel like my life
feels a little bit like a disembodied, sometimes,
of just barely hanging on and just getting
through the day.

And ultimately, these are all
things I want to be doing. But it's a lot. ANN BUNDY: It's a lot. And so one of the things is to
kind of do a self-assessment. How am I doing with
joy in my life? How am I doing with
connection in my life? How am I doing with
my spirituality? And looking at that and
being able to say, where do I need to put some love
and attention now that I've got more time.

AMY GALLO: Yeah. Ann, this is great. Thank you so much for
sharing your advice. This has been really practical
and I imagine very helpful for lots of listeners. ANN BUNDY: Well, I hope so. I mean, it's been a real joy. And I admire women who've
been in the workforce. And there's a lot
that we overcome. And I think retirement
can be a great gift, but it takes some
planning, and I think we have to
be able to receive the gift in the right spirit
in which it's intended for us. AMY GALLO: So Amy
B, had you heard of this concept of
professional diminishment before Ann mentioned
it in this interview? AMY BERNSTEIN: No, I
never heard the phrase, but the idea is one
I'm familiar with.

My mom, she was in the
advertising industry. And she finally retired. Her career really just– it kept going strong
well into her 70s. But she finally retired
around the age of 76. And I asked her, why? Why now? And she said because I feel like
I'm the oldest fig on the tree. And when I asked her what
that meant, she said, people are talking
about popular culture and I have no idea who
they're talking about. So it's time for
me to back away. AMY GALLO: Yeah I think there's
sort of two elements to that, because when Arthur Brooks
talks about professional diminishment, I think it's
also the mental capacity to do your job, the
cognitive ability.

And that, I do remember my
mom at retirement saying, I want to go out strong,
I don't want to go out– and I think Ann says, like,
having made a mistake. But then there's
also what you're alluding to with your mom which
is feeling not in the loop, or feeling– AMY BERNSTEIN: Yeah,
like not up to date. And that was heartbreaking
when she said it. But I get it. AMY GALLO: But I also
think we need to watch out for ageism in that. AMY BERNSTEIN: Absolutely. AMY GALLO: Because
I think there's the perception that older
people aren't in the loop or as capable as they once were.

AMY BERNSTEIN: Right. And I do think that there's
the part about staying up to date, which does help there. I mean, when you
lose the threads, when you don't get
the context, that's something you actually
can control, no matter what your age. AMY GALLO: Yes. So how do you think about
professional diminishment over the next 10,
15, 20 years for you? AMY BERNSTEIN:
Well, I still feel sharp and able to do my work. And even saying
that out loud just made me feel like
about 1,000 years old. AMY GALLO: But it's true. I know you're not going
to take that complement, but it's absolutely true. AMY BERNSTEIN: Oh, shucks. Thanks. But I think about
it differently. I don't think about it in terms
of professional diminishment. I think about it in
terms of my next chapter. I don't want to go out unable
to enjoy the rest of my life. I want to be able to do whatever
it is, whatever those puzzle pieces, however
they come together, I want to be able to
throw myself into it and do it with vigor
and with focus.

And so I really don't even
want to get to the point where I ask myself, am
I still good at this? AMY GALLO: Right, right. Yeah. I mean, I think
Donna and Audrey did a great job of
making sure they had the energy for this
post-work life. And that, for me, is
really inspirational, because I think I had very
much been conceiving of– not even consciously–
but very much conceiving of retirement
as like, the end. Like as Ann says, the
next step toward death. And I don't think that's helpful
to me because I think it'll A, make me work longer than I
need to and B, like you say, I won't gather
those puzzle pieces so that I have a complete
puzzle, or at least a sense of what that complete puzzle
will look like when I'm ready.

And I really need to start– I'm taking a tip from
Ann and really start thinking about what do I
want, what would I include in this post-retirement life? Not in like, oh, I'm going
to put that off until then. But as a goal of, this will be
an enjoyable, fulfilling thing to do when I'm no longer
working the way I am. AMY BERNSTEIN: Right. So it's not a question
of filling time, it's more about
what brings you joy. AMY GALLO: Exactly. And I don't have any answers
to that question yet. But Ann and Audrey and
Donna have inspired me to at least ask them.

AMY BERNSTEIN: You know, when
my mom did finally retire, and this would have
been 15 years ago, so I would have been
around your age, I think. It did get me thinking about
how I would face that turning point in my life. What I wanted to do was
not run into the same kind of challenges she
ran into, the what am I going to do
now kind of question that she was asking herself. And I wanted to look
forward, not back, because I didn't feel like she
had given herself the chance to do that. And so it does help
me when I'm going through the course of my days,
look at roles as options. So I mentioned working
at the rescue where we got our younger dog.

I went there looking to pick
up the guy who became Wally five years ago. But I have to admit,
I looked around, I saw what people were
doing, and I thought, oh, I could do this
and this would give me enormous gratification. And so I wasn't kidding before
when I said what I said. I do think about that a lot. And it has helped me, and
that was my mom's work. AMY GALLO: Well,
and I like that. You're sort of window shopping. AMY BERNSTEIN: Exactly. AMY GALLO: Yeah. I like that. And actually, it's
funny you say that. I saw this movie
this past weekend about election workers,
which was fascinating. Now that you mention it,
I did have a thought, oh, that would be fun
to do in my retirement. Work at the polls every year. And there's so much that happens
with elections year round. I was like, OK, that's something
I could get involved with. AMY BERNSTEIN: In
fact, I started doing it during the pandemic. AMY GALLO: That's right. AMY BERNSTEIN: So many
retirees couldn't do it.

And I wouldn't stop doing it. It's really, really important. And I'm glad I did it. And I encourage you to do it. But it's exactly what
I'm talking about. It gives you joy. It's also– one
of the nice things about this is that it's not 40
hours a week, 52 weeks a year. AMY GALLO: Yes, I like this. OK. So I'm picturing– we're
focusing on you, because I still can't fathom retirement. But I'm picturing Amy B,
the volunteer at the animal shelter, the teacher,
and the poll worker. That's a pretty good life. AMY BERNSTEIN: Yeah,
that's not a bad life. And watching TV, reading
books, eating dinner. That actually doesn't
sound so bad– AMY GALLO: Doing
your 4:00 AM yoga? AMY BERNSTEIN: Doing–
well, maybe we'll switch to the 9 AM class.

AMY GALLO: There you go. There you go. That's the joy of
retirement, the 9 AM class. AMY BERNSTEIN: That's our show. I'm Amy Bernstein. AMY GALLO: I'm Amy Gallo. If you're looking to hear more
about how retirement changes your identity, we recommend
you listen to the HBR idea cast interview with Teresa Amabile–
that's episode number 665. Idea Cast is one
of several podcasts that HBR has to help you
manage yourself, your team, and your organization. Find them at
or search each HBR and Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or
wherever you listen. AMY BERNSTEIN: Women at Work's
editorial and production team as Amanda Kersey,
Maureen Hoch, Tina Tobey Mack, Rob Eckhart,
Erika Truxler, Ian Fox, and Hannah Bates. Robin Moore composed
our theme music. Thanks for listening,
and email us any time at [email protected]..

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