The work you put in over the years has made you an intrinsic part of your company’s team. You’ve practically made yourself indispensable. Now what?
Plan your exit strategy. It’s time to begin shifting your focus from value you add to your work to the value you can achieve in your personal life after your professional career ends. This is so counterintuitive to women; if you are a nurturer, it’s hard to think of leaving when the team needs you the most. That is exactly when you have the most bargaining power to name your terms. You are not leaving, you’re pulling back. You just may be shocked at how willing your manager is to have you stay.
Managers and high-level executives understand the value that long-time, savvy professionals add to the success of their company. Your pulling back might lead to incentives to delay your retirement. Conversely, it may lead to bigger doors being opened. During the down years of 2008 and 2009 many professionals in their late 50s to mid-60s were let go. Since then, I have seen some get called back to work because of their expertise and the value they bring to the table. What’s interesting is how they are working on their terms now– less hours, working from home, not commuting as much and having their pick at what they will do vs. what they won’t.
Remember, Marissa Mayer became the CEO of Yahoo when she was pregnant, a rarity in an industry dominated by men. The former Google executive has proven her keep at Yahoo and has been said to have raised its stock price by 100 percent within the first year alone. An indispensable asset if I’ve ever seen one!
Although Mayer wasn’t planning her retirement exit strategy, she was planning for ways to lean in to her work, which will likely result in a comfortable retirement planning process down the road. There is criticism about Mayer, especially from women working at Yahoo seeking a flexible work life balance. There is probably even more criticism from those working at popular companies where jobs are coveted; such as Google, LinkedIn, or Facebook. If you are in one of those firms where the supply of talented workers far exceeds the amount of jobs available, working on your terms may not be an option THERE, but it doesn’t mean it’s not an option elsewhere. Chances are if you are one of the fortunate with a job at one of the most competitive firms in town, you were hired because you stood out and possess exceptional skills. Those skills are needed elsewhere, so go on, market yourself and those skills to seek work on your time.
I often find that some of my clients don’t enjoy pulling away from work completely, a notion shared by many who have worked throughout their lifetime. Not surprisingly, 86 percent of eligible retirees plan to continue working as they lean in to their retirement plan. A good alternative to working full time is job sharing or consulting.
Job sharing allows you to work part-time or on a reduced schedule while sharing the work duties with another person and/or people. Together, you and your colleagues will share the work that would typically be fulfilled by a full-time employee.
Acting as an internal or external consultant is another great option to leaning into your retirement. By now, you have become an expert in your field, and many companies are eager to use consultants to deepen the level of expertise for their clients on a need-to-know basis. You have the freedom to make independent career choices and chose who you want to work with, how often you want to work and the amount of time you want to dedicate to life as a retiree. If this is an option you want to explore, I encourage you to understand how that works financially as your pay structure and benefits will change dramatically.
You have to get the five years before and five years after retirement right financially — it sets the stage for the rest of your retirement.
During your peak earning years, save aggressively. The more intrinsic value you bring to work, the more value you have on the company. The more value, the more income you receive. Having an aggressive savings strategy before retirement will allow you to live comfortably during and after your retirement transition.
When you phase in retirement and cut back hours you may not be able to save any more because you are working and earning less. Live on your earnings alone and let your assets have time to “bake” or grow without touching them. The longer you wait to start withdrawing assets, the better off your financial position will be when you have to start pulling from them. As you start decreasing your work hours more, then you can gradually start to pull more from your retirement accounts.
Your finances will become even more important after you have shifted from being an employee to a retiree. Remember, the first five years after retirement are critical and set the pace for how you will use your funds for the remainder of your years. Don’t do this alone. I highly recommend you plan for your retirement and how you’ll begin to pull money out of your accounts with a financial planner so you get it right the first time. Keep in mind, there are no do-overs in retirement.