The other evening ten 60-ish baby boomers got together in a private home in mid Toronto to discuss Boomer retirement and related matters. There were two main groups: most were business owners who have been self-employed for 30 or more years. A handful (including myself and the hostess) had spent most of our careers working as employees in large organizations.
Long-time business owners looking for exit
In both cases, the great question before us was “What do I do with the rest of my life?” The business owners were concerned about exit strategies to monetize their years of sweat equity, which could include outright sale or passing the reins to younger family members.
Long-time employees looking to find a transition business
The other group is considering becoming business owners or entrepreneurs even at this late stage of life, or what I term “Boomerpreneurs.” We may or may not have left the workforce voluntarily but suddenly had some leisure and money to contemplate our next move.
In almost all cases, this was a high-achieving group and while one younger attendee (in his mid 50s) had spent a “mini retirement” of several months in Central America, most of us agreed we were in no way ready for endless days of daytime TV, golf or bridge. Some were conscious of the extended Life Expectancy theme underlying this website’s “Longevity & Aging” section, but others were acutely aware that we all entering the final few laps of the great race of life. The long-time business owners in particular seemed ready for a change, but were aware the transition or exit could well require four or five more years of continued effort.
Actually, this was the second time the group had met. I would have love to have attended the first one in October but had already committed to a three-week trip to Turkey. The focus of the first one was that many baby boomers can expect another 10,000 days of life on the planet, so what’s your plan on how you’re going to spend that time? As the facilitator, Alan Kay (more on him below) put it, it’s all about “repurposing yourself, not a blank canvas.”
Acquiring new skills — at 60
Interestingly, the hostess (one of only two women in the second meeting; the rest were obviously men) experienced almost the same events as I have in 2014. Both of us had quite independently chosen to attend Toastmasters weekly, to hone our public speaking and leadership skills (neither of which suggests sitting before a fire in your rocking chair). She is also attending a Rotman course that prepares you to assume positions on corporate boards. As if that weren’t enough, this high achiever is also taking acting lessons.
Does Business Ownership run in the family?
Her husband, and our host, has long been a business owner. In fact, long ago when I worked on a computer newspaper, I had naively written a piece about him extolling the fact that he was a “27 year old president” of his own computer company. At the salon, he said his own father was a business owner so it seemed a natural step for him at the time. I replied that my father was a high school teacher with security and a Defined Benefit pension plan, which may have explained why I tended to stick with salaried employment within other people’s businesses.
Regrets of the dying
We discussed life purpose, why we are even on the planet, and the five regrets of the dying, a piece published recently in the Globe & Mail. Some felt that one of the advantages of building something even at this stage of life would be to employ the generations following us, including our children.
There was a feeling it’s time to simplify, perhaps to slow down a tad but few seemed to seek a traditional “full-stop” retirement. Call it semi-retirement or phased retirement, depending on circumstances. I didn’t get the impression anyone was suffering financially, so the continued interest in remaining active was more about community, giving back and the like.
Naps in the home office
Some of us work from home, some still go to an office, even if they own the building in which it’s housed. Among the “work-from-home” crowd, which included our host and myself, we confessed there was the advantage of the occasional afternoon nap.
As for the session and what’s next, it’s all rather fluid although the hosts did facilitate an exchange of emails with the intent of connecting on Linked In. Certainly, this web site will happily describe further developments and facilitate communications between members and would-be members. There are, for example, our so-far-dormant discussion forums, which could be used to continue the dialogue in cyberspace. It was just such a salon that spawned the Huffington Post.
Pending permission from the other participants, I’ve erred here on the side of protecting actual identities but may update this blog or post new ones with actual names and coordinates as they arise. I can say the session was moderated by Alan Kay, who is happy to be identified as “a fully recovered ad guy, facilitating change through tools like stakeholder consultations and roundtables using his Solution Focus expertise.”
And yes, this often means sitting around a kitchen table like the one illustrated above; you can find him via his website here. Or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.