What will you do when you grow up?

Susan Spaulding authored
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Susan Spaulding, a 60-year-old former marketing executive, is making a 2nd career out of helping boomers answer the question, “What do you want to do when you grow up?”

After Spaulding sold her own marketing company and was still working as a marketing consultant, she talked to a recently retired executive who told her ruefully, “Tell people you’re retired, and they think of a decrepit, useless codger. They tend to ask, ‘So, what did you used to do?’ And I hear, ‘What did you do when you were worth something?'”

The executive’s frustration and feeling of worthlessness led Spaulding to ditch the word “retired” and replace it with “Life 2.0,” redefining retirement as a time for people to rethink what they want to do, where they want to go and how they want to spend these final decades.

“Life 2.0 is a time to give yourself permission to experiment and to figure out what will be of interest to you, and what will be rewarding,” she says.

Recalibrating her own life

After Spaulding answered the 2.0 questions for herself, she wrote a book, “Recalibrate for Life 2.0,” and developed a workbook for readers who wanted further help. She began speaking and developing both group and private counseling sessions for those who are confounded by the prospect of aging. And she wrapped it all up on a website: RecalibrateLife.com

In the book, Spaulding recounts the experiences of 14 executives who carved a new life — and new businesses — by leveraging their retirement goals and their work-life experiences. The lessons that they share are numerous for anyone who wants to continue to work in retirement, even if all they intend to earn is “Monopoly money” — as one of Spaulding’s featured executives calls it.

Golden nuggets

Here is some wisdom — financial and otherwise — that Spaulding and her clients offer:

  • Don’t throw out your past too quickly. Even if you are sick of doing what you did, there may be ways to reuse your knowledge and skills.
  • Start early and expect to work hard. “Opportunity isn’t going to fall into your lap. You have to create the opportunity, and that takes time and work.”
  • Make plans as a couple. If your spouse isn’t happy, chances are you won’t be either.
  • Cutting back to part time may not be the answer. As one of Spaulding’s clients said, “I committed to 3 days a week in the office, but I most often wound up being in the office 4 or 5 days. When a big project was in process, I worked nearly ’round the clock.” After trying some other iterations, he ended up only taking on specific project work where he could offer special expertise, giving himself time for leisure and travel.
  • Thoroughly understand your finances. Another of Spaulding’s clients was confident that she had enough money to fund a long retirement, until she got involved in a new venture and burned through her nest egg. Now she’s been forced to find a new, full-time job, Spaulding says.
  • Redefine your expectations. Remind yourself that at this stage of life, “You don’t have to make money to be successful,” Spaulding says.

Spaulding urges people facing Retirement 2.0 to, “Leave yourself options. Have a number of ideas to pursue and do whatever you try on a small scale first so you can figure out what works and what doesn’t. It is a time of your life when you have the flexibility to try any number of things,” she says.

See why Americans are racked by retirement fears.

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