The emotional equation of retirement planning

Australian retirement coach Dr Jon Glass is on a mission to change the way we approach retirement planning by highlighting our emotional health alongside our financial and physical health.

 Dr Jon Glass says he was shocked to discover his own experience of retirement was “a black hole”. 

“I thought I was well prepared for retirement after two careers. I started life as a mathematician, then I spent almost 40 years in the investment industry in both funds management and asset consulting. I suppose my career had always been about being the person with the answers.” 

When he reached his mid-60s, an active lifestyle and successful career meant he was in great shape – both physically and financially. But when he stopped going into the office, he realised there were big questions he hadn’t addressed. 

“When I stopped full-time work about 7 years ago, to be quite frank, I was a bit lost.” 

Jon had a PhD in pure mathematics from Cambridge, but he hadn’t solved the emotional equation at the heart of his post-work life: What’s my purpose in retirement? 

“I was wandering around my house thinking, what do I do now? Do I go back and find another job in the investment industry? Or do I break out and find a new way of living? I think the phrase ‘relevance deprivation syndrome’ describes it well.”

Jon was going through the same process a lot of professional retirees experience. After successful careers, leadership responsibilities and tightly scheduled days filled with interactions with clients and colleagues, suddenly there is a void. 

Jon’s response to this dilemma was to build a third career as a crusader for better preparation in the least supported area of retirement planning – emotional health through finding purpose. 

“I’d been studying counselling at a college for a few years as an interest. And so having wandered around in circles for a few months I thought, ‘OK, maybe I can be a retirement coach.’ I thought there must be other people like me who could benefit from a coach who could sit with them patiently and listen to their stories about what they will do in retirement. 

Jon sees his ultimate role as helping people better understand their own inner drivers. 

“I’m not saying I have the answers. In fact, it’s the other way around. My clients have the answers, my job is to excavate those answers through patient and careful questioning. And then when it works, they come up with their own answers.” 

Jon thinks these are conversations everyone should have as they consider moving to a phase of life when they’ll work less. 

“It’s funny how when we’re at school and university we have these people called ‘career counsellors’ who help us decide what we’ll do with our lives once we graduate. Yet we don’t have rigorous full dialogues about retirement.” 

Jon thinks it’s an issue that applies equally in New Zealand and Australia and says it’s time we broadened our concepts of retirement planning. 

“We should acknowledge that moving from one phase of life to another is not a simple matter for a lot of people.” 

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