PROFILE: THE QUASI-RETIREE WHO COMBINES THE BEST OF RETIREMENT AND WORKING
If Column A was to continue your stressful, travel-filled, more-than-full-time job and Column B was a 2-3 day a week law practice at a firm where your name was still on the door and you could earn enough money to pay both your AMEX bill and for some expensive hobbies…I’ll bet many of you would pick Column B.
And that’s exactly what Andrew did. He had built a very successful practice specializing in insurance law. Starting with nothing but his law degree, he put up his shingle before he was 30 and 25 years later, the business had mushroomed. He had brought in two partners, 30 lawyers and the firm was a magnet for insurance-related business, both domestically and in London. And it was Andrew who had made that happen. Fortunately for him, he was building this business before this business niche became incredibly competitive, with fee cutting and fee-auditing processes the name of the game—a whole new profit-squeeze environment.
And then at age 58, he had health issues. After open heart surgery, Andrew said he didn’t have the desire, drive or energy to continue that singular devotion to growing the business any more. Facing his own mortality, he didn’t want to kill himself working—“It was great while I was healthy…but not when you have to face the fact that your days might be limited.” At the same time, he admitted, the business itself had changed dramatically and the profitability of all firms had suffered. “In a sense,” he admits, “if I was going to get sick, my illness happened at the right time.” What that meant, he continued was that “it was anything but a pleasant time for the industry, my firm…and for me.”
In that business environment and with health issues, many people would just walk away. In fact, given the changed circumstances, his partners came to him asking him to drastically restructure his relationship with the firm. But fading into the sunset wasn’t for Andrew—“I didn’t want to walk out the door and just stay home. That just wasn’t an option for me and so I negotiated a new arrangement: I kept my name on the door and my feet on the floor.”
The arrangement he negotiated involved giving up equity in return for a 2-3 day a week commitment, which has worked out perfectly for him. It provides him the structure he craves along with the limited time commitment that he wants. He jokes that “I need structure in my life. So, if you look at my calendar in October, you’d see that I’ve scheduled all my flights from our winter home in Florida to NY for every week for the ENTIRE WINTER.” And to be honest, only the direst emergency can divert him from that schedule!
In addition, let’s not forget the psychic and ego fulfillment of “having a job” in your sort-of- retirement. He didn’t lose his IDENTITY. So many people who retire lose that sense of self, lose their bragging rights to talk about their work accomplishments, in addition to losing the business card and trappings that surround us when we are in the working world. I mean, even the fact of getting on the subway to go to the office sounds pretty terrific when you reach a certain age and most of your friends are retired and have traded their office for the golf course. So, it sure looks like those trite words—the best of both worlds–come to mind, don’t they?
But, I asked…”You’re not the big cheese any more. How does that feel?” He admitted that early on he did have some issues, but no longer. “I have to tell you…I still walk into that place and see my name on the door and that gives me a lot of fulfillment. I built this place. There’s an ongoing ego gratification to that…even if I no longer can claim that big corner office.”
The transition to this new state of affairs was a bit rocky at first as everyone got used to their new roles. But now, he says, “I love it there.” He has what he calls a “nice case load” and he gets the ego satisfaction and fulfillment from people seeking his advice. Most importantly, he stays in the game. And there’s another benefit—when he was the boss, everyone was a bit stand-off-ish. But in his new role, Andrew is just one of the “guys” and since he he loves to “schmooze and joke around”, that’s part of the work day too, which is a welcome treat.
As if that weren’t enough, the story gets even better. Andrew’s avocation for years has been horses. He loves everything horses…and follows polo and the horse shows avidly. With a second home in Wellington, Florida which—for the un-horsey among us—is the horse capital of the country, Andrew’s combined his avocation with his vocation. He worked hard at building that equine law business (aren’t you impressed I learned that term???). He did this
following the same “rain making skills” he’d used in the insurance business. So now…he gets to go to polo matches and do business at the same time.
And when he’s not working, he has his hobbies and leisure life, which he enjoys and truly appreciates. If he’s not riding, he’s at the barn. If he’s not golfing, he’s lunching with his golf buddies. Or he’s just enjoying LIFE.
The really wonderful part of this story is that Andrew knows he’s got an awesome gig and he appreciates it intensely. If you’re driving with him in his convertible in Florida, he just grins and says, “Isn’t this just beautiful.” And then if you’re talking to him about a case, he has that same grin, combined with a dose of true satisfaction. Cleary, he is someone who has found the holy grail of “His Unique Balance.”