PROFILE: IF YOU LOVE WHAT YOU DO….WHY LEAVE IT?

So many people I’ve talked with were happy in their careers until external forces toppled them.  I know that many of them would be extremely jealous of Pat, who sits in a position where—at the moment—there don’t appear to be storm clouds brewing and she continues to be as engaged and successful as ever in the job she has done for many years.

At an age when many of her peers are considering retirement, Pat remains one of the leading investment professionals in her area of expertise….in fact, she’s a household name in the field.  She’s been involved in the markets since her niche was in its infancy and after her decades-long career, she’s still going strong.  She manages a 10-person investment team, responsible for managing somewhere near $10 BN.  You’d think that it would be time to give up those days that begin before dawn and end way after dark. But…you’d be wrong.  She is as motivated and involved as ever—with the passion and skill that have propelled her throughout her respected career.

This isn’t to say that she hasn’t thought about packing it in.  Being the ever-thoughtful person that she is, she’s gone through all the pros and cons.  Her conclusion– there’s almost nothing on the retirement side of the scale.  With that mind set, she knows that she is incredibly lucky to be in a position where the external threats to her career seem almost non-existent.

It was interesting to talk through her thought process on this decision, because her thinking echoes that of many people who don’t want to retire—even though they’re in that retirement age zone.  A key force keeping her away from the door marked “retirement” is the terrifying question “What’s next?” she admits.  “Who am I if lose my power base?  How do I define myself without my career?  If I walk out, I’ll have nothing to trade.”  Going down that road, she fears a future where she would walk into a room and have little to contribute or talk about…versus now, when everyone wants to know what she’s thinking.  Adding to all of that is the fact that she continues to be incredibly good at what she does, really enjoys it and continues to be stimulated by and respect the team that she’s hired.   Again, what’s not to like?

There’s also the issue of “community.” So much of her life and energy and drive has been tied up in her career…(combined with having run more than 10 marathons and and a whole lot of  ½ marathons) that there has been little time for other pursuits and “ladies lunches”.  Many of her friends are business-related and she is realistic in forecasting that “those relationships will change if I’m not in this chair.” She fears that there could be real voids in her life.

Looking at “time” in her currently frenetic life versus a retirement life, she can’t imagine how she could reorganize the 14 hours a day she spends at work with her team.  Thinking about this, she launches into her 60-40 rule.  60% of your day, she contends is doing the “substantive stuff” and 40% is doing the stuff you have to do…like going to the cleaners and the hardware store and doing Pilates.  And the 60% makes that 40% tolerable, she contends.  But if you’re retired, she fears, then that 40% becomes the substance…and then what?  Hopefully, I say, you won’t have to deal with that for a long time!

The only slight fly in the ointment is that she’d like to do more “fun” travel…and she doesn’t feel that she can be away from the office—and away from the markets to properly do that. There’s just too much volatility and she says that she’d lose her edge without her total time commitment.   But, in addition to being a great investor, Pat’s a mega-culture buff, who loves opera and devours museums wherever she goes.  But fitting those things into business trips around the globe doesn’t quite satisfy her cultural passions.   To satisfy her wanderlust and her business acumen, she envisions an evolving time commitment—possibly adding a few four day weeks into her life.  Clearly, this is very far from retirement and hardly earth shattering.  But it represents her first recognition that there could be a new chapter and path ahead.  But for the moment, she continues to raise her eyebrows at anyone who asks how long she’ll be around…because…barring external events…it will be a very long time!

 

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