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3. November 2015

Reflections on Retirement: Day 307

by Kathy Cassidy, Former Senior Vice President and Treasurer of GE and GE Capital

We absolutely need to find a new word for retirement! “Retirement” conjures up images of endless vacations and relaxation as a “reward” for all of the years of hard work and dedication. One definition of “retire” is to withdraw from active participation — the exact opposite of what I wanted to do when I retired on January 1, 2015 as Senior Vice President and Treasurer of GE and GE Capital. It’s such an exciting phase of life with a unique opportunity to redefine your life and your schedule, and I knew it would require some planning.

Advice from friends and colleagues was definitive: give yourself at least 6 months and don’t commit to anything. While I knew I would need some downtime, I also knew that it would be easy to get into a rut. In addition, I didn’t want to miss the “honeymoon period,” that period where people approach you under the invitation of your publicly announced increase in free time! I had some really interesting business and board-related opportunities to consider and I had a very long list of personal goals as well – things that had been on the back-burner for years. GE offered me an opportunity to work with a My Next Season Advisor to assist with the transition out of my corporate role and develop a plan for landing well in my “next season.”

Prior to working with my Advisor, I’d imagined my retirement would be a lot of trial and error. Instead, she helped me prioritize and schedule what was really important to me as a person. One small (yet critical) part of the process was a pie chart exercise — straight-forward and hugely valuable. It forced me to be specific and intentional about organizing my time. Because the process began well in advance of my departure, she also provided real-time coaching regarding how specific opportunities fit (or didn’t!) with my values and priorities. We talked through difficult conversations and focused on how I could contribute the skills I already possessed as well as find areas to learn completely new things.

Today, I’m 307 days into my retirement. I’ve landed well and my days fly by! I’ve reconnected with friends and have enjoyed more theatre, non-work-related travel, time with my family and granddaughter, serving a non-profit, and sitting on a for profit board where I use my skills and learn more about an area of long-time interest – mutual funds and how they operate.

Now I’m in a position where people ask me for advice on refirement (maybe that’s a better word for retirement). Here is what I’ve learned thus far:

  • • Recognize that you’ll have more time but not infinite time. It’s one thing to know all of the things you’d like to do after leaving a corporate position; it’s another thing to be forensic about how and when those things are going to happen.
  • • 100% planning – 100% flexibility! Have a solid well-defined plan for the non-financial elements of retirement but allow flexibility and revisit your plan often.
  • • Recognize your administrative needs. Time dedicated to making travel arrangements, doing paper work, and computer-related tasks will increase exponentially without an administrative assistant. Allocate more time than you’d expect for these tasks and be patient – or consider reaching out for part-time administrative support.
  • • If interested in board work, think outside of the box and network. Consider public as well as non-public companies, subsidiaries, or publicly regulated mutual fund boards which require independent board advisors. Carefully consider what is required. Travel? International travel? Know what skills are needed and what is expected.
  • • Ask yourself what you really want. It will be easiest to continue to do some variation of what you’ve already done but also consider where you want to grow and learn.
  • • Add time for yourself by scheduling it on your calendar. Use the time to read, think, learn, or do anything you’re interested in.
  • • Talk through your options with someone who has your best interests at heart.
  • • Enjoy your life!

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