“We can often get overwhelmed, especially when facing changes,” says Lynell Ross, a life coach based in Auburn, Calif., and founder of Zivadream, a website designed to help people improve their lives.
Could hiring a life coach for retirement help?
Maybe so. It did for Val Walker, the Boston-area author of 400 Friends and No One to Call: Breaking Through Isolation and Building Community.
“When I retired from my [rehabilitation] counseling career, approaching my sixties, I yearned to follow my life’s calling to be a writer and find someone to help me shore up my courage to write my first book,” says Walker. She then worked with a life coach who helped her realize those goals.
But before bringing on a retirement coach yourself, you’ll want to understand what they do and how to size them up.
The transitions surrounding retirement can lead to a time of anxiety and questioning, according to research collected by McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, which studies aging. Much of this angst may stem from a loss of identity, family tensions and a sense of loneliness. Financial factors often play a role too. Living on a fixed income can be rough and the cost of living may exceed expectations.
These days, with the uncertainty lingering around the coronavirus outbreak, a retirement date that’s nearing can seem even more daunting.
That’s where retirement coaches fit in.
You may be familiar with life coaches, who help people evaluate themselves, grow and implement lifestyle changes. Often, a life coach will provide a working plan to help improve a specific area of your life.
Retirement coaches frequently act as life coaches, with a specific focus on the retirement years. Like other life coaches, retirement coaches may specialize in certain things, such as finances or behavior.
There’s even a Retirement Coaches Association, created in 2017, to establish standards for this type of coaching, enhance skills of the coaches and educate the public about this relatively new profession.
To pick out a life coach for retirement — and even know whether you should — follow these criteria:
Be Aware of Your Retirement Obstacles
A whole host of challenges can surround the transition into retirement and they’re not always obvious at first glance.
“People who move might have to rebuild their social network,” says Monte Drenner, a life coach and founder of MTC Counseling, in Orlando, Fla.
Retirees who want to travel — as much as the pandemic allows — might discover their savings won’t support their original trip ideas. Spouses who spent their working days apart may struggle during retirement as they suddenly see each other 24/7.
Perspectives on the retirement years can be misleading, too.
“Many people bring a vacation mindset to retirement,” Drenner says. Days can quickly become dull, however, when schedules that used to be packed are no longer filled.
A coach can help you work through these types of issues during retirement, but you may also benefit from starting sessions prior to the transition.
“I encourage people to be proactive about preventing these struggles,” Drenner says. If possible, you could see a life coach several months or a year before retiring to start working through upcoming issues.
Know What You’re Looking For in a Retirement Coach
“The majority of my clients who are reinventing in retirement tell me that this is the hardest challenge they have faced to date,” says Katy Goshtabi, a life coach and founder of Puris Consulting in San Diego. Prior to retiring, Goshtabi adds, “people have not stopped to figure out who they are.”
It could be that a retirement coach could help you figure that out.
Walker says her coach changed her whole outlook on her life, “helping me own six decades of life experience.” The coach, Walker notes, “helped me realize my life goals by teaching me how to look at my life as a series of accomplishment stories.” These accomplishments could then be valued in terms of her accumulated wisdom about living with loss and change.
Use Caution Before Committing to a Coach
Fees, styles and specializations vary enormously among retirement coaches, so you’ll want to know what you’ll be getting into before hiring someone.
Rates often range between $100 an hour and $300 an hour. But you may pay less or more, depending on where you live and the type of consultation you want.
It’s a good idea to check for referrals before hiring a retirement coach. Then “ask if they have a free consultation to find out if you are a good match for each other,” says Ross.
During a brief phone call, you’ll be able to see if your preferences, interests and expectations align.
Keep in mind that paying for several hours of consultations or committing to sessions over consecutive months could lead you to a better place, overall.
Set Realistic Expectations
Regardless of whether you start working with a coach before retirement or in retirement, don’t expect immediate results to deal with your challenges.
“I look at it as a marathon, not a sprint,” Goshtabi says.
Coaching involves a process. Goshtabi’s clients often work through programs lasting for three to eight months. During that time, they might try out a new habit, activity or mindset for, say, a month, and then evaluate the benefits or drawbacks from the change. They may then make further adjustments or pursue other areas.
Sometimes, retirement coach clients write out their dreams, wishes and interests. Then, discoveries that bubble up might be implemented gradually over a period of time.
A person noting a love of flowers might be advised to look for fulfillment working part-time at a flower shop or helping an organization that donates flowers from weddings and funerals to nursing homes. Someone who enjoys cooking and writing and wants to leave a legacy to family members could develop a family cookbook in retirement.
Transitions, after all, don’t happen all at once.
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