Maretta Dillon chats with Derek Bell, COO with the Retirement Planning Council of Ireland (RPCI) about their Executive Planning for Retirement courses.
What happens in advance of the course?
Somebody says I want to do a one-to-one course. We agree on a date. And about a week before the time, the programme leader will ring that person and say, what are your real issues? What are you concerned about? What can we cover and what best meets your needs on the day?
It’s very much tailored to where the person is at. It’s customised. And it’s one day, not two.
You recommend that the person retiring brings along their partner (if they have one), a family member or close personal friend. Why is this so important, and what happens on the day itself?
What we find is that very often we are facilitating a discussion between the two partners. So, they have typically led busy lives. They’ve never actually taken time to sit down and think, what does retirement look like? And on the day, we’re very often saying, excuse me, did you hear what he said? Did you listen to what she said? Of course, these days it may well be people in same-sex partnerships who attend the course. They need to talk about this quickly before somebody retires or make assumptions.
What do you identify as the critical topics around retirement?
The three key things for a long, healthy, happy retirement is to have a purpose, to have a mental challenge and to have a real social network. So, the purpose is why get up out of bed in the morning? I need mental challenges. I’ve been stimulated by the work I’ve been doing. I’ve had to solve problems and so on. Where am I going to get that challenge in retirement? I don’t want my brain to go soggy. I don’t want to rust out. And when it comes to a social network, most of us spend more waking time with the people we work with than the people we live with
The idea that we spend more time with our work colleagues is a little scary. How should people think about maintaining social connections after retirement?
A key question is so who are you going to socialise with? You can socialise with ex-work colleagues in the evenings and weekends because most of them will still be working. But who are you going to socialise with from nine to five for five days a week? It might be your partner, but the danger of doing everything together is that conversation dies. “Why would we talk about that? Sure you were there! If you do separate things as well as joint things, conversation thrives. “Wait till I tell you what happened…” or “Do you know who I met today?” People usually find the course very beneficial because they haven’t pictured what retirement is going to be like.
Do people underestimate the increased time they will have in retirement?
The real issue is what are they going to do with time? For the average Joe or Josephine, they are out of home, 50 hours a week. Commute time plus work time plus commute time by five, generally 50 hours. So, when they retire, they get 50 hours back, every week for the rest of their life now. Now, what are you going to do with this time?
Any thoughts on the first thing you should do when you retire? Splashy holiday?
Be careful initially because it’s much easier to spend money when you’re not working. And money can leak away. “I will have a cup of coffee”. “Ah sure, we’ll go out to lunch”. “Let’s fly to London”. And suddenly where did it all go? We at RPCI are very clearly saying that for the initial period, plan what you want to do. Particularly plan your first three months or six months, usually because the first few months are typically like an extended holiday.
What other issues come up on the course?
We look at things like social welfare and topics that they might not have thought of like diet, wills, enduring powers of attorney, health, finances in terms of investments. Most senior people will have their advisers, but what we’re doing is saying maybe it would be a good idea to talk to them about issues they may not have considered. At the end of the course, they should have an idea of what their retirement is going to be like. They have some priorities as to what they must do and they have lifetime support from us for nothing.
Who is currently undertaking this course?
They tend to be senior executives. They are so focused on their job, and their social life is tied up in their career. Their non-work activities tend to be pushed very much into the background. They are not looking at more than the immediate. But where do we see ourselves in five years? What do I want to achieve by the time I’m 70? And the answer might be volunteering. It might be taking up a hobby. Might be learning something new or returning to education. It might be taking up a sport. Might be a combination of all those things.
What response do you get back from participants?
Very often it’s something very simple summed up by the phrase “I never thought of that”. They’re blinkered as to what the future looks like. And we’re trying to help them look beyond the blinkers, expand their field of vision to see opportunities and possibilities rather than the negative. Many people will spend almost as long in retirement as they did at work.
Do people find it easy to talk about their retirement plans?
Many people don’t want people to know they’ve done the course. And people would say, you know, this is my business. I would say to people when they’re retiring, whether they do this course or the open course, is to learn to say no firstly. Because people will assume you have nothing to do all day. People think that they have to find things to occupy you. And then you don’t get to do the things you want to do.
What changes in a relationship post-retirement?
Not everybody is in a relationship. And there’s a myriad of different relationships out there now. But it’s around finding a new equilibrium. There’s been a kind of habit and custom for years and years. That’s all changing. And you must find a new settling point. The key things that change are: – routine (or structure), relationships and identity.
Talk some more about identity
The big thing is we all tend to describe ourselves by what we do rather than by who we are. So, in retirement, what’s my new identity? And often, the partner’s status is linked to our identity.
So not only does the person who retires have a change of identity, but the partner can also feel a difference. Sometimes that means that the person who retires has got to accept the supporting role. I would call a rebalancing. It’s repositioning in a relationship.
What word do you not use on the course?
The course is just going to suggest possibilities, options, opportunities. It’s up to participants to make the decisions here. Because the dangerous word for anybody, whether they’re retired or not, is the word should. So, if somebody keeps hearing the word should then better be careful. Somebody is trying to force their agenda on you.
Where do the courses take place, and what is the cost?
Typically, we do Executive Planning courses in Dublin, but recently we’ve started doing them in Cork. We can do them anywhere in the country. The cost is €1,750. Usually, the company pays, but there’s no VAT involved because RPCI is VAT exempt as we are a registered charity.
Established in 1974, the RPCI is a Registered Charity, a not for profit organisation, wholly independent of all financial institutions and with a voluntary board of directors. RPCI is based at 14/15 Lower Camden Street, Dublin 2 Ph: 01 478 9471 / www.rpc.ie Courses are held in Dublin and around the country on a very regular basis. Please check the website for more details.