Category Archives: Retiring

Exit Speech

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m retiring after almost 25 years as the administrator in a consulting
firm. The company was almost bought twice by two big firms but the
deals fell through. Now some young mid-level managers have stepped
forward to try and keep the place together. Many of the employees are
in organizational whiplash because of all the different possible futures
and bosses they have had to juggle coping with. There are also all the
usual internal political and financial rivalries. I want to leave on a rah-
rah cheerleading note, but also to address some of the serious issues
that I think people will need to face. Can you please put some words in
my mouth.

Exit Speech
Dear Exit Speech:

If I were in commandment-writing mode, here’s some I might advise.
You can choose some or all, and don’t need to find some magic ten.
Speak from your heart and make it clear that you really care about the
people and the organization.

Try these:

Be positive: Change can be scary, but it’s time to develop
new responses to entrenched behaviors. Communicate often and
honestly: Talk to, not about, one another. Be creative: Develop new
ways to solve old problems. Support the new owners: They stepped
up and took a risk by buying in, so cut them some slack and help
them. Be collaborative: Think about the big picture and the whole
firm, not just your short-run or personal bottom line. Be
entrepreneurial: Develop broader working relationships within the
firm and you’ll develop new markets outside it. Value administrative
staff: They do many necessary and under-appreciated tasks. Respond
to their emails and information requests promptly and respectfully.
Say Thanks! and Good Job! more often: It matters both to say and
to hear. Be kind to your colleagues: They’re trying as hard as you
are. Believe in your collective future: Help make the firm the
thriving and successful place it can become.


End by saying how much you value each person. If you have a party
or get goodbye notes, send a personal email thank you note to
reinforce the messages. And me to you: I hope your retirement offers
you the time and space to pursue everything you’ve put on hold for 25

Retiring Slowly

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’ve worked at my engineering firm for almost thirty years, starting as a mid-level
analyst and rising to a revenue-generating project director. I have seen this
company through huge cycles of change, in ownership, profitability, market
orientation, and staffing. I’m almost the last of my generation left, though there
are still two graybeards who may die at their desks. I’m in my second marriage,
and the job certainly contributed to the demise of the first.


I could retire but my wife works for our health insurance and I genuinely like what I do. So I negotiated a .25 FTE for 2018 (primarily reading project work plans and draft final reports) to see if it was possible to take a job with huge stress and frequent deadline-
imposed weekend sprints and turn it into a quasi-hobby while I develop some of
my former hobbies into avocations. I’m looking forward to making art, going to
the gym, and volunteering as a wine steward at the local jazz club. But people
don&'t seem to realize that reducing my FTE means I am not available 24/7 to
respond to emails or bail them out of crises, self-imposed or thrust upon them by
clients. It’s Monday at 9:00 (not an official workday for me) and I’ve already had
two “Helllp!!!!” calls and many more emails. Am I delusional thinking this will

Retiring Slowly

Dear Retiring Slowly:

As you suggested, this is an experiment, and like most experiments, it may fail or
give you a result different from what you hoped for or were expecting. The critical
thing you need to know is that the burden of setting boundaries will rest
exclusively with you. Your colleagues are likely beleaguered and envious, neither
of which gives them any incentive to learn new behaviors. Like any form of
behavioral change– think recovery from substance abuse– both they and you will
need different patterns reinforced.

For them, have an auto-reply for your email and a message for your voicemail
that explains your new working hours and assures them that you will reply ASAP
with emphasis on the as possible rather than the soon. A clear conversation with
each is a good way to reinforce this, reinforcing that you are quality control on the
front and back end of projects but hands-off in the middle. For yourself, every
time you think about work, or responding to work outside your new hours, put a
two-minute timer on and then unplug from that world. When it&'s over put a
ten-minute timer on and think about your new life. Repeat until you are only thinking about wife, wine, workouts, and art.

Back In?

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I may have mis-timed my retirement. I’d been planning to retire at 62.
I divested responsibilities to colleagues and have cut back the number
of projects I am involved in, and generally worked hard to ensure that
the organization will not suffer when I go. I haven’t been specific, but I
have let the management know I am planning to cut back. I don’t
think they know I meant to zero, but any sign of disloyalty would
count against me in the wage and bonus talks the firm is having. I
have worked here so long I don’t think the big-wigs think they can
function without me but I am expensive compared to the young ones.
Now, with the shift in the economy, I am thinking I need to work
longer, maybe even another year or two. How do I
Back In?

Dear Back In:
The most important information in your question is the bigwigs’
reliance on you. Though being perceived as indispensible is not a
guarantee of continued employment, it’s a better insurance policy than

How to stay? Take on important, revenue-generating, strategic
planning projects to help your company cope with whatever impacts
the recession has imposed. Look at efficiency cost containment,
staffing overhauls, marketing to new clients. Any initiative you can
spearhead can help bring money into the corporate coffers keeps you
welcome. If asked why you’ve divested other responsibilities, say
younger line staff can perform those, but it takes a knowledgeable old-
timer who really knows the company, its products, and its markets to
do the kind of big-think that’s needed. Say you’re considering retiring
in a few years and you’ll work with them to plan for that. But that time
isn’t now. I doubt they’ll contradict you. If they do, there’s always
unemployment or consulting to their competitors. That threat alone
should make them want to keep you as long as you want to stay.


Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I expect to retire in January. I’ve seen friends do it badly, by having
enough money but not enough interests or ideas of what to do with all
their suddenly free time. I’m not rich but I’d rather the happier than
wealthier. I have many hobbies, from sitting with a good book to
playing piano, making art, and involvement in the synagogue. My
bored friends keep saying “When you’re retired we can walk once a
week, “or “When you’re retired we can take a trip together, or “When
you’re retired we can spend more time together.” The truth is I have
been slowly weaning myself from these people exactly because they
don’t share my interests. I like having known them for 20-30 years but
the last thing–-other than continuing to work– that I want to do is to
spend more time with them. All they talk about is where to eat, where
to shop, or where to vacation. I want freedom, not a new schedule or
more blather. I’d rather be a recluse than be bored or trapped.

Dear Ready:
You’ve convinced me you’re ready to enjoy less work and more play.
Your answer to the un-busy friends is very simple: I’m retiring so I can
have more time for my hobbies The last thing I want to do is to load
up my schedule so that it’s preplanned. If anything, I want to be more
spontaneous, not more tied down. Be clear and consistent with your
answers to anyone who asks. If you get pushback, say it again, using
the same words and phrasing, until they realize that’s the only answer
you’re gong to give. They’ll grumble to one another, but you’ll make
your point.
As for enhancing your retirement, I’d suggest taking classes, going to
workshops about things you care about, free lectures at the local
library or community center, perhaps doing more at the synaoogue, or
anything else that puts you in a place where you’re likely to meet like-
minded people who share your interests. While you’re there, be on the
lookout for people of your age and temperment that you might want to
befriend. Don’ rush. Be an observer for a while. Then start with a
cuppa something and see if there’s more to explore. You have the
right to be choosy about how you spend your time. You’ve earned it.

Wanna Be R.e.t.i.r.e.d.

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I just retired from a job I held for almost thirty years. I was the
administrative manager of a company and wore many hats, from
contracts to personnel. I planned my retirement for two years,
systematically divesting myself of responsibilities and training various
people to take them over. The company has gone through
restructuring so there is no one person who now wears the same hats.
I left everything clear, clean, and turnkey ready. But in the two
months since I have left I have gotten calls or emails virtually every
day asking for information about various this’s and that’s. I’ve tried to
be patient and educate people but I just want to go to yoga and take a
hike without being pestered. How can I get my former colleagues to
respect my new life?
Wanna Be R.e.t.i.r.e.d.

Dear R.e.t.i.r.e.d:
Can you spell c.o.-d.e.p.e.n.d.e.n.t? That’s a good description for the
process of symbiosis you have created between your new life and your
old one. You say you have new interests and activities you want to
move on to. But there’s also clearly a big hole in your life that retiring
has created. Your coworkers are somewhat to blame. But you need to
accept that you’re enabling their continued dependence, and that your
desire to remain indispensible is crippling both you and them.


Financial incentives may clear up this problem pretty quickly. Take
your former hourly wage and double it. Then send each person who’s
calling you, cc the CEO, an email that says: I love helping my
replacements redirect the ship of state onto a new smooth course. But
I can no longer do it for free. Please acknowledge receipt of this email
and the attached letter of agreement for consulting services with your
(CEO’s) return of the executed agreement. The agreement should give
you the right to send them a monthly bill in quarter-hour increments
for the time you spend answering questions. It should include a
sample invoice that’ll detail who called, topic, and time spent. My guess is                      that you’ll make a little money for a little while and then
they’ll go away. If you prefer to make more money and keep this
going longer, lower your consulting rate. But be clear why you’re doing