140: Your Happiness Portfolio for Retirement with Marianne Oehser
Marianne Oehser is a certified retirement and relationship specialist who focuses on assisting people find happiness in the post-career phase of their lives. She has dedicated her career to studying how people navigate transitions in adult life, especially retirement, and how they impact our happiness and relationships.
In her book, Your Happiness Portfolio for Retirement: It’s Not About the Money!, she shows you how to make the post-career phase of your life the happiest and most fulfilling time of your life. She explores how to prepare for the time you’ll have in retirement before you actually get there — to live in service of mission, vision, value, and purpose.
Marianne joins the podcast to talk about the unique challenges that people face as they enter retirement, how to build your happiness portfolio, and what you can do to find your flow state at every stage of life.
In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
- What led Marianne to add retirement coaching to her relationship coaching practice – and how these two lines of work overlap.
- Why so many relationships are ending in “gray divorce” – and how small problems between couples become major issues in retirement.
- How to craft your retirement around the things you like to do and not what you hated about your job, even if you’re living the job optional lifestyle.
- Why so many people end up in a “retirement funk” a few years after leaving full-time jobs – and what to do about it.
- “If you can think of something that you do, where you lose track of time, where it’s just effortless to do because you’re enjoying it, that’s something you have a passion for. And then if you can combine that with results that somebody else will give you, that you will give to somebody else, you have a purpose.” – Marianne Oehser
- Retire & Be Happy Workshop
- Your Happiness Portfolio for Retirement: It’s Not About the Money!
- The 4 Seasons of Marriage
- The Power of Purpose: Find Meaning, Live Longer, Better
- Unique Ability: Creating the Life You Want
Offer valid in the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, to first-time requestors. During the offer period, receive one (1) in-stock book per request. Limit (1) book per week per household. Limit three (3) books total each calendar year, between January 1 and December 31. Offer valid while supplies last. Howard Bailey Financial, Inc. reserves the right to cancel, terminate or modify this offer at any time. Void where restricted or otherwise prohibited.
Casey Weade: Marianne, welcome to the podcast.
Marianne Oehser: Thanks, Casey. It’s a pleasure to be with you.
Casey Weade: Well, it’s a pleasure to be together again. We had the opportunity to get together for the Virtual Retirement Symposium that you put on. I know you do those periodically and it’s a pretty neat experience for me because you reached out to me, contacted me to have me as part of the symposium as one of the many speakers that you had. As I looked through the speaker’s list, I had either interviewed or met most of those speakers that were as part of that group. So, that was a pretty neat opportunity to kind of be side by side with a lot of other retirement peers that I have out there. So, thank you for that invite.
Marianne Oehser: And you did a great job, Casey. I’m absolutely thrilled.
Casey Weade: Well, I’m sure with your extensive experience and all the people that you’ve interviewed throughout the years and the experience in your very own retirement, not to mention all the coaching you’ve done, you’re going to bring a lot of value here, I have no doubt. And I just wanted to kind of kick off our discussion with talking about these transitions that you’ve had. I know we’re going to talk about a lot of different transitions. I know you’re kind of a life transition expert of sorts, and you’ve went through a lot of your own. And the one in particular that I’m thinking of right now is this transition that you made as your relationship coach. So, you’re spending time as a relationship coach and then you decided to add retirement coaching on to your practice. I’m wondering, what made you decide to add on retirement coaching to your practice? And where’s that integration with relationship coaching?
Marianne Oehser: Great question, Casey. I start as you mentioned, when I decided to retire, I knew that I wanted to retire to something because I had tried once before unsuccessfully. So, like when I was approaching my retirement this time, I decided that I wanted to be a relationship coach because my husband and I have the most fantastic relationship. So, I spent a year studying that. And then as I was beginning to practice and I saw more and more couples lived at that time in Naples, Florida, which is a haven for people who are newly retired or about to retire. And so, the couples that came to see me whose relationships were shaky, the more I talked to them, the more I heard things like, “We used to have this wonderful relationship and now all we do is bicker and fight.” And what I began to realize was that the problem was not really so much their relationship. It was that they hadn’t understood all the transitions that occur when you leave the career phase of your life.
And people started to do a couple of things. They started to blame each other because they were unhappy in their transition and so they blamed each other and therefore blame their relationship. And so, that’s why I decided to become to understand this whole thing called retirement and how did it impact people. Clearly having a great relationship is an important part of retirement. So, my two specialties fit very nicely together.
Casey Weade: Yeah. Well, we’ve come across article after article today in the area of relationships in that boomer generation and the divorce rate in the boomer generation. I don’t want to get this wrong, but I know I’ve read some statistics in regards to divorce rates and it was a bit of a surprise to me. I think it’s a bit of a surprise even to that boomer generation that the divorce rate amongst younger generations has actually been falling while we’ve seen boomer generations that over, say, even just over 55, over 60 cohort is continually on the rise and it’s rising. And I think from what I remember, it’s the only demographic that is actually increasing in the divorce rate versus other demographics. Is that right?
Marianne Oehser: That’s absolutely right. In fact, it’s called gray divorce. And it happens for a lot of reasons in my experience. There hasn’t been a lot of research that’s actually documented it but my experience has been two things. First of all, this issue that led me to be a retirement coach in the first place of understanding that when you are going through the transition from your career phase of your life to act three, whatever that looks like, we can talk about that a little bit, but that so much changes. And when so many things change, it’s uncomfortable for us. And so, therefore, it’s natural to look around and say, “Oh, it must be our relationship that’s causing the problem,” when in fact, usually it’s not. But the other thing that happens very often is that first bit when people have more time on their hands and the ability to spend more time together, that a couple of things happen.
On the first one is they may have overlooked some problems in their relationship because when you’re all caught up in the routine of your career and all of the business that your life is like at that point, it’s kind of easy to sort of ignore some of the things that might need some attention in your relationship. But now, when you have more time together, those things are kind of really come bubbling to the surface. And so, one thing, one cause of the gray divorce is the fact that when those things come bubbling to the surface, people don’t always believe that they can do something about them to bring their relationship back into what it was. And the reality is very much can make that happen. There’s a great book by Gary Chapman called The 4 Seasons of Marriage and in it, he talks about, he uses the analogy of the four seasons to compare or your relationship can be like as you move through your marriage, and this works whether you’re married or it’s a partnership, a cohabitation partnership.
And it starts out with spring. You’re all excited and you’re newly in love and it’s just full of absolute beauty and you just can’t wait to be together and it’s wonderful. And spring then begins to melt into summer and summer is a time of relaxation and just flourishing and relationships do that too. After the beauty of the beginning of it, they often flow into this peaceful content life that they are just really enjoying. And when a relationship is not tended to just like a garden, it can slip into what Gary calls fall. In that case, it’s been neglected and things are starting to kind of die and it just doesn’t feel as vibrant as it did in spring and summer. And that’s a great time for a couple to use this as an early warning sign to say maybe there’s something we need to address in our relationship. And so, often people start into retirement and they might be in the fall part of their relationship and then they blame the relationship for the unhappiness in retirement.
But what Dr. Chapman says is that even if your relationship slips down the slippery slope to winter where it’s cold and you’re like Eskimos living in igloos, and there’s no communication, that it’s still possible to rebuild that relationship. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen it with people so I know that it’s possible. And so, with the gray divorce, when people find themselves in fall or winter of their relationship, they think it’s just time to give up, sadly.
Casey Weade: Well, I’ve got another. When you’re talking about this, it brought me back to a previous interview that we had on the Retire With Purpose Podcast here and I’ve got the book around here somewhere but the guest I was speaking with, he called this marriage compression. He had kind of discussed how we get to retirement, all of a sudden, we have all this time and are spending more time together than maybe we have in decades. And he referred to that as marriage compression. We’re just compressing all the time that we have spent together in the past. Now it’s all here and we’re spending this massive amount of time together. And then like you said, some of those things start bubbling to the surface that maybe did irritate us but we were able to kind of bury those things as we went to work the rest of the day. We had other things on our mind and they kind of got pushed to the side and now they need addressing.
And my question would be what if we don’t really know where we’re at? Let’s say we’re not sure if we’re in spring or summer or fall or winter. Some are going to know exactly where they lie, I’m sure. However, if you’re in that pre-retirement phase and you recognize this marriage compression is going to happen, retirement might be a stressful transition, what are some questions or what are some things that we can do to prepare for the time that we’re going to have in retirement before we actually get there when it comes to our relationship?
Marianne Oehser: Well, actually, if any of your listeners are interested, they can send me an email and I will send them an assessment that I use. It’s actually based on your Chapman’s book. And really, what it really does is help you to understand where you are in that. And if you find yourself kind of in fall or winter, it’s an opportunity then to look at what you might do to rebuild your relationship. I can tell you that sometimes when people make that effort, they end up with a relationship that was actually even better than it started out to be. And one of the keys to that is the thing with relationship compression is just a terrific term for it. Because now you got all this time together. And what also happens is when you’re living busy lives, you sometimes lose the connection that you used to have. And one of the key ingredients to a successful relationship is maintaining that connection between the two of you. And when you’ve kind of lost it, it’s a great opportunity to rebuild it.
Casey Weade: And do you find the individuals are coming to you once they have problems? Are there times that individuals say especially pre-retirees are proactively coming and visiting with you to gauge where they’re at so that they can be better prepared? And if that’s the case, what are some specific questions that you like to ask?
Marianne Oehser: Well, first of all, I give them this assessment to help understand where they are with their relationship, but also to talk more about their plan because and I will probably get to this later, but so many people when they are approaching retirement in the first place, believes that the image of what they have laid ahead is a perpetual vacation. I mean, they’re looking forward to playing golf, they’re looking forward to being on their boat. They’re looking forward to all the trips they’re going to take, all the fun things that they’re going to do. And they’re not prepared for the fact that, yes, that is wonderful in the beginning, but it ends. It’s like a honeymoon and it really does end.
Casey Weade: But there’s the same kind of seasons to retirement. I guess there’s some crossover here.
Marianne Oehser: Very much so. Very, very much so. And so, in the beginning, the questions would be how are you going to fill your day beyond the toys that you’re going to buy and the trips that you’re going to take? Beyond that, what else are you going to do every day? What are the things that are going to make you feel like you matter? Because when you lose your identity that you have with your business card, how people view you in the world, when that goes away, it creates a void that has to be filled. So, before you retire, it’s a wonderful time to begin to work on how you’re going to replace that identity that you will undoubtedly lose. And how are you going to replace some of the other non-financial benefits of working that most of us don’t focus on like our social network, and like just the structure of our life? Part of retirement, you kind of feel like, “Oh, it’s wonderful. No alarm clock, and I’m free to do whatever we want.” But the reality is most of us need some kind of structure. You get to decide what it is, but what do you want it to look like? So, those are the kinds of questions that people before they actually leap off the cliff into retirement can spend some very useful time thinking about.
Casey Weade: Yeah, I can just see sitting down with my wife and having this conversation about this dream retirement and all the things that I’m planning on doing. If I didn’t have that conversation, then she wouldn’t know that I had been actually planning on playing golf from 8 to 5 every day and then she says, “Well, where’s Casey?”
Marianne Oehser: Exactly. And I think the other thing that happens too in another conversation that’s very useful is about assumptions. People, often we have assumptions that may not even have articulated, and we just sort of assume that the other person is reading our mind somehow and figuring it out. There’s a couple in my office one time, just as I was beginning to realize the connection between your relationship problems and retirement, and they came in because they were one that we used to have a great relationship with people. And they were sitting in chairs in my office, and he was talking about what was going on with their relationship. And she sat there like this. And the more he talked, the more her jaw stiffen and the more she just clenched her face. And all of a sudden, she just blurted out, “Why do I always have to do the laundry?” Casey, I got to tell you, this guy looked at her in absolute shock. He had no idea what she was talking about.
What had happened is she assumed that he would, would he have more time on his hands, step up and do help with the housework, help with the chores, help with the grocery shopping. He had assumed that she was going to continue doing all the stuff she used to do before, and they never talked about it. So, the assumptions go on to just like you were saying, you and your wife, if you’re assuming you’re going to play golf all day and she’s assuming that you’re going to be around all day, not so good. Or if he’s assuming that she’s going to entertain him all day, and that’s not kind of her view of things that you just have to talk about it. Again, I have an exercise for that, which again, I’m happy to share with anybody that goes through all areas of your life saying, “How are you expecting this to be? How much time do you think we’re going to spend with our kids? How much time are we going to spend traveling? How much time is it going to be for read time versus me time? All those things have to be talked about. Or you end up as a gray divorce statistic.
Casey Weade: Right. Sometimes we think of retirement planning just as it’s this box of financial documents, but it’s really so much more than that. It really has much more to do, especially when it comes to relationships impact there. But before we move on, I have to ask, is he doing the laundry?
Marianne Oehser: Yes, he is actually now.
Casey Weade: So, sometimes it’s give and take, huh?
Marianne Oehser: It’s definitely give and take.
Casey Weade: Well, one of the things that I thought was interesting about your relationship coaching, as I was kind of doing some research into the types of relationship coaching that you do, I think of relationship coaching just as marital coaching, marital counseling. However, you had in their relationship coaching for singles, and I thought that was a bit unique.
Marianne Oehser: Well, for a couple of reasons. First of all, people who are single clearly don’t have the same sort of companionship issue that married couples do. And so, the question there becomes usually one of two. First of all, how can I find somebody to have that relationship with? But the other often is, how do I build a fulfilling life for myself without a relationship in it? What does that look like? And typically, that leads to a conversation about happiness and what is it that truly makes you happy? Because there are lots of myths about it, that’s for sure. And so, the conversation about happiness is important for singles and for people that are in a relationship.
Casey Weade: Well, speaking of happiness, one of your taglines is retire and be happy. And when I read that, I put myself in a position of thinking because sometimes we talked about retire with purpose, we want you to retire with purpose. We had feedback from a listener one time that said that you’re making the assumption that retirees don’t all have purpose and when I read the retire and be happy, I thought I wonder if someone would read that and go, “Well, aren’t all retirees happier? You’re assuming that retirees aren’t happy?” And for some they go, “How is it possible that if you don’t go to work, you’re not happy? Retirement is this time of bliss, so why would I even have to be strategic about my happiness?”
Marianne Oehser: Well, and that’s because people have not prepared themselves for what their everyday life is going to look like. And when you don’t have a plan for what you want all of the areas of your life to be like, it’s very easy and it’s a very common pitfall, sadly, that people fall into this pattern of unproductive behavior. And then at the end of the day, they don’t feel like they contributed anything or they accomplished anything. And then that slowly can lead to a place of depression and a feeling of not being happy because you have not addressed those things that I was talking about earlier, the benefits that you had when you were working in the social interactions and the sense of purpose because you had a sense of purpose when you were working. It’s what people paid you to do and you were, therefore, making a contribution. You’re affecting the world in some way. And when that’s gone, you have to find a way to replace it or you will not be happy. I can almost guarantee you that.
Casey Weade: Well, you brought your work into retirement with you and you’re one that’s truly living that job optional lifestyle that we’ve talked about so much here on the podcast. And there’s some in this camp that say, “Well, you have to continue to work. Why would you ever stop working? There’s so many great benefits from it.” But then at the same time, I have families that I work with that they don’t work at all in retirement, but they’re so full of life. They’re so full of purpose. They’re so happy not working. I think it’s kind of confusing, especially for those that are pre-retired going, “Well, am I supposed to work in retirement? Am I not supposed to work in retirement?” How do we know if we should continue working in retirement or not?
Marianne Oehser: That’s great because part of the problem is that we don’t have a good word to talk about this phase of our life, this one-third of our life in many of us, and we’ve sort of inherited the word retirement, which meant to withdraw, and therefore withdraw from work, certainly. Well, today, almost half of the people that are in retirement are also working. So, the word is confusing, and people don’t know how to define themselves if they’re continuing to work. Are they retired or are they not retired? So, we need to craft a new meaning for that word. There’s been a lot of people that have tried to replace the word but that hasn’t worked so far. And so, the question to answer your question specifically, how should people figure out whether or not they want to work? The first thing is to determine why it is that you would want to work or why it is that you would not want to work? And make sure that that’s a reason that’s valid for you. Because if you’re saying, “I’m not working because I’m not supposed to work,” isn’t a very good reason.
Or to say, “I’m going to work because I have to work because it’s who I am as a person and if I don’t work, then who am I as a person?” that’s not a good reason, either. There are lots of good reasons too and there was a study that was done by Merrill Lynch in about 2014 and they looked at this whole people who had chosen to continue to include work in some way as part of their lifestyle after they left the career phase of their life, and they found that people worked for a lot of reasons. Yes, about a quarter of them work because they needed the money but some people worked because they loved the thrill of accomplishing things. Other people worked for the social connections. Other people work just because it gave them a sense of purpose. And so, if you are trying to decide whether or not you want to work, the question again is, what do you want your life to look like? And is work part of the way you can achieve what you want? Not because it’s something that you should do or have to do.
Casey Weade: I’m sure you’ve sat down with individuals who say, “Well, I just hate my job.” Have you sat down with individuals that don’t like their work, they don’t like their job, but you’ve still been able to dig in and find some areas that they actually do enjoy? And then how do you craft the retirement around those benefits, around those things you really enjoy if you don’t actually want to work?
Marianne Oehser: Well, there are a lot of things to do. The pleasures that we achieve from working are things like creating something, solving a problem, contributing to helping other people in some way. And so, when you identify what it is that gives you pleasure about working, then you can start to say, “How can I find another way to apply that?” I had a client one time, who was actually the opposite of the situation that you just laid out. He’s an entrepreneur. And he actually – I won’t tell you what he said. I won’t say exactly what his career was, but he was very successful and he loved what he did. And he actually was recommended to me by his financial advisor because he said, he told her he had tried to retire a couple of times and couldn’t do it. And so, when he came to work with me, he said basically the same thing. He said, “I’ve tried this, I don’t know how in the world you’re going to be able to help me.” He said, “All I can do is to tell you that right now I’m beginning to feel like I might be missing retirement but I don’t want to miss what I’m doing.”
And we did just what you were talking about. We looked at what was it about the thrill of the deal that he loved? What was it? And then we found ways to be able in his retirement not working to apply that in a way that he felt like he was contributing, but also felt like he was doing the same kind of rewards and benefits that he got when he was doing that for money.
Casey Weade: So, you talk a lot about the happiness portfolio. It’s a big part of your book that we’re going to offer up here in a little while. And so, when you were designing this retirement for this individual, you found some of these great benefits from work. I guess, can you describe what the happiness portfolio is? And maybe you can apply that to this situation and share with us where do these different things fit in to a happiness portfolio?
Marianne Oehser: Great. Great question. I just have a little picture of it right here to sort of give you a visual.
Casey Weade: Yeah, awesome. And for those of you that are only listening right now, check out our YouTube channel and you’ll be able to see all the visuals and all the benefits of a real interaction we’re having here.
Marianne Oehser: Well, Casey, you know better than I do that a financial portfolio is not made up of one kind of stock or one kind of investment or one kind of asset. It just not. Well, your life isn’t either. And so, when you look at and I’ve identified eight areas that are important to people in their life. Now, one of them is professional. That is, one of the questions you ask yourself about what you want your life to include is it going to include work or is not and so you then look at each of the other areas. So, let’s start with giving back. If part of what you enjoy doing when you were working was solving problems, then you can find a way to connect with an organization that needs people to help them solve some problems that they might have. And so, for example, the man that I was talking about before, he loved solving problems and he became very involved with a charity that needed them to – it was actually in Haiti. And so, he and his wife went there periodically to help them solve some of the physical problems that were in that charity in order to be able to fully contribute to the people who needed to benefit from it.
So, he was able to take a skill that he had and transfer it to a situation where he wasn’t necessarily getting paid for it, but that he was making a contribution in a way that make him feel like he was making a contribution. So, giving back is one area that you can look for how you can take the skills and the things that you value and the things that you are good at and apply them. Another is self-development. How are you going to keep your mind active? How are you going to keep yourself to the point that you are relevant when you’re talking to other people that you have something to contribute to the conversation, other than what was the weather going to be like tomorrow? Health and aging, huge topic, much bigger than just having access to healthy food which is clearly important and having an exercise routine, which we all know. But aging is successful. Aging is a whole topic in and of itself and it requires you to have a physically active mind, to have a physically active body, to have strong social engagements, to have purpose and meaning.
And so, if you’re looking at how am I going to age successfully, there are lots of opportunities to say, “Okay, I really love to help other people.” And so, one way that I can help other people is by volunteering at the library or that I can contribute in a way that gives me a sense of purpose. And I know we’re going to talk about purpose in a minute. But it’s finding ways that you can apply those things to your own successful aging and whatever it is that you value, will find a place to show up, the other areas of your portfolio or your primary relationship, your friends and family, your spiritual, and your leisure. I mean leisure is an important part of this whole thing. It doesn’t mean that you have to plan a life that is so full of other things there’s just not time to play golf and to go boating. That’s important. And so, with a financial portfolio, you allocate your resources in various areas. With a happiness portfolio, you do the same thing, but what you’re allocating is the time that you’re spending doing it.
So, for example, we’re talking about working, if you’re not the least bit interested in working, clearly, you’re going to spend no time in that area of your life. If you want something, you might decide I’m going to spend 10% and find a part-time, whatever it is that you can do, whether it’s being hired by somebody else or becoming an entrepreneur that you spend 10% of your time. Social interaction is huge and it’s one of those benefits of working that we have to replace is a social interaction. And it’s also we now know, a gargantuan part of how happy we are feeling, how healthy we are. So, having a social network is very important. But again, how much time do you want to spend doing it? I have a sister who is, I actually have a lot of sisters, but one of my sisters that I’m closest to is a very social person. So, when she did her happiness portfolio because she recently retired, the pieces of the pie for her chart was big. Now, I don’t have that same need. So, my need for social interaction, the pie slice is a little bit smaller. And so, as you go through this, it’s how do you allocate your time in a way that ends up making you feel at the end of the day or week was just a really good day or a really good week. So, that’s the objective is at the end of the day to say my life is fulfilling and my life is meaningful.
Casey Weade: I mean, there’s just so many different resources out there as you’re going through this. You’re talking about this happiness portfolio, all these different areas that make up this happiness portfolio. We talked about the relationship, work that needs to be done prior to retirement. You got to wonder why is the retirement transition, why does it sound so daunting? Why is it that we have put in so much work? And I think most people understand it from a financial planning perspective where, “Hey, we’ve got X amount of dollars,” they need to last for the rest of their lives. We’ve got healthcare issues, inflation taxes. We’ve got all these risks. These are very apparent things on the front end of retirement I think for the vast majority of individuals. Then you’ve got this side of things. But then you could go back and you could cover college transition, you could cover marriage, you could cover having kids, you could cover career transitions. Is there really more work that needs to be done in the retirement transition versus other life transitions that we go through?
Marianne Oehser: In my opinion, yes, it is. It is by far one of the biggest transitions. And so, when I’m working with people, one of the things that we do is just what you were suggesting. Our life is a series of transitions and it will continue to be. Even retirement is a series of transitions but the first one is often the most difficult. And so, what I recommend to people that they do is first start by going back and looking at your past transitions, just as you were saying, Casey. How did it work for me when I had to make that leap from school to working? Was it difficult for me? Was it something that I was looking forward to and struggle with, even though I was looking forward to it? Same thing of a marriage. A marriage is certainly something that we all look forward to and an awful lot of times there is a transition because it’s a whole different game than when you were single. Having a baby, oh, my goodness gracious. Your life certainly changes there. But that’s the key is to look at how did it work for you when other times in your life, things changed dramatically? Because it’s those changes that trigger the transition. Go ahead.
Casey Weade: Well, I think that’s some of the most insightful work as I’ve worked with different retirement coaches and spoke with them, interviewed them here on the podcast. I found there is it seems a common theme that you are deeply diving into people’s pasts from their childhood to their adult life and then this retirement transition. And so much of our past, so much for history has to do with being able to make the best decision moving forward.
Marianne Oehser: Very true. It’s very true. And I think a lot of people are not prepared for the fact that they are going to go through this transition. Most people have not thought about that and you were asking before why is it so difficult? And it’s difficult for a couple of reasons. One is if you don’t expect it, it’s something that you think is something wrong. One of my former colleagues when I was working and I used to working in market research, I worked for a global research company and a couple of years after I’d left the company that was doing this stuff, she called me because she had retired a couple of years before that. She was a fabulous golfer and she said, she couldn’t wait to play golf all the time. In fact, she thought about going pro. And then she wasn’t…
Casey Weade: In retirement?
Marianne Oehser: In retirement, she’s going to go pro. And so, she said she was not prepared for when it wasn’t as much fun to play golf anymore. And what happened for her at that point is she kept saying, “I must have made a huge mistake. I probably shouldn’t have retired. Oh, my goodness, some days, I’m euphoric that I don’t have to get on another airplane. And other days I’m saying, ‘Oh, no, I shouldn’t have done this.’” And that kind of feeling when you go through that loss of what you used to enjoy doing, but also when the newness of the vacation wears off, it’s very easy to fall into a situation when you think you’ve made a mistake, and that’s the part of the transition. We don’t like ambiguity, and transitions mean, I don’t have a clear picture of what this is going to look like and that doesn’t make me very happy.
Casey Weade: Now, for that person, did she have to go through that? I think sometimes there are individuals that we have to experience some pain before we make a change. It’s difficult for us to truly envision what our life is going to be like in retirement until we’re actually there. Do we sometimes just have to go through that pain? You talk about the different stages of retirement, these four stages of retirement. Is one of those stages just, “Hey, you have to go through this,” or can we skip some stages and get straight to the good stuff?
Marianne Oehser: Well, actually, there’s some work that was done by Ameriprise, some research that was done by Ameriprise and they talked to 2,000 people who retired within the past five years and it was all about what was this transition like for them. And what they found is that 69% of people said they were facing a challenge adjusting to the new life. So, to your question, do people have to go through it? Well, 31% of people don’t seem to have to do that but to my former colleague, did she have to go through it? The answer is probably because she thought she had a clear picture of what she wanted but then when that wasn’t working out the way that she thought that it was going to, then she had to deal with, okay, now what do I want my life to look like?
Casey Weade: And in that moment if we find ourselves in this retirement funk, which is probably going to happen in my experience, after the first year or two of retirement, we find that some of that bliss has worn off and now we get hit with reality. At that point, what should be our first step?
Marianne Oehser: The first step is to reflect for yourself on what it is that’s meaningful to you in your life? And address the question, Casey, that you’re so familiar with, and that’s the purpose question. Because underlying my happiness portfolio, the foundation of it is feeling like you have a sense of purpose because it’s that sense of purpose that makes you feel like that your life is meaningful and that you matter. And so, the first thing to do is to get in touch with what do you want your purpose to be.
Casey Weade: Well, I think that purpose word can be a little ethereal to some and we go, “What is purpose?” How do you define purpose, Marianne?
Marianne Oehser: Well, I like to use Richard Leider’s definition. He wrote a book called The Power of Purpose and his definition is, it’s the reason for getting up in the morning. Let me give you an example of a story. This is not my story. I actually heard Jack Canfield tell it one time, about a man named Ken Behring. And Ken Behring started out owning an automobile dealership in Wisconsin in the 60s and he was lucky enough to invest at that time in growing communities in California and Florida. And he made quite a lot of money for himself between his automobile dealership and real estate investments. And Ken tells the story of how he has gone through four stages of his life. The first one was, “I’m not happy. I’m just not happy. Why? I must need more things.” So, he’d buy more things thinking that that was going to bring him happiness. And then he bought those things and they weren’t making him happy. So, he said I must need better things. So, he upgraded his car, he bought a bigger house, expected that those things were going to make him happy. And they did for a while but then he wasn’t happy anymore.
He said, “I know I have the wrong things.” So, he bought the Seattle Seahawks. And what do you think? Was he happy? No, this is kind of like the myth of happiness is I’ll be happy when? Well, one day, a friend of his who had a private plane, invited him to go on a trip with him where his friend was going to deliver some wheelchairs to children in Bosnia, whose limbs had been either totally damaged or blown off by the horrible civil war that was had been going on there. And so, Ken said, “Sure. Why not?” And so, he went along and he said his life changed when he took the first wheelchair into a house, and the children were typically like in the backroom because they didn’t have any way to get around. Their family couldn’t even make them mobile. So, when he picked that little boy up and put him in a wheelchair, the little boy clung to his leg and wouldn’t let go. And when Ken looked down, tears were streaming down his face. He was so grateful.
And what Ken said is, “That changed my life because I know I have resources to help people like that.” Now, he had a lot of money. Not all of us have money but he ended up doing starting the wheelchair foundation, which partners now with Kiwanis and Knights of Columbus, and they always had their wheelchair foundation fundraisers. And that’s to support the foundation that Ken Behring started. And now he says, “Now, I am happy.”
Casey Weade: And my question there would be so Jack found it. He found his happiness because he found his purpose and I wondered if Jack would have sat down with you, could you have skipped some of that pain? Could you have helped him identify what that purpose was sooner rather than later? And how would you go about guiding someone to that defining purpose?
Marianne Oehser: It’s a great question. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Blue Zones Movement, but blue zones, I lived in Florida, of course, and Naples is a blue zone community. And so, I was fortunate enough to be one of the people who facilitated purpose workshops all the time. And so, the process and those basic process of Richard Leider, again, is very simple. And it’s what I had been dealing with my clients anyway, so it just was very comfortable. You start by saying when you’re trying to define your purpose, you try to start by looking at what are your gifts? What are the things that you just naturally do well or that it’s just easy for you to do? What are the things that people have always come to you for advice about? So, what are your gifts? Then secondly, what is your passion? Now sometimes people have said to me, but I don’t really have a passion. And the truth of the matter is I believe everybody does have a passion. You may just have shoved it away because of all the other demands of your life and it hasn’t come forth.
But I can guarantee you, if you can think of something that you do, where you lose track of time, where it’s just effortless to do because you’re enjoying it, that’s something you have a passion for. And then if you can combine that with results that somebody else will give you, that you will give to somebody else, you have purpose. And I’ve seen people in the purpose workshops be ignited by ideas and again, it doesn’t have to be saving the rainforest or starting a wheelchair foundation. It can be something small. But when you take the time to write your purpose statement, write it down, and think about how it’s going to work, ideas just start to come to you about how you can make that happen. And a purpose statement is pretty simple. It’s kind of like a mission statement.
Casey Weade: Yeah. I was going to ask, we’ve got mission statements, vision statements, there’s value statements today. Now, we’ve got purpose statements. So, what exactly is the purpose statement and how do they contrast?
Marianne Oehser: Yeah. They’re all very, very, very similar but as Stephen Covey talks about mission statements a lot, and what he says about mission statements applies to purpose statements for sure because what it makes you do is look at the things that you value and then align your behaviors in such a way that you are living your beliefs. So, purpose statement is easy in that it has three components. It’s what is it that you’re going to do, who is going to benefit from it, and what is the result? Now, let me give you an example. I’ll give you my own purpose statement. And it goes like this. I provide information and guidance to people as they move through transitions that occur in retirement so that they can live a happy and fulfilling life. Purposes can be taking care of your grandchildren. It can be growing a rose garden in your front yard so your neighbors can enjoy the beauty.
Casey Weade: That’s where I go is that you just gave one, right? I mean, can’t we have multiple purposes? Isn’t this what the whole happiness portfolio is all about? Should we have multiple purpose statements, or one that’s more broad than that? When I think about my life, I think about where do I find purpose and meaning? It’s when I’m giving and serving others and bringing value to my family. And that allows me to apply that statement to my family, to our team, to our clients, to our fans, to the community. But then again, I could break it out in half a dozen different statements. So, I guess maybe it doesn’t need to be that well-defined or maybe it does. I’m just wondering what your opinion is there.
Marianne Oehser: It doesn’t have to be so well-defined that you have an action plan as a result of it but what it does have to do is be clear enough to you that the choices that it is helping to inform the choices that you’re making about how you’re spending your time. And so, would your purpose statement for your family be the same as your purpose statement for your team? Probably not. But have you clearly defined what it is that you’re good at and you’re serving other people? Who is it that you’re going to serve? And how are they going to benefit from it? Those are pretty broad things that can be applied in that way.
Casey Weade: And that makes me think of Dan Sullivan is one of the most popular business coaches in the world and he talks about unique ability and that kind of comes back to flow state as some call it as well. You know, the thing that when you’re doing it, you lose track of time and you make the biggest impact, you bring the most value to the ones you care about, and you just lose track of time. So, I think of this as where’s that unique ability? Where do you find yourself in flow state? Where do you find yourself with the greatest deal of satisfaction at the end of the day?
Marianne Oehser: Absolutely. You just nailed it.
Casey Weade: Well, that’s awesome. That’s really good stuff. And with that, I want to wrap up by asking you just a question about retirement, and it’s a general question. That is, as you said, earlier, you talked about retirement being different. Maybe we need a different definition today. What does retirement mean to you? How would you define it?
Marianne Oehser: Continuing to live a happy, fulfilling, meaningful life.
Casey Weade: So, in that regard, it could be at any time in life, right?
Marianne Oehser: Well, it can. Absolutely. And the truth of the matter is, Casey, much of the stuff that’s in my book, for example, really applies to any time of your life. It really does. It’s just that I know that people particularly struggle with that when they move into retirement but, yes, all of these concepts are very valid at any stage of your life.
Casey Weade: And I don’t know if this is what you found but when I wrote my book, Job Optional, my most recent book as of now, Job Optional, I wrote it for pre-retirees by individuals that are within that five to 10-year timeframe of stepping into retirement. However, a good chunk of the feedback that I received, the positive feedback received was from younger individuals, people in their 20s, and people in their 20s and 30s. And they said, “Oh, so great. I learned so much,” and they would reach out to me say, “Hey, I’m buying your book,” and I would say, “Well, I hope you get value. It really wasn’t written for you.” And then they would come back saying there’s so much value in there because they were not only able to learn from lessons of other people and stories that were told, but those things are applicable anytime in life. We’re all going to go through transitions, we’re all seeking meaning, we’re all seeking purpose, we’re all seeking happiness. And so, even when we talk about doing hard work, we talk about the retirement transition as a time period that we really need to dig in and do hard work. I would argue that we should be doing that hard work our whole lives. Before every major transition that we go through, is retirement transition more important of a time for you to do that? Arguably so. However, it’s always important.
Marianne Oehser: I completely agree with you. And the truth of the matter is that when you look at it through that lens, it’s true that every stage of your life needs to be focused on what is it about your life that is making you feel like you matter and that you are making a contribution and it’s fulfilling. Part of the reason that retirement transition is so difficult is up until now, people haven’t done that. It’s kind of been all about I need to earn a living and not looking at what else your life needs to include in order to have that feeling. That’s why I think it’s so difficult to do in retirement but you’re absolutely right. Anytime that those same concepts apply always. I just started reading a column for the Atlantic Magazine, and so I’m a retirement expert there to ask questions. And some of the questions are coming from people that are 23 and 30 years old. And so, you’re absolutely right. What a great gift us boomers can give to up to two future generations to the millennials and the Gen-Xers. If nothing else to say, don’t wait until you’re in retirement to ask yourself these questions.
Casey Weade: Right. And that’s what, I love this new concept of retirement, this new idea of retirement, the direction that we’re headed because I learned so much from my grandparents. I actually named our company after my two grandfathers and I did that because of all the valuable lessons that they taught me. And I want to make sure that the retiree today recognizes the impact they can make in so many people’s lives, not just their grandkids, and how much value there is to offer when you have decades upon decades of experience and education and knowledge. We need to maximize that and one of the ways we can advance our knowledge in retirement is by following you, Marianne, and picking up your book. And you made a very gracious offer for the listeners here today. So, if you’re listening, Marianne has signed about a dozen books for us and she is going to actually autograph those. It’s the only place you’re going to be able to get Marianne signature in her book and it’s titled Your Happiness Portfolio for Retirement: It’s Not About the Money!
And it is not about the money. I totally 100% agree with Marianne. Retirement should have nothing to do with money. It should have to do with that purpose and meaning. So, if you’d like to get a copy of Marianne’s book, just scroll on down to your app, write us an honest review, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your screen name and then we will get this book out to you. You can also visit our show notes at RetireWithPurpose.com so just go to the episode show notes there, look for Marianne, and right there in the show notes, you’ll be able to claim that free gift from Marianne. Marianne, thank you so much for that offer.
Marianne Oehser: It’s my pleasure.
Casey Weade: Well, and I’m sure in our show notes if you want to dig in deeper, Marianne has all types of different symposiums and trainings and classes and exercises. If you’d like to engage with her, we’re going to make sure to put a link to her website right there in the show notes as well. Marianne, I’m sure we’ll be catching up again very soon. Thanks a lot.
Marianne Oehser: Thank you, Casey.