Getting Retirement Ready: An Interview with Jennifer Rovet

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A retirement coach is as essential as a financial planner when mapping out your next chapter.

Retirement is one of the most highly sought-after phases of life, and yet it is also one of the least understood. While retirées may thoroughly enjoy the honeymoon phase of retirement filled with travel to bucket list places and loads of leisure time, the feelings of elation and relief often lead down a very different path. In fact, according to the Homes Rahe Scale which lists life’s 43 most stressful life events, retirement is ranked number 10.

One of the biggest reasons why people don’t fare well is because they haven’t planned for the non financial aspect to retirement. Fortunately, with the emergence of professional retirement coaching, this more personal side of retirement helps people prepare for the mental, social, physical and spiritual aspects of life after work.

In this very special Up-Close & Personal, we sat down with our favourite Retirement Coach, Jennifer Rovet of Retire Ready Canada to discuss how she helps her clients navigate this major life transition and achieve renewed purpose and joy, beyond the dollar and cents side of retirement.

Up-Close & Personal with Jennifer Rovet

Transitions Realty: You have often referred to the dark side of retirement. While people devote their time and effort to the financial preparation for this time of life, there can be a disregard to the emotional needs during this life change. If someone finds themselves in a retirement rut, describe your process of taking a disillusioned retiree from bleakness to a meaningful joyous life again.

Jennifer Rovet: As I do with all my clients, I start with an intake form. By answering a few simple questions, I develop a plan on how I believe our coaching sessions will be most effective. I also select tools that I wish to use to help structure our sessions as well. Using these tools, such as a workbook, questionnaires, or specific exercises, the client can explore and uncover why he or she might be in a rut, what might be causing this lack of happiness and how they can overcome this and work towards a more fulfilling and rewarding retirement. This, however, does not happen overnight. It takes time and effort, and people must be willing to go on this journey if they want to see positive end results.

Transitions Realty: You have said that surprisingly, people spend a lot more time planning a two-week vacation than they do their retirement. While some people “wing it” better than others, is there a certain devil-may-care personality who fares better during this transition? Perhaps someone who is less structured, who is perfectly happy to live in the moment and figure things out as they go along?

Jennifer Rovet: There are of course people who wing their retirement and may do quite well and be happy. However, many people do not have that “devil-may-care” personality. I often see people retire, without doing any planning and over time, become more and more disillusioned with the whole notion of retirement. They slip into a routine of boredom, lack of purpose, loneliness and depression. No one should live like that. Therefore, some level of planning is essential. Even at an extremely simplistic level, all you have to do is figure out what you like to do, what you want to do (with whom, if applicable) and start building on that. But as easy as this sounds, many people still struggle with planning. Everyone is different and there is no cookie-cutter formula that equals a good retirement. My job as a retirement coach, is to help my clients put together a workable plan and guide them along their path of self-discovery.

Transitions Realty: In your experience, do you find there were emotional issues that were ignored during a client’s career years and with the sudden loss of daily routine, work interactions, etc. that this is also the time that lingering, unaddressed emotional issues, finally are given a chance to surface and that is what is getting in the way of defining this new meaningful chapter?

Jennifer Rovet: Yes, absolutely. We are all guilty of this. When we are in the thick of our careers, raising families and living busy lives, we don’t always think about our retirements, which for some could be 20 years down the road. So, when a person does retire and hasn’t been in tune with their emotions, they could all start to bubble up once retirement is upon them. However, as I have said in the Downsizing Done Right webinar, it is never too late to plan. I may sound like a broken record, but planning is essential and necessary for this next chapter in a person’s life.

When traditional work life comes to an end, many people realize for the first time that they now have the headspace to think and reflect on their lives. It can be a wonderful experience. But for others, it can be a difficult experience, leaving them feeling lost or disillusioned with what is next. What’s important is to really listen to your emotions. Speak with a spouse, a friend or even a retirement coach and ask for help if needed. What you do not want to do is ignore these emotions and hold them in. Having a strong support system in place or the assistance of a coach will help make the transition into retirement a welcoming and even exciting experience.

Transitions Realty: Everyone imagines that retirement is filled with the freedom to finally be in charge of their own time. Hobbies, learning a new language or how to play an instrument, there is finally time to pursue other interests without being bogged down with work commitments. What is one of the most interesting or surprising discoveries that you helped a client bring to life?

Jennifer Rovet: I was working with a client last year and he was having a hard time figuring out what he was going to do once he retired. He knew he was going to travel and spend time on his boat in the summer, but beyond that, he was at a loss.

I had him work through many exercises and different questionnaires to try and test out what he was good at and also what he was interested in. Nothing seemed to be working.

During one of our coaching sessions, we were sharing different blogs that we enjoyed reading. He then mentioned to me that a few years ago, he had written a few blogs and discovered that he enjoyed writing. I suggested that perhaps writing blogs could be something he could incorporate into his plan, a way to fill his days and weeks. I remember he paused for a few seconds during our conversation and said: I never thought about that. It was like a light bulb had gone off in his head and he discovered his ‘aha’ moment. The more we talked about this as part of his plan, the more excited he became bursting with ideas for blog topics and different platforms for publishing. For me, it was a neat experience to see the wheels turning in his head and the excitement that was growing with this new activity he wanted to pursue in retirement.

Transitions Realty: The daily routine, the meetings, the business lunches and after-work events. While we may be celebrating not having to devote our time to a traditional work week, leaving this world that adults have dedicated the past three or four decades to is still a loss in its own right. Is there a grieving process or time that your clients need to honour before they can successfully plan how to live best during retirement?

Jennifer Rovet: Retirement is all about letting go of a past life and moving forward to a new one. During this time there will be a grieving process. Grief is often associated with the loss of a loved one but it can show up in other ways, such as the loss of a job, health or financial stability.

When it comes to retirees, there are a number of significant losses they face:

  • Loss of identity and
  • sense of purpose
  • Changes to their daily routine
  • Decrease in social interaction
  • Less mental stimulus and physical activity
  • Loss of a paycheque

These losses can be frightening and overwhelming, but it’s important to understand that they are normal feelings and accepting them as part of the grieving process is essential for healing, closure and moving on.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve, but there are plenty of healthy ways to cope with it. The key is finding and accepting support. This can come from family, friends, support groups, talking to a therapist, a retirement coach, or even a grief counselor. You might even try writing about the loss or developing a memory book. I am such a big fan of writing things down, whether in a journal or on a white board. It doesn’t matter where the support comes from or in what form, connecting with people will help overcome the retirement grief.

We all know that retirement is a major life transition that has endings and new beginnings. It means losing some things while gaining others and recognizing that what you think and feel during this time, is not only normal, but all part of the process.

Transitions Realty: Your interest in retirement coaching and passion to guide retirees to make this the best time of their life was prompted by watching your own parents struggle with the challenges this transition presented to them. In fact, they were your first clients. How often do couples have diverging opinions or desires on how best to spend this time of life?

Jennifer Rovet: All couples are different. Some are totally in sync with each other and their retirements, right up to the big day. They have communicated with each other and figured out exactly what they want to do together and are very much on the same page. Others are not so successful.

I believe what holds couples back from having a fulfilling and meaningful retirement is a lack of planning and communication. With busy work schedules gone, kids out of the house and less commitments, couples are now forced to spend much more time together. It can be an adjustment and feel strange.

Communication is critical prior to and into retirement. Couples need to share what their ideal retirement looks like. Some questions to consider are: What is important to you in retirement? How do you want to spend your time in retirement? What activities will you pursue together and which will you pursue individually or with others? Couples might be surprised that their retirement visions don’t align.

It’s okay if their retirement plans are not exactly the same – they don’t have to be. But it’s important that couples know what each one wants and respects that. Roles and responsibilities too have to be discussed and agreed upon. Just because both people are retired, doesn’t mean that one will now do all the cooking, house chores and shopping. These things need to be figured out.

Like individual retirement planning, couples who plan their retirements together might find this difficult. It will take time and patience and lots and lots of open communication. And if nothing is working, then seek help from a retirement coach. I have worked with couples and have been successful guiding them through discussions, asking many questions, and using tools along the way. Eventually, with hard work they were able to discover a path that worked for them to have a retirement filled with happiness and purpose.

Transitions Realty: When people are gearing up for retirement, you have said that clients contact you anywhere between one or two years before the transition actually takes place. How long does the process take with a client to zero in on what would make them happy during this time? Do you counsel them for a specific time frame, and are there relapses once you send them off towards third-age bliss?

Jennifer Rovet: There is no magical timeframe for people to discover what will make them happy and fulfilled in retirement. Everyone is different. However, what I have found is that most of my clients need at least three sessions but six seems to be the sweet spot. Six sessions allow clients to open up with me and take a deep dive to explore and discuss many different aspects of their lives. Some of the topics we discuss are: family, health, hobbies, leisure, and learning. Coaching is a journey, something that should not be rushed. Of course, some people need more than six sessions and that is perfectly fine. Oftentimes, a client will decide to work with me for six sessions but as we get to say the fifth or sixth session, something more is uncovered and the client feels he or she needs more time and decides to continue working longer with me. My work model is flexible, and I will work with a client for as long as they need.

I haven’t had any clients relapse (yet) but I keep in touch with all my clients, sometimes years after we have finished working together. I like to check in, see how they are doing and ensure they are still enjoying living their retirement years to the fullest. But if something isn’t going as planned or something just doesn’t feel right, I would be happy to work with them again.

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