2012-11-15 / Business News

Retirement coaches aid Boomers toward goals


It appears Baby Boomers have retired retirement.

Whether it is because they need to work to meet the mortgage or simply believe they are way too young to call it quits, the over-55 crowd is re-evaluating, repurposing and setting their sights on what some are calling “rewirement.” And, in keeping with the Boomer penchant for hiring expertise in all areas of their lives, they are visiting retirement coaches in record numbers to help them transition into new careers.

While the first Baby Boomers became eligible for full Social Security benefits last year, their decision to stay in the work place has made them the only segment of the work force that is growing. In Palm Beach County Boomers downsized from media companies, jobless as the result of a very public bankruptcy or victims of a shyster who took down more than a few family fortunes have reinvented themselves for the next 20 years.

FORELLA FORELLA “Life coaching is a great opportunity to reach people who might not need therapy but are looking for ways to reach their goals and get unstuck,” said therapist, retirement coach and Baby Boomer April Forella, whose practice is based in Palm Beach Gardens. “I ask open-ended questions about the past to facilitate moving forward and to alleviate stress. But retirement coaching is present and future driven.”

Ms. Forella and other coaches use a number of techniques to help clients map out where they are now and the road to reaching where they would like to be.

Said Linda Gradess, a board certified coach specializing in life and work transitions, “I help people move from confusion and uncertainty to clarity so they can create a purposeful life. I help people focus on issues of identify and values and transition to a new life stage.”

Adds Jennifer Sabin, who also works with corporations worldwide through her firm The Growth Management Group, “The work we do so individual. It is not cookie cutter. We meet people where they are and partner with them to get where they want to go. Imagine if Mary Poppins came into your life.”

GRADESS GRADESS Retirement coaches offer a roster of treatment types.

You can meet with a coach for a one-on-one, do the work by phone or Skype.

Sessions can range from

35 to 55 minutes and cost hovers around the $100-anhour rate. Some coaches require a commitment of several months; others teach group sessions where the group performs the valuable service of support.

“There are all kinds of coaches,” said Ms. Sabin. “One way to pick a coach, like any other service professional, is a personal referral. I highly recommend you interview several coaches. You can do that by phone. Many coaches will offer complimentary coaching session.”

KAPLAN KAPLAN Ms. Gradess finds the “conversation café” approach especially effective.

“You have 10-15 people sitting in a circle exploring provocative questions in a safe environment,” she said. “We use (a) book as a framework, but employ other resources like the Life Wheel and journaling. Classes last from six to eight weeks creating camaraderie and a sense of community that is important and useful. Each week there is a different focus.”

The Wheel of Life is a popular tool in the transition toolbox. Users are asked to create a pie chart that reflects satisfaction in several areas of life and provides the basis for creating new goals.

“It gets people to think deeper about what they want to do, what they want to get out of life and what they want their legacy to be,” said Ms. Gradess.

FEUER FEUER A coaching relationship begins with the establishment of trust and intimacy — a safe space to explore who you are now, versus say, during the time you were immersed in a 30-year corporate career.

“There are a lot of issues related to ego and identity when somebody is completing a career,” said Ms. Sabin. “It is very challenging. People design their lives around what they need rather than what they want. A good coach can translate the shifts — the ‘aha moments’ when everything is different because there is a change in insight and awareness. This is where you discover what you want to do.”

Coaching happens through chatting, and Ms. Sabin says in a good coaching session the coach rarely talks. Coaching, like therapy, warns Ms. Sabin, can be unsettling.

“This is not a polite, appropriate conversation. It can be light and fun but at other times it can be uncomfortable,” she said. “Coaching is an intentional conversation unique in its design.”

Ms. Sabin says it is important to monitor the coaching relationship. If it becomes too friendly it may lose its impact.

“It’s important to realize if it is no longer stretching you,” she said. “Coaches are retained with a very specific purpose. We are there to make sure it happens. Coaching is not always tied up in a neat little bow. It can get messy.”

Most coaches hold their clients accountable for moving along the newly defined path. Some assign homework; others rely on recaps at the end of the session to summarize the client’s commitment in completing certain tasks between sessions.

Meredith Kaplan, certified professional coach and licensed mental health counselor, has taken a very practical tack in her Palm Beach Gardens practice. Teaming up with career coach and branding specialist Syndee Feuer, Ms. Kaplan not only provides coaching but also resume- and cover-letter writing, job-search techniques, networking ideas, social media profiles and other tools to help her clients find a job.

“My goal is to develop a road map with specific actions to be taken after examining financial and emotional issues and work option,” said Ms. Kaplan. “We work with people to examine all these issues in the most optimistic way.”

Coaching is looking at the big picture — not just the immediate needs of new employment.

“I believe each of us have gifts and talents that are sometime hidden when there are changes and new chapters in life,” said Ms. Forella. “There are very real barriers people have to get past. But there may also be ways to take steps toward finding new passions.” ¦

Suggested reading:

>> “Portfolio Life: The New Path to Work,

Purpose and Passion After 50” by David

Corbett >> “Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment” by Martin. E. P.

Seligman >> “Too Young to Retire: An Off-the-Road Map to the Rest of Your Life, by Howard and

Marika Stone

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