When your career ends, you probably enjoyed the freedom from the stress, schedules, demands, and challenging people. It is exhilarating! You are enjoying doing just what you want to do … when you want to do it.  But then, it starts to feel a bit empty. Like something is missing. Like you want something more.

Shirley was a very successful sales rep. She was consistently a top producer and won a number of awards. Shirley and her husband moved to beautiful Naples, Florida with the blessing of her company since she could still cover her territory from here. About a year later there was a change in management and with it a change in philosophy. The new team did not like “remote” workers. Shirley was told that she had to move back to the city where their headquarters is located or leave the company. She chose the sunshine and had to resign.

Shirley was not ready to retire. She was able to do some consulting work for her old company but it wasn’t really enough and it dried up eventually. Shirley is pretty resilient so it didn’t take her long to fill her time with enjoyable things. For a year or so she stayed pretty busy. But one day she realized that even though she was busy, her life didn’t feel very fulfilling.

When she came to see me, she felt pretty directionless. At about the same time, her mom’s health began to decline and even though she was committed to helping her mom she didn’t want that to totally consume her life.

We worked through all of the exercises and discussions that are part of my proven system. Through that process Shirley realized that there was a missing piece in life – giving back.

Shirley was doing some volunteering but like so many people it wasn’t fulfilling. Finding the right volunteering opportunity is a bit like looking for a job. You can’t just show up and say “Hi I’m here to help.” They don’t know what you are good at or how you can best help them.

Before we started looking for the right volunteer opportunity for Shirley, we did the same things you’d do when you are looking for a job. We looked are her strengths and weaknesses, her skills, her interests, and what she had found to be meaningful in the past. When we looked at the full picture, it became clear what type of organization she should approach and what she should say to them. She identified the organizations that were most aligned with what she wanted to give and what she needed in return.

Next, we worked on how care giving fits into her Happiness PortfolioTM. For her it is an important part. We examined all of her life arenas and decided how much of her time and energy she wanted to invest in each one. She saw that having a balance is important to her and her ability to care for her mother without resentment and burnout.

Shirley walked away with a clear Happiness PortfolioTM and plan of action.

When you retire, so much changes in your life and it is normal to feel directionless. As you move away from your career, you have to leave behind a lot of things that helped define who you are and how you were contributing. Replacing those important things takes time and thought. When you get in touch with what is meaningful to you, what you enjoy doing, and what you are good at doing, the picture begins to fall into place. You can be enthused about what you are doing and feel that your life is fulfilling.


Marianne Oehser is a retirement consultant, Certified Retirement Coach, and founder of Retire & Be Happy.  She is a seasoned expert committed to helping people create a happy, fulfilling “post-career” phase of their lives through her workshops, seminars, public speaking, and individual coaching.  She also works with singles and couples to successfully build and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships- after all, having a solid relationship is central to creating a happy, fulfilling life.  Marianne holds a Masters of Management from Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management.

Marianne recently released a new book titled Your Happiness Portfolio for Retirement- It’s Not About the Money.  It is available for purchase on Amazon.

Reid’s Note:  The book is fantastic.  For those wanting to delve into the non-financial aspects of retirement on your own, the book provides a great guide full of examples and a number of exercises and worksheets.