When we are young, our parents and grandparents stage of life seems so far in the future that it is hard to relate to and understand many of their choices and decisions. As we grow up and reach the age our parents were at the time they made these decisions, our understanding of these changes becomes clearer. I reached this “aha moment” a few years ago about my dad’s career change prior to retirement -one he made about twenty-five years ago.

My dad “retired” from a long-time career as a teacher, high school Principal and athletic director. His career had him on the go many days from 6:00am to 6:00pm, or later on evenings when there were activities to attend or supervise. After 34 years as an educator he retired and started a trophy, award and engraving business. My mom was a homemaker after having my sister and me. She enjoyed helping my dad with the business.

When he made this transition, I was a young adult with my own family with busy kids and schedules to keep up with. I really didn’t give his retirement and career change much thought. After all, wasn’t retirement supposed to be a time when you stopped working? That was probably my only thought. Isn’t that what the message is, retire and everything will be great?

As I am older, near the age my dad was when he made this transition, I now understand his decision much more clearly. Many of the thoughts he had about making a change are likely the same thoughts I am having about making a career change and what life going forward will look like.

Here is how I now can see why making this decision was right for him and why he asked and answered the right questions to make the transition.

Starting the business was his way of:

1) It gave him a new purpose. His purpose is what is described in the following items 3-6.

2) It allowed him to make some extra income, whether they needed it or not. The extra money allowed them to do some things they probably wouldn’t have done.

3) It gave him the chance to create something tangible with his hands. He started out in the education field as an industrial arts teacher. He has always enjoyed making things, particularly out of wood.

4) It allowed him to continue working with people from his previous position and from the community as well as make new connections.

5) It allowed him to continue to recognize the achievements of young people. Being in the education field for all those years, from teaching to coaching to becoming an administrator, the one thing he enjoyed was working and seeing kids succeeding.

6) It provided the opportunity to start and run something that was all his. He was used to making many decisions, often large, impactful decisions, but he did not have the layers of oversight to contend with from his previous career. He only needed to make his clients happy with the product he created.

I often wonder what my kids think of the job or career changes my wife and I have made during our lives. Does any of it makes sense to them? Do they even care or are aware? Does it raise questions or concerns for them? Will they have similar decisions to make as adults?

Whether or not my dad thought of each of the reasons listed above or whether one or a few were factors in his decision to make this change, I don’t know. Someday, I will have to ask if he remembers what led him make the change and how much thought and planning went into the decision. What I do believe is clear is that he created a new purpose for the remainder of his working life and was prepared to make the identity change from educator to small business owner.

My parents are now fully retired, still living in the house I grew up in. My dad is now fully retired.

As I have watched his retirement unfold, retirement includes stages from slowing down working (or changing careers) to being more active in early retirement to slowing down and not getting out as much. For many, the final stage is a sedentary lifestyle where they are confined to their home.

The lessons from watching my dad’s retirement and transition taught me a couple of things. One, the decision to change careers was probably one he gave quite a bit of thought to and the transition he made to find a different purpose was ahead of his time. Twenty-five years ago, not many people during that time made a career change near or at retirement. Two, he defined what he wanted to do and found a new purpose.

For each of us making, or planning to make the transition to retirement, defining our purpose can be one of the most important steps. What will your new purpose be in retirement? Spend the time to create a plan to define your ideal retirement. Use the reasons above to plan your transition into retirement.

If you need help working through the decision-making process, feel free to contact me. I’d be happy to help sort out your thoughts, dreams and goals for your Encore.