by Michael Evans, Founder & Wealth Manager

If there’s a group who has what it takes to live life on their own terms, it’s high-achieving professionals like you. Throughout your career, you’ve envisioned and planned for success, put in the sweat equity to achieve it; and rolled past the inevitable setbacks. You’ve also accumulated enough wealth to fund your next ambitions, whatever they may be.

But then what? Are you starting to imagine an eventual retirement? Maybe you’ve already downshifted into easier living. Or perhaps you’re still mid-career, but ready for fresh challenges.

Regardless, if you’re more used to taking care of business than winding it down, you may be unsure how to make a successful career transition. As the late motivational speaker Jim Rohn observed: “We generally change ourselves for one of two reasons: inspiration or desperation.” Ideally, you want your next steps to be inspired ones. But exactly how do you go about seizing your day? 

First, a Personal Anecdote on a Career Transition

If introspection isn’t your favorite pastime, believe me, you’re not alone! I write today’s post not as an advisor on high, but as someone who has walked in your shoes. I’ve felt those same, sharp stones underfoot while making a couple of career transitions of my own. 

My first change happened in 2009, when I left my career as a fixed income derivatives trader and founded Cogent Strategic Wealth. As open outcry pits gave way to electronic exchanges, floor traders like me were disappearing fast. Plus, my heart wasn’t in it anymore. After catching me reading financial journals late into the night, my wife finally asked: “So, Michael, when are you going to start your financial planning business?” Suddenly, my future seemed obvious. After taking several years to research the profession and interview anyone who would agree to talk to me, Cogent Strategic Wealth was born. 

COVID triggered my next big transition. As I posted here, Cogent went virtual during the lockdown. Then, over time, we shifted to a new business model, operating from multiple home-based locations in Chicago and now, our second location in southwest Utah, where I get to commune regularly with the great outdoors. 

Some Work and More Play

I found two resources especially helpful for my own transitions. The first is William Bridges’ “Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes.” The second is “Your Retirement Quest,” by Alan Spector and Keith Lawrence.

Imagine my delight when Alan Spector agreed to join me and Kelly Stanley for our Cogent webinar, “Career Transitions: Beyond the Financials.” Together, we explored the benefits of following a life planning process, BEFORE you begin your transition.

Watch the webinar: Career Transitions - Beyond the financials

Planning before acting may seem like a no-brainer. But based on conversations we’ve had, many professionals are more enthusiastic about preparing their next family vacation than being purposeful about changing careers or making work an optional part of their life. 

Alan’s life plan draws from his and Keith’s experiences in 2004 and 2009, respectively, when they each stepped away from their executive roles at Proctor & Gamble. Like many high-end professionals, they needed to create the right retirement for their active lifestyles. For example, Alan loves baseball. He continues to play with “kids his own age,” and is a two-time silver medalist in the Senior Olympics. He’s also a family man, and an active community volunteer.   

How did he transition from his 33-year, globetrotting career, to author and hometown ball player? It all started with a written life plan. As Alan describes:

“There was a lot of good information out there, but what the books were missing was answering the question, ‘So what?’ … I’m working with my financial resources to build a financial plan. That’s where my planning has been focused. But what about the other side of it? Some call it the soft side. I call it the necessary side.”

10 Key Elements

In their aforementioned book, Alan and Keith cover 10 “secrets,” or elements, to include in your life plan. While their emphasis was on creating and living a fulfilling retirement, I found these same elements apply just as well to any big transition. Most of their secrets are more about your mindset than your money. For example, by positioning your ongoing quest (secret #3) as a team effort (secret #7), you can build up the resiliency you need (#9) to achieve freedom (#1) and make the most of your time (#10). 

Practice Makes Perfect

With a life plan in hand, how do you move past the common myths, and discover what you really want to do with your time? Many busy professionals resign themselves to just winging it in retirement. This may work, but it’s not exactly the most efficient way to go.

Instead, Alan and Keith suggest “practicing” retirement (or any other transition) to discover whether the actual experience is what you were imagining. For example, Keith had long dreamed of being a teacher in retirement. But when he tried teaching a class ahead of time, he discovered he really didn’t love it as much as he thought he would. So informed, he was able to adjust his plans before diving in with both feet. 

By field-testing your life plan, you also can more effectively build out your financial plans for funding your interests. Plus, as Alan notes, “if these are things that you’re really excited about and looking forward to, why wouldn’t you want to bring them into your life today?”

When the Timing It Right (Four Questions)

It’s also common to wonder how you know when it’s time to retire, or otherwise transition your career. Here are four questions to ask yourself: 

1.    Do I have enough?

2.    Will I have enough to do?

3.    Have I had enough of what I’ve been doing?

4.    Do I and my family want my new lifestyle, 24 x 7? 

Once you can answer “yes” to all four questions, you should be ready to go. Having written plans, and having practiced your plans ahead of time helps you answer these questions with improved confidence. 

Putting It Together With Cogent Strategic Wealth

Can you see how it’s all coming together? For additional insights, we encourage you to view our “Career Transitions: Beyond the Financials” webinar, and/or read one of Alan’s and Keith’s books.

In fact, let me know if we can send you a complimentary copy of “Your Retirement Quest,” as our gift to you. One reason we founded Cogent was to advise successful professionals, high-achieving entrepreneurs, and similar highly motivated individuals and their families on their career and lifetime transitions. 

Whether your retirement is near or far—or you’re already there—there’s never a bad time to start preparing for the rest of your life. At Cogent Strategic Wealth, we offer a fresh approach to helping you Design | Build | Protect Life on Your Terms. How can we help you make the most of your life’s transitions? To find out, sit down with us today for a Cogent Conversation. We’ll listen to what success looks like for you, explore any challenges your family faces, suggest a portfolio tailored to you, and help you build and manage it every step of the way. 

Don’t manage your family’s financial future all on your own. Book your Cogent Conversation today!


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