Andrew Liveris, former Dow CEO, encourages retirees to stay active, stay engaged, and stay relevant
Over a 15-year tenure as Chairman and CEO of The Dow Chemical Company, Andrew N. Liveris transformed the company from a cyclical chemicals manufacturing company into one powered by science, driven by innovation and delivering solutions to the world. By combining the breadth and depth of Dow’s scientific heritage with a new, robust portfolio of market-facing businesses, he assured Dow’s place as an industry leader for generations to come.
To accelerate Dow’s reinvention, Liveris led the company in groundbreaking transactions including the acquisition of Rohm and Haas, the biggest acquisition in Dow’s history; the creation of Sadara, a joint venture with Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest integrated chemical facilities ever built in a single phase; the assumption of full ownership of Dow Corning; and the completion of the historic merger of Dow and DuPont – one of the most significant deals in the history of the chemical industry. Liveris retired from Dow in 2018, and now serves as a board member or trustee for many organizations.
Did you choose retirement? Or was it chosen for you?
I chose to retire after a 15-year tenure as CEO while in my mid-60s. My timing was right for me, my company, and my successor.
How was the transition from the working world to retirement?
As hard as everyone said it would be. Going from doing one thing for 43 years to doing a portfolio of activities, with minimal infrastructure, and trying to find quality time to do things I always wanted to do was a hard transition for an over-active, self-proclaimed workaholic like me.
What do you wish you knew about retirement before you retired?
That you would have to create a completely new dependency network. It’s harder than it looked before retirement. The ecosystem for retirement is established. The ecosystem for “active retirees “ or people in “activement” is weak.
The lifelong connections one establishes at your workplace don’t necessarily follow you in your new life. Your family does. Your friends do. Your networks may or may not. It’s important to nourish those in your new life.
How do you stay connected to the chemistry enterprise as a retiree?
I’m on the Board of Saudi Aramco that has majority ownership of SABIC. I’m also consulted by many investors for my views on the industry. I’m also advising the Minderoo Foundation on their efforts to reduce plastic waste.
What do you like most about where you are living in retirement? What’s one thing you wish you could change about where you live?
COVID-19 kept us in Australia for 15 months and counting. We like it here, but miss our grandchildren in the US. We plan to split our time between the US and Australia when things return to “normal. “ The US and Australia are wonderful countries with terrific lifestyles, and lots of similarities.
They are different culturally, and that’s been an adjustment for my wife and me. The differences are highlighted by a phrase that is not universally true but symbolic of national priorities - “Americans live to work, Australians work to live”. The truth lies in the middle somewhere.
What advice do you have for people who are getting ready to retire?
Stay active. Stay engaged. Stay relevant. What got you to where you could afford a comfortable environment is who you are. Radically changing yourself is not on the cards. Be true to who you are.
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This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.