Here’s a story that’s more common than you might think.
Charlie retired a bit early at 63. His job had moved from Dallas to Los Angeles and he didn’t want to move with it, but because he had fully contributed to his retirement savings for 40 years he was financially set.
The first two weeks were blissful. No phone calls, no e-mails, no demands from work, golf every day. The second two weeks were confusing: no phone calls, no e-mails, no demands from work. Golf slacked off because his back hurt and he hated playing alone.
Time passed. One day it occurred to him, “I’ve been retired for three months and I’m nearly panicked. My job was my life. I don’t think my life should be over at 63, but I’m not finding the consulting work I hoped for, and my old work friends moved on with the company.”
“When I tell people I’m retired I get one of two reactions: ‘You must be the happiest man alive— No phone calls, no e-mails, no demands from work’ or the ‘dead man walking’ look. Is my life really over? I don’t know if I can recover the self-esteem I had when my first name was Vice President. Kris Kristofferson was right: ‘Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.’”
My story was different but similar. Everyone said, “You’re retiring? You need a plan.” OK, fair enough. What does that mean and where do I get it? I started noticing when I introduced myself I began with “I used to be…” I had lost my identity and had no idea how to find a new one. It took me about three years to get my mind right.
In ACS we have lots of career tools—how to write a resume, how to network, how to interview. Most of those tools are useful to our new graduates looking for their first job and to people in mid-career looking to make a change. Our big gap was preparing for retirement from your first career. I know I could have used that tool, and so I decided to invent it. I became a Certified Retirement Coach and wrote a workshop called “Skydiving Into Retirement: How to Enjoy the Ride and Land Softly.” It’s been a part of Career Pathways now for three years.
The simple fact is: when you retire, and for the subsequent 20 to 30 years or so, you will be responsible for structuring 2000 hours per year that was previously structured by your career and before that, your education. That’s a lot of time to kill watching cat videos.
In this Virtual Office Hours session, we’ll help someone preparing for retirement or newly retired understand the changes in environment and identity and start to map out values, interests, and skills that can be put to use for the next phase.
Keep an eye out for opportunities to attend the Career Pathways workshop in-person at ACS Spring or Fall. For more personal retirement stories, advice, and community, check out Industry Matters' 5th Quarter segment.
About the Contributor
Dr. William F. Carroll, Jr. holds a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, an M.S. from Tulane University in New Orleans, and a B.A. in chemistry and physics from DePauw University in Greencastle, IN. He retired from Occidental Chemical Corporation in 2015 after 37 years in positions including technology, commercial development and environmental policy. He now heads his own company, Carroll Applied Science, LLC and is an Adjunct Professor of Chemistry at Indiana.
Bill has served as President and as Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Chemical Society (ACS), one of three living members to hold both offices. He is a Fellow of ACS as well as the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Royal Society of Chemistry. In 2009 he was chair of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents.
Bill has received Distinguished Alumni Awards from both Indiana and DePauw, and numerous ACS division and local section awards. He is active on the ACS Committee for Professional Training, the ACS Insurance Trust, the ACS Careers, and is a Certified Retirement Coach. He holds two patents and has over seventy-five publications in the fields of organic electrochemistry, polymer chemistry, combustion chemistry, incineration, plastics recycling, sustainability and… popular music history and analytics.
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.