“My Portfolio Life: An Irish Retirement Story” by Greg Butler

We welcome our guest blogger from Ireland, Greg Butler:

Shakespeare’s ‘Seven Ages of man’ suggests that there is an underlying pattern to our lives involving distinct stages or acts- infant, schoolboy, lover, soldier, justice, pantaloon, and second childhood.  The successful transition between stages depends on how well the preceding life phase has been lived.

Retirement is one of life’s most significant transitions, and without adequate preparation and understanding, it can create a discontinuity that often leads to shock and denial, anger, frustration and sometimes even depression.  A wonderful quote from Carl Jung, can be applied to the need for planning, before stepping into the 3rd Act:

‘Wholly unprepared, we embark upon the second half of life… we take the step into the afternoon of life; worse still we take this step with the false assumption that our truths and ideals will serve as before. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning – for what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie.’

This article describes how I created my ‘Portfolio Life’, which has given me options for the 3rd Act of my life story, long before I arrived at that stage.

I started work in 1964, and retired after 43 years in 2007.  I spent the last 26 years as Finance, and later Marketing Director, of one of Ireland’s leading grocery brands, the most rewarding part of my career.  I can say with gratitude that when I look back on my work life, it has been even more rewarding than I dreamt it would be.

I’m thankful that it ended perfectly, as I got a great send off, with lots of parties, flattering speeches, and a good pension.  I know many people who worked just as diligently and skilfully as I did, and had little to show for it at the end of their career, because the company failed, or they did not have a good relationship with a new manager.

To quote from the Life of Pi, by Yann Martel … “it’s important in life to conclude things properly.  Only then can you let go”…

My life was never just about work, and I achieved a very good work-life balance.  From age 40, I devoted a lot of time to personal development, because I believed that not even the best of jobs could give me all I wanted in life…hence the need for a ‘Portfolio Life’.  I applied the same principles to my life that I learned as a former Finance Director… that it is advisable to take the long term and to diversify among the different asset classes in managing an investment portfolio.   In my life, I took on board the adage that variety is the spice of life.

During my forties and early fifties I took singing lessons, attended writing classes, was very active in Toastmasters and Rotary, played golf, joined a hill walking group, travelled extensively, practiced meditation, trained as a life and business coach, did a parachute jump and paraglide over glaciers in the Mont Blanc region…and so on!

These hobbies were restorative, and an antidote to work and life’s stressors, and crucially, they gave me great options for my 3rd Act, during which I could experience those parts of life that were neglected or unexplored.

What do you do?

In retirement the question ‘what do you do’ was initially testing, because for most of my life this question referred to paid work.  I was reluctant to say ‘I’m retired’ since it often evoked negative comments, such as, do you have a problem filling your day, or aren’t you lucky you got out before recession hit.

When asked that question today, my answer depends on who is asking it. If it is relevant, I may say that I’m a Retirement Coach, or a Published Writer, work for which I am paid. Otherwise, I may talk about my hobbies, my research and study, or my volunteer and community service.  I avoid saying ‘I used to be…’  I see myself as a ‘Portfolio Worker’, to use the Irish Management Guru, Charles Handy’s, description.

How will you describe yourself when you are ‘retired’, and what options are you creating for your 3rdAct?  If you have the desire and the courage you can find adventure and fulfillment in this exciting life stage.

*****

Greg Butler retired, in January 2007, from his position as Finance and Marketing Director of one of Ireland’s leading grocery brands. He now pursues his interest in writing and retirement coaching, through the medium of inspirational stories, which you can read at www.retirement-stories.com.  He tells real stories about real people, to enable retirees understand their retirement needs, identify and achieve worthy goals, and lead a more balanced and fulfilled life.

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