January 2, 2013

Retirement Coaching is Big Business - For Me?

Not surprisingly, a new business has sprung up over the past several years and is raking in big money: satisfying retirement coaching. Companies have found out that many folks approach retirement with more than a little trepidation and uncertainty. Financial issues often top the list. But, concerns over boredom and how to spend one's time, whether to downsize and move, how to deal with grown children, even end-of-life questions are common.

An recent article by Patricia Marx in The New Yorker magazine detailed the very expensive steps many well-to-do retirees are taking to help them with this transition: hiring retirement coaches. She calls them cheerleaders for a team of one: you. Sometimes the goal is to find a new career path, but just as often it is to develop a plan to make retirement as close to perfect as money can buy.

In a process not that dissimilar from employments coaches, the client is asked all sorts of question about what makes him or her happy, what they would do if money were no object, and what a perfect life would look like. Various personality tests may be administered to help pin down your level of satisfaction in areas as diverse as career, marriage or relationships, fun, personal growth, and financial issues.

Over the course of meetings both in person and on the phone that may last months, the retiree is helped to be "the person you allege you want to be." Retirement coaches don't judge or analyze, they act as an expensive support person. Ms. Marx cites fees that range from a few hundred dollars to $150,000. The author talks about a few of the major figures in this industry that are located right here in Phoenix.

Hold on, I can do this!

Well, that caught my attention. I live in Phoenix. I used to be a consultant. Since there are no guidelines, I can be an "expert" in retirement. I can find some personality tests on-line if I need one for someone who wants my advice. One of the most influential retirement coaches owns a Lear jet to fly in clients. I can't do that but Greyhound still has pretty attractive rates.

So, I thought about what I could do to start raking in the big bucks from those who can't figure out what to do with their free time. I could have an expensive seminar at one of the resorts in town where I have some snazzy Power Point shows about gratification and finding your passion. I could have a special phone line installed so clients could reach me whenever a crisis of confidence hits. I'd  need to brush up on the proper lingo, like "core values" or "clarified goals."

I'd probably have to upgrade from my 4 or 10 year old cars if I have to meet someone at the airport. My house isn't set up for meetings so I'd have to arrange for an office in one of the executive suites around town. Oh, and I'd need a corporate name: "Bob's Satisfying Retirement" isn't going to cut it. Someone who pays me $10,000 a month for my thoughts expects a snappy company name.

Now, this is getting exciting. I tell Betty we can afford that trip to Europe next year. I'll take care of the grandkids' college costs. That old rug downstairs will be replaced.

Then reality strikes: I've been giving this information away for the last few years on this blog. All anyone would need to do is read old posts, for free. True, I wouldn't be talking with anyone on the phone and I couldn't agree to be only one person's retirement coach. But, that is a small price to not pay for world class insight and advice.

Not really

OK, Ok...my tongue has been firmly planted in my check for the last few paragraphs. There really are very highly paid retirement coaches who help people figure out what they should be able to figure out on their own. But, I'm not one of them, nor do I want to be.

I'd love to have some advertising on this blog to help cover my costs. But, my reasons for blogging on satisfying retirement are not monetary. I do it as a creative outlet. I do it because I enjoy it. I do it as a way to help others. I do it for the tremendous friends I have met along the way. I do it for folks who send me letters of appreciation and support.

So, big-time retirement coaches in Phoenix, you can relax. You'll get no $300 an hour competition from me.


  1. If you are actually interested in working with people directly on this I bet there is a market for the $50/hour coach and/or workshops. It is a challenge for those at the lower end of the income scale as well.

    1. You are probably right, but I I think I'll stick with my current business model: free on the blog.

      I do urge people to contact me directly by e-mail if there is a particular question or problem someone would like my help with. But, even then, I don't charge anything. I enjoy helping others.

  2. There are some people who actually do have more money than they know what to do with. The kind of individual who would hire someone like this, particularly the cheerleader types, is a narcissistic individual who wants to continue to be told how good and relevant they are, now that they are out of the workaday life. Normal people just move on and enjoy what they have, while I guess some need constant reassurance.

    There was a article in Money magazine recently about individuals who are calling themselves things like "Certified College Funding Experts" and "Certified College Planning Relief Specialist", who job it is supposedly to help parents fund college tuition for their children. What are they? Life insurance salespeople, whose tactics enrich only themselves. I suspect when that gig winds down they can become snake oil salespeople, err, "satisfying retirement coaches".

    1. There are those who need what you describe in all phases of life. But, the ones who can afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars for what is often just common sense need to find something more meaningful to do with their resources.

      Happy New Year, Chuck.

    2. The same to you, Bob. And btw, my comments above were directed only at the wealthy from your article, and those that pander to them. Please don't take anything personally. As for ways you can generate income for all your hard work, I hope you can continue to do things like books and the like. I enjoyed your first and would continue to support your other endeavors as well.

    3. Yes, I understood the target of your comment and agree. Spending that kind of money just to have a "coach" tell you what you want to hear is goofy.

      Due to a combination of circumstances the new book is running several months late. Now I'm aiming for early-mid Spring. I also have an Arizona travel book that I am about to revise and make available.

  3. Well,Bob, if you rent that office, get a new car,take on clients, and are available 24/7 by phone for your coach-ees, then YOU wouldn't be retired anymore!!!!! LOL!!!

    You wouldn't have the TIME or ENERGY for that trip to Europe with Betty!!

    Not to mention the clang of the cell phone interrupting the calm, quiet of an autumn sky out in the woods, while you're sipping coffee and relaxing on the "patio" of your "RV.."

    Simpler is best. (IMHO) While Ken and I are studying, READING YOUR BLOG and others, we see that retirement is very personal, and it takes a lot of soul searching to discover one's retirement Path.. that's something no one can do for you. (Well,they can CHARGE YOU to TELL YOU TO DO IT.. but.. ??)

    We really appreciate all your insights..and those of some of the other folks blogs that you recommend..

    Happy New year to you and yours!

    1. How true! I didn't buy the RV to have it become a mobile office.

      Best of a fresh new year to you and Ken.

  4. Bob,
    You could definitely go on the seminar circuit and give paid speeches. Or free speeches to the audience but you are paid by an advertiser/promoter. I'd attend. Something to think about. You can get a lot of travel under your belt (for free). Something like that would probably be a lot of fun, you'd meet a lot of people and still continue to help others. Your article in Money Mag surely has made you a semi-celebrity.
    Good luck to you.

    1. That is something to think about. It would still take a lot of work but it might be fun.

  5. I've known for more years than I can count that P.T. Barnum was right about a sucker being born every minute. That said, I find it particularly sad that anyone could reach retirement age and still be that gullible.

    Keep up the good honest work Bob!

    1. In some cases the fee is paid as part of a retirement or separation package by the company. Still, it seems like an amazing amount of money. I can't fault the people who are retirement coaches. They have found a market and are serving it. I imagine they can be helpful, just not at that cost!

  6. You had me for a minute there. I thought that you could erase/remove the blog and begin again, rewriting everything and remain glued to your "new" computer (you would need) for the rest of your life! Wouldn't it be nice if we knew what we know now but were still young. After all getting to a place where you think Retirement Coaching" is a piece of cake takes a lot of years and experience. And you would be very good at it. Aren't you just a little tempted? You have done the mentoring for the prison ministry which is not so much different in a lot of ways. :)

    We are leaving in the morning for Arizona. It will be good to see blue sky day after day for a while. Weather is beautiful here but very cold. Ground is frozen solid. But I am hopeful no snow will fall while we are still in Oregon. That is a good thing.

    Be well. Talk to you soon. Maybe lunch on the way through Phoenix.


    1. No, I'm not even a little bit tempted. I have too many other things to keep me busy.

      Have a safe drive down to the sun. It has been cold the last several days but will be back close to 70 for the weekend. Call when you know your schedule driving through Phoenix.

  7. Bob,
    I recently found your blog and am thoroughly enjoying it. You have a passion for helping us navigate the challenges that come with retirement. When I came upon this entry, I had to chuckle because I have just changed my coaching market to retirement coaching. After having been a business coach, then a health and wellness coach, then a transitions coach (I have been coaching for 23 years), I thought it would be good if I cleared up a few misconceptions, here, about what coaching is and is not. Perhaps clarify what it can do for someone who is considering retirement...or has, even, already retired. Let me give you an example...
    One man visited Florida and loved it. He and his wife moved there as soon as he retired but, within months, he was miserable. He found that he missed his friends, his family members that he left behind, became bored and he felt he was losing ground in his finances. As he did his own inner searches, he questioned his move and, at the same time, was worried about the money he had already spent to move. In his difficulty, he contacted a retirement coach (who NEVER TELLS A CLIENT WHAT THEY SHOULD OR SHOULD NOT DO), and through the supportive coaching process, was able to clarify his goals and dreams, while supporting his wife's retirement goals. He and his wife moved to Pennsylvania, focused on his dream of consulting and is now making more money (working part-time) in retirement than he made in corporate America. He is free to set his own schedule, travel when he wants to, and work when he wants to. He is happier and the small cost of getting that clarity was minuscule compared to what he was losing as he stewed in Florida. What he said, afterward, was that he just wished he had done the coaching BEFORE he moved to Florida. There is no telling whether he could have gotten such clarity had he not experienced the results of his first decision...but he may have saved thousands of dollars. We, really, will never know.
    Coaching is, truly, a co-creative process that can help a person through their challenges, address what keeps them up at night and help them to clarify dreams and goals and, then, help them to achieve those goals through accountability, if its needed.
    All in all, it's a pretty awesome service and, no, it doesn't have to cost a fortune. It all depends on the coach you are working with. It's true that some coaches are in it to make the $ flow (for themselves, as well as their clients)...but many coaches are in it because they love to be of service to our fellow human beings...much like you do, Bob...and our rates are more reasonable.
    I hope that helps...from one semi-retired coach to...well, its true...another. ;-)
    And, maybe I need to chat with you about putting a link up to my website (when I get it completed.)

    1. Welcome, Cynthia. I am glad you found me.

      This post was somewhat tongue-in-check. As a consultant for much of my career I was very much a management coach. I was well compensated, but my clients (ultimately the radio stations) gained so much more in ratings and revenue. Acting as a sounding board and bringing both perspective and experience are invaluable tools, whether the client is a radio station or a retired person.

      Contact me when your site is up and running.