Have I Retired and No One Has Told Me?
It certainly feels as though I have taken retirement without any decision to do so. The market for my consultancy services seems to have vanished in the last year or so. So I need to make plans to allow me to move into a changed life, a life of the New Rich that can be achieved with modest means.
It is not just me. Several freelance colleagues with a similar background have found the same thing - there are no assignments available. Rates have tumbled for what project management work is available. As most assignments would require me to live away from home, such rates do not make economic sense. So I need to find alternative income as my modest pensions do not start for a while yet so I am aiming to lead the life of the New Rich, rich in quality of life rather than money.
Austerity and Changed Circumstances as an Opportunity
The changed circumstances are forcing me to accelerate my planning for what I was going to do after "retirement". As my mother suggested "Martin will not retire he will just do something different". The challenge is that I have not properly identified what that "something different" is and I need to find it quickly.
I could just sit and grumble about my straitened circumstances or I can use it as a spur to make the changes that I want. I am taking the latter route. I will continue to pursue any opportunities I can identify for my previous profession whilst developing the new one.
What Do I Want Out of the Next Stage of My Life?
Actually it is not just about me. Alison will also have to plan for her retirement in the next year or two. We have to balance our separate needs to find a way forward that suits both of us. However I have a few ideas that will not conflict with our eventual joint plans:
As my pensions will be modest I need to earn an income. Whilst it does not have to be huge the hourly rate has to be reasonable otherwise I will be trapped on a treadmill of having to work full time or more. I will then miss my objective of being flexible about the timing of when I work and possibly be unable to afford flexibility of location.
Location and Time Independence
I have worked away from home during the week for much of my career and largely been tied to office hours on client sites. I now want to be able to choose where and when I work. II want to be able to say, work early and late in the day so that I can spend the rest of the day on a beach in France, or whatever.
Reasonable deadlines I can live with as long as I can do the work remotely, why waste time traveling to work? I want to be able to move electrons down a wire rather than sit in a car, train or aeroplane for hours at a time. As a knowledge worker that should be possible if I am no longer having to manage large numbers of people but rather providing expertise to on-site managers by modern communications technology.
As someone for whom new knowledge and learning has always been important I will want to continue to seek intellectual challenge. As my product has always been knowledge and the ability to use it in practical and effective ways that should continue to be possible.
Whilst there are many other aspects of what our future life may look like there are immeduiate priorities. To meet those needs and maximise future options I see three broad possibilities for the form that the "something different" part of life may take:
A Different Form of Consultancy
I could aim to provide a consultancy service that is more in tune with the austere times. A service designed to maximise the ability of organisations to do more with fewer resources. I have already validated the nature of one particular client challenge with senior contacts in my network. I now need to develop the service proposition and its marketing plan. There are other opportunities still to be identified which I will pursue for freelance colleagues and friends who face similar issues.
Writing and Photography
I have been a writer and photographer to varying degrees since the 1970s. I wrote three books whilst leading major client assignments and intend to build on that with new writing. This is something I enjoy and can expand immediately. Although as source of income it is often poorly paid. Writing and photography are complementary and may provide some income fairly quickly.
Scholarship and Academic Research
I have always had it in mind that "some" day I would do a doctorate. For most people "some" day never comes, and I was heading towards that point. I now have the opportunity to do it. That "some" day is probably now, or never.
Whilst it will not be financially rewarding, at least in the short term, it will satisfy my need for intellectual challenge and to pursue knowledge. Above all it has the potential to support paid writing and consultancy. It can also meet the essential requirement of largely being flexible in where and when it is carried out.
The academic world also adds another important component and that is interaction with other people, many of whom will be younger than me. It could provide an opportunity to use skills identified by my daughter and sister: inspiring teacher or mentor, enthusiastic and knowledgeable in many areas, perceptive, and able to rapidly assimilate and understand the essentials of a new field of knowledge.
These ideas seem to meet short-term needs and between them they should be able top proivide sufficient income and intellectual interest and lifestyle that meets the objective of being flexible as to when and where it is carried out. This will allow us the time to sort out what we want to do as we move into the life of the New Rich.
Vision Identified, Now For Detailed Planning and Execution
As Felix Dennis states in How to Get Rich making money is not about the "Big Idea" but about the grind of execution. So my key next step is to shape the vision into something specific and deliverable - that will require me to harness the subconscious mind again, and quickly. Then I will have to drive the plans hard to make them happen.
So the next step will require more detailed analysis and planning. In the meantime there are short-term opportunities that do not conflict with model envisaged that I can work on to generate some income whilst I sort out the more complete picture. Updates will follow here in due course.