Not Ready to Retire? You’re not Alone!

canyon-de-chelly.jeff-hesterThe image of retirement used to mean receiving a gold watch, selling the family home and moving to Florida. Not so for today’s pioneers of aging. Rather than choosing to have an eternal vacation, many are choosing to fill their lives with more meaningful activities and new careers.

Not everyone is ready

Of course, some are choosing to continue working out of necessity. Many individuals are not adequately prepared for retirement according to a recent survey by the Federal Reserve Board. The study found thirty-one percent of non-retirees have no retirement savings or pension, including nearly a quarter of those older than 45.

Even among individuals who are saving, fewer than half of adults with self-directed retirement savings, the survey found, are mostly or very confident in their ability to make the right investment decisions when managing their retirement savings. However, by 2022, the Bureau of Labor projects that 31.9% of those ages 65 to 74 will still be working. And not all of those people are being forced to work. They want to work.

A healthy lifestyle is for some to not retire

Choosing “work” over constant leisure has more than financial benefits. Studies, such as the one done by Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario and the University of Rochester Medical Center, show having a purpose in life is a key to longevity.

In the words of Beatles singer, John Lennon, “Work is life you know and without it there’s nothing but fear and insecurity.” Need more convincing or a real life examples? Jeff Hester will impress and inspire you to give serious thought to re-inventing yourself rather than choosing to “relax” in your later years.

From Astrophysicist to Coach

By Jeff Hester

By way of brief background, I’m an internationally-known astrophysicist. I worked on the team that repaired the Hubble Space Telescope. I count one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential photos in history, the Hubble Pillars of Creation, among my work. I’ve done a lot of TV documentaries over the years. You might have caught me in National Geographic’s recent special, “Hubble’s Cosmic Journey” celebrating the 25th anniversary of the telescope’s launch. Overall it was a very successful and reasonably high-profile career.

But if you aren’t having fun, you aren’t doing it right. Sitting back and becoming a graybeard professor didn’t sound like much fun. And to be honest, a lot of the changes going on in Academia didn’t sit well with me, either.

I think that what finally put me over the edge was a conversation I had when a colleague stuck his head into my office to let me know that a mutual friend had died. Basically, the friend had been sitting at the same office desk he had occupied for probably 50 years working. He suffered a heart attack and face-planted on his computer keyboard, dead.

When I heard that I was aghast, but my colleague couldn’t understand why. “He had a paycheck and he didn’t have to worry about health insurance. What’s the problem?” In that moment I realized that if I did not act soon I was going to wind up being that same person some day.

So I took early retirement in my mid-50’s, leaving behind a tenured professorship, and set out to find new adventures.

These days I work as a professional coach, keynote speaker, and thought partner. What I do is grounded in my previous experience, certainly. You don’t see your project go from the greatest achievement since Galileo’s telescope to a joke on late night television without learning something about failure. And you don’t bring that project back from the dead to become all it was ever meant to be and more without learning something about success and recovery.

My elevator speech goes something like this. “The world will tell you when the tidal wave is coming. It will also tell you where to look for the next big idea. But you have to know how to listen.” Whether standing on a stage, working with a coaching client or sitting around a conference table, that is what I do these days. I help people listen.

The jump from astrophysicist to coach might seem pretty improbable. But to be honest what I am doing now has become a real intellectual passion. The neurophysiology of coaching is fascinating! I’ve also always been a people person, and take satisfaction in knowing that I am giving back.

The niche that I am settling into is helping professionals like academics, engineers and doctors build a more balanced, sustainable and successful life and career, while rediscovering their own passions. If I could go back in time and give my younger self one piece of advice, it would be to get a coach. I can’t do that, but I can serve in that role for others.

I haven’t completely parted company with my past. I write a monthly column for Astronomy Magazine where I explore… well, whatever is on my mind that month. I also have a book or two in my head that I’m thinking about getting started on.

I might not have a certain paycheck or health insurance guaranteed for life, but I’m having a ball.

Cheers, Jeff Hester

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