There is a lot of talk in our industry about the retirement of the first cohort of financial professionals.
I am one of them.
I began my career 36 years ago within a few months of arriving in the United States from India. Financial planning was an emerging industry back then, and very few women were entering the business. It was a challenge to learn about insurance, investments and acquiring licenses while settling down in a new country and a different culture. Educating myself was top priority, as I needed to establish my credibility as a knowledgeable resource. Becoming certified in financial planning in 1986 was my first major accomplishment, and a confidence booster.
My business began to build gradually – one client at a time – with hard work, discipline and determination to succeed. My love of helping people, especially women and families with special needs members, allowed me to pour all my energy into building a sustainable business. The business grew over the years, providing a comfortable living for me and my family, as well as earning me recognition in the industry.
I have now entered a different phase of my personal and business life. I am preparing to gradually hand over the reins of my business to the next generation in my practice. While this is a practical and a logical decision, the actual process of succession planning and exiting is stressful, emotional and quite involved. Years of work and relationships building will now be transferred to my younger partners. Although my partners are mature practitioners and experienced financial professionals, at times I still worry if they will take care of these clients as well as I have. Will they grow the business the way I have grown it? Will they be as passionate about the special needs population as I have been? Will they be good leaders and take the business to a new level?
There are also times I wonder why I care so much. Should I not just focus on my life after and beyond my business? My emotions remind me of the time my daughters left for college. I had raised them to be independent, but when they had their wings to fly, I worried if they would be okay. I have been planning my exit strategy for years, and I am proud of all the efforts that have gone into preparing for this. But, I have the same feelings as I had when my daughters left: Will my business be okay when I leave?
I plan to exit my practice gradually, over a period of four to five years. I have been fortunate to have other interests to balance my life. The business, however, has consumed an enormous amount of my life. Will I be able to replace that with meaningful activities? What will be my next phase – my encore? I am preparing myself for this journey by talking to other recent retirees, getting coaching to gain clarity and making lists of things I would like to achieve. I go through different emotions almost daily. Am I ready? Will I ever be ready? Will I miss my clients? Will my clients miss me? Will I be able to turn away and not look back?
I am not sure of the answers to these questions. But I have made my decision, and I will celebrate my career, my business and my life as I exit my working life.