Retirement Coach Joanne Waldman Shares Tips for Getting Ready for Retirement

Joanne Waldman 2016 photo small

The following is a transcript of an interview that Joanne Waldman gave with Nicole Santoro of If you prefer, you can listen to the interview by clicking here

Nichole: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Marketing Salon podcast. I’m your host, Nichole Santoro, content marketing manager and owner of I help coaches, speakers, and business experts get more leads through podcasting, blogging, social media and email newsletters.

Today, I am so excited. My guest is Joanne Waldman, a Retirement Coach and owner of New Perspective Coaching. As an ICF Professional Certified Coach, Joanne works with Baby Boomers looking to plan their second or even third reinvention into retirement.

Joanne has more than 30 years’ experience in transition management including career development, coaching and retirement. She also has an extensive background as a webinar leader, training more than 3,000 coaches with the International Coach Academy, Coaching Cognition, and for the past twelve years as the Director of Training at Retirement Options.

Joanne is co-author of the book, Remarkable and Real-Remarkable Questions, Real Possibilities for the Second Half of Life.

Joanne’s clients have said in their own words, “We appreciated all the time you spent helping us adjust to the idea of retirement and then introducing us to an entirely new perspective in planning and preparing for our life in retirement. You’ve enabled us to set goals and objectives, establish priorities and actually accomplish many things already.”

To learn more about Joanne, please visit her website at http: // Hello, Joanne. How are you today?

Joanne: I’m great, Nichole. So excited to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Nichole: It’s absolutely my pleasure. We met years ago when I went through coach training at International Coach Academy. I was just inspired right away by taking modules with you.

I always knew that we were going to have a fun time and that I would learn something really amazing, too. I just want to thank you for that amazing experience.

Joanne: Thank you. Those were kind words. It’s my happiest place to be, training coaches.

Nichole: Yes. You have the experience to back it up, and clearly that’s what inspires you.

Let’s just dive right in. I am wondering, how does someone transition between years of working every day to having a brand new clean calendar page? There has to be a shock to the system?

Joanne: Yes, for a lot of people it really is, because most people haven’t planned at all for their retirement. It’s said that people plan more for a two-week vacation than their retirement. Isn’t that amazing?

Nichole: That is amazing.

Joanne: I did a workshop a number of years ago for a group of executives. This gentleman came up and said, “You know, I’ve thought more about my retirement in the last two hours than the last 20 years.” I think that says something right there.

About 82% of people expect to be or are working past age 65. I know my husband fits in that. He’s going to retire when he’s 70. A good percentage of people say that they’re never going to retire. A lot of people plan to work in retirement. I saw one number; it said 52%. You know, Nichole, I think it’s more like 70% to 75% from my experience working with people.

What’s interesting is a lot of people don’t want to do the same kind of work that they were doing. They want to give back in some fashion. They can become empty employed. They’ve done well, they’ve worked for 20 to 30 years, but they’re not getting what they need, what their soul needs, from work. They want to do something else.

I went to a wedding and I met this guy who’d been a really high-powered lawyer. He retired and ended up going to clown school. Isn’t that amazing? He went to clown school and then volunteered at the local children’s hospitals for years. Three times a week he’d go to the hospitals and entertain the kids.

Transition planning is really important. I suggest that people start planning three to five years before their retirement. Some people say that they just want to rest after they retire. That’s what we’re calling the definition of retirement. It often doesn’t last for very long, six months maybe. They get bored. Some say, “I just want to retire and play golf all day.” Golf then becomes their job.

Nichole: Yes, an expensive job.

Joanne: Yes, if they do it every day. The definition of leisure is that it has to be, what we call, diversionary. We have to find a way, when we retire to replace what we’re calling the five benefits of work. Let me tell you what those are.

Financial compensation (money), status, socialization, time management and purpose. If we don’t replace these, there are going to be consequences.

For example, if we don’t have purpose or life meaning, research shows that that can be deadly. A lot of people only live two years in retirement if they sit around and do nothing or don’t have that purpose.

Of course, we know people who lasted beyond, but statistically two years. That’s pretty mind blowing, isn’t it?

Nichole: Yes. It’s interesting because I do feel like the definition of retirement has changed so much. After my dad stopped working officially, then his new job became helping the community grow.

I know many examples of people who want a little bit more out of their life than just “Okay, I’m going to rest and watch TV.” I think, for sure, that R&R probably is a great first step. Finally.

However, I think to your point, planning beyond that, you’re rejuvenated, you’re rested and you’re relaxed. Now you get to do the fun stuff. What is it you want to do? Is it golfing? Is it heading to the Bahamas or is there something right here you’ve always wanted to do?

Sometimes it’s gardening. I know gardening is a passion of a lot of my neighbors. I’m just in awe of what they come up with.

To have that plan, to plan it more than you would plan a vacation, seems so obvious. Yet, you’re right. A lot of time that decision hasn’t come until that magical date is coming forth. Then it’s “Oh gosh, what do we do now?” I really think you’re on to something here.

Joanne: Those benefits I mentioned, if people don’t know how to do that, they just don’t retire. They just keep working and working because they don’t know how they’re going to do all those things.

I would say even today, everyone might have their own definition of retirement, what it means for them. Dr. Richard Johnson, who calls himself a spiritual gerontologist- isn’t that amazing? I love that- defines retirement as following your dream and finding your giftedness. Isn’t that just the best definition, following your dream and finding your giftedness?

Nichole: Yes. That gives so much promise of hope. There’s so much more to be done still, and that fulfills you. I love it.

Joanne: It doesn’t say anything about how you’re going to make money or how you’re going to do this or that. It’s just, what’s your dream? How can you create that dream? How can you thrive in retirement, instead of just survive? That’s what we’re looking at.

Nichole: As someone does enter the retirement age, should they try to schedule themselves full? As they’re coming up with this vision, what’s helpful for them? Or, should they be easing in to things? What’s that process and that transition?

Joanne: Again, I think it’s personal. Some want to ease in; others just want to go full on. I think it goes back to helping people with that dream, what’s the dream, and if they don’t have a dream, then helping them figure out what it would be.

What are your gifts? What do you want retirement to look like? My aunt retired at 65 and lived to be 104.

Nichole: Wow. That’s a lot of time for retirement.

Joanne: It was 39 years in retirement. She worked some. She did volunteer work until she was 100.

Nichole: Oh my gosh. That’s amazing.

Joanne: She raised money for, I think, The American Cancer Society or something like that, until she was 100. Everyone’s different. She only spent four years in a nursing home, from 100 to 104, which I think is pretty amazing.

Nichole: At that point, that’s when she decided to ease into things. I love that.

Joanne: Yes. I think she fell and we had to give her some more care. She was 100 when we put her in a nursing home.

Nichole: Wow. You talked about setting that vision. How does someone go about creating a personal mission statement or designing a vision in order to help identify what’s really important to them in this next phase of life?

Joanne: You mentioned that I train non-financial retirement coaches as the Director of Training for Retirement Options. I work with these coaches to help their clients, and my clients, too, write a retirement mission statement.

I think it’s a great foundational piece. It helps the client be guided or inspired as a way to keep on that path. Sometimes we lose sight a little bit and, if you have a mission statement, you can get back.

The statement includes things like a statement of who I am, or it can be about my character. The second part is a statement of what I’d like to do or your contributions and achievements. Finally, the third part of it is a statement of where I’m going now that I’m retired.

You can ask yourself some questions. For example, if you would say, “At the end of my life, I want to be able to say, I…” or “I want to make a difference by…”

Let me read you an example of retirement mission statement. Someone I work with, he wrote, “I am a person of creativity, capability, and meaning who expresses these traits with enthusiasm and directedness for the betterment of myself, my family and friends, and mankind. Now that I’m retired, I’ll put my energy to developing resources which will enable everyone to achieve their goals.” This individual is a coach. I think you can tell from that.

I think there are other things you could do with your clients or people could do on their own. I love vision boards. Some people like mind maps. They can go to the Franklin Covey website and write it out. They can do what’s known as a bucket list. I like to call it the 101 list. One of my clients called it a no regrets list, which I think is a great title.

I don’t particularly like to ask, as a coach, why questions, because I don’t want to sound like their mother, but I love this why question. It’s the “Why are you on this planet” question.

Nichole: That’s a big question.

Joanne: Why are you on this planet? They really have to think about that. Why am I here? What am I meant to do? There are a few suggestions of how you could start or look at a mission statement.

Nichole: It’s interesting you mentioned the vision board, too, for someone who’s very visual. In fact, that’s something my own coach had me and her other clients do recently.

I do a lot of journaling. That is one way of expressing all the ideas in your mind. To narrow it down to pictures was really fun. You know that old saying, a picture is 1,000 words.

It’s true. I look at a picture and I can see so much in that picture. This is the essence of what I’m trying to get to. What’s nice about that is, as you’re doing regular work during the day, you have a chance to look at it, embrace it. It can be really powerful.

I used to do modified versions of that back in the day, flipping through magazines of where I wanted to live. I swear to you, today, I live in a house that I dreamed about when I was living in a condo in the city. It’s nice to have these throughout your life. Your visions change and your dreams will change for each step of the way.

Joanne: Your retirement changes. As you get older, where you live might change. Other things are going to change. Your health could change. I’m actually looking at my vision board right now. I have it up on the wall right next to my desk. It was so much fun to put together.

Nichole: That’s just it. Yes. You hit the nail on the head. The fun element of it takes out some of the heaviness and the responsibility. “What would I want to do?” It gives you another element of freedom, which I think helps propel us to our goal a little bit faster.

How does someone find that balance between work and volunteering and spending time with their family during their retirement? How do they make that all work?

Joanne: That’s a great question. Interestingly enough, Nichole, only about 29% of individuals have volunteered, I would say, one minute in their retirement. Only 3% to 4% of individuals volunteer on a regular basis in their retirement. Those numbers are shocking, aren’t they?

Nichole: Yes.

Joanne: I don’t think we’ve embraced the notion and the greatness of volunteering and what it provides. Volunteering can provide some really amazing benefits. Those who volunteer regularly register higher levels of life satisfaction, personal meaning,and life expectancy. Isn’t that interesting?

They did a study- I want to say it’s at the University of Michigan- and found that volunteering makes individuals feel better on so many levels. The most amazing piece of this research shows that these feelings- they were feelings of things like less aches and pains, I feel warm and fuzzy- were had not only when they did the volunteering, but when they remembered that they did the volunteering. Isn’t that amazing?

Nichole: Wow, residuals.

Joanne: If this were medicine, I don’t think they’d be able to keep it on the shelf. If there were a pill that even when you remembered you took the pill you’d feel better, that’s pretty amazing.

I talked about my spiritual gerontologist friend, Dr. Richard Johnson. He trained physicians at hospitals. He was Head of Behavioral Medicine at a hospital here in St. Louis for a long time.

He would say, “Do you want to help your patients feel good?” They’d say, “Yes. Sure.” He’d say, “Tell them to help someone.” Isn’t that interesting?

Helping people find their passion, I think, is a beautiful part of what we do as coaches, at least this kind, being a retirement coach. You can say things like, “If I’m going to give you a million dollars, what three areas or pieces of life would you want to give that million dollars to? What do you want to get involved in?”

Helping them think about those things is really important. Where do they want to spend their time? Sometimes I send them to the library to do some research. Look at a United Way book of where they put money. Is there anything there that inspires you?

You certainly can get your family involved in this, too. I have an exercise I give people. It talks about where you are spending your life energy. We only get 100%. The options are career, family, relationships, self, spirit and leisure.

I worked with another group of executives. What do you think their career arena, the percentage of their life energy they had put in their career arena? This was a group of current executives. What would you think?

Nichole: I’m going to say 85%.

Joanne: It was 90%.

Nichole: Wow. I thought I was over-reaching.

Joanne: What does that leave for everything else, Nichole? That much. Right? That much. I worked with them to say, “What can you change right now? What do you want your life to look like in retirement? How can you think about this? How do you feel about this? How do you see this? What is it? What changes can you make now?” They were shocked that 90% of 100% of their life energy was in this one place.

Nichole: I wonder if some of that is just the structures we have in place. We have a structure for our careers. I’m telling my son, “Get good grades. You want to do well so you can get a job later.” That whole structure is in place.

With volunteering, maybe we don’t have that same structure in place. I love what you’re saying about if you could give your money or give your time, where would it go.

It’s interesting, when you said that, that made me think of when I discovered this organization called which helps women who have hit hard financial times.

You go there and they help you with wardrobe and preparing you for job interviews. My point being is that I found them on the internet. There are volunteer websites now that will match you with what the number of hours you want to donate versus what’s available.

I think one is The other one is Those are great ways to browse, to say, “Where else could I be spending my energy?”

A lot of times, through our life, we have all these skills that we don’t even realize we’ve developed that would be helpful with other people. With volunteering, I know there’s an element of less pressure. Sometimes when I’ve done something for a job, per se, versus when I’ve done something for volunteering, that aspect of helping is life giving, like you said earlier.

It just makes you feel better. It’s in the spirit of fun. You know you’re not going to get a performance review at the end of it, so there’s not that element of stress with it. I think that shift in mindset is so inspiring.

Joanne: I’ve had two really great volunteer positions over the years. It’s how you combine what you love in more than one way. I used to volunteer through the Animal Protective Association, taking dogs to the nursing homes to interact with the residents. I love animals. I certainly have worked in a gerentological, if you will, perspective. It was a great way to combine those two together.

It’s life changing for those people who remembered they had a dog. I remembered there was one person who never talked. We took the dogs there and they began to speak again. It was amazing.

Nichole: That’s incredible.

Joanne: It was. It’s so transformative. I volunteered as a mentor for women returning to college. I had two women graduate. They got a phone call. We spent time together. I helped them deal with their issues. These were women with children. This other organization, we paid for their college, and we wanted them to be successful. I’ve always loved school and education.

In retirement, life-long learning can be a big part of that as well. What do you want to learn? I ask my clients to make a list. What do you want to do? What do you want to learn? Volunteering is a very powerful tool, if you want to call it that. Structure. Whatever you want to call it. It’s life changing and life affirming.

Nichole: What do other freshly retired individuals struggle with the most? What’s the difficult part during that transition?

Joanne: Depression can be the number one emotional malady of retirement. It’s a big deal. How am I going to find connectedness in my retirement? That’s a big one for singles, as well as everyone, but most importantly for singles in retirement.

Some of the other ones are, how do I stay connected with my grandchildren, particularly if they’re in another state than I? If they’re teenagers, can you text them? If they’re littler, can you Skype or FaceTime? How am I going to stay connected?

Again, as we talked earlier, I think your issues are going to change as you age in retirement. There are some great questions. Where do you find awe, wonder and delight? Isn’t that a great question?

Nichole: It’s a happy question.

Joanne: It is a happy question. What do you think the number one answer is? What would you guess?

Nichole: I would guess grandchildren.

Joanne: That’s actually the number two answer.

Nichole: Okay. I don’t know.

Joanne: The number one answer is in nature.

Nichole: I would not have guessed that, but I can see that. Okay. Yes.

Joanne: Isn’t that great? How do I get out into nature? It’s as simple as maybe watching a sunrise or a sunset, or taking a walk on the beach, if you have the beach near you, or just taking a walk and looking at what’s out there. We have deer in our backyard. I could spend hours just watching deer from my window. I can’t get too close.

I’m not talking about things that cost a lot of money. It could be playing with your grandchild or taking them somewhere. I don’t mean on an expensive trip. Taking them to a museum or whatever is going to get you going.

Depression can be one. Substance abuse can be another big issue. Those are things we have to watch for and make sure that the client is looking at, “How can I engage in my retirement?”

My father-in-law retired when he was 86, and went home and refused to do anything. He didn’t want to retire. He wanted to keep going, but they closed a family business. There are so many things he could have done to re-engage. He sat there. He fell, broke his hip, and died. Again, it was in that two-year span.

Nichole: I think that speaks to the point that these can be potential pitfalls, but that’s why retirement coaching is so essential, and the idea that you would plan for it just like you would plan a vacation, and hopefully much more so.

We have just a couple minutes left. Can you tell us how the process of retirement coaching works?

Joanne: Sure. I can do that. I start out and have a conversation with people. For example, I recently met someone who’s a physician who no longer wants to practice. He doesn’t want necessarily to retire. He wants to go on the reinvention tour.

I have two great assessments I use, the Retirement Success Profile or the Life Options Profile. One looks at the 15 factors necessary for a successful retirement. The other one looks at 20 dimensions for a successful retirement.

They’re complementary. They’re not competing assessments. Depending upon what the issues are with the individual is how we decide which assessment to use.

I give them these assessments and hopefully they’re coming to me, like I said, three to five years, not to two to three months, before retirement. We look at what shows up on these assessments.

What are their strengths? That is where I like to start. What are their midrange factors? What are their, what we call, focus factors? What are the things that you’re saying here that you might want to take a look at?

It’s client driven. They can look at that and say, “Here’s where I want to start.” We go through all that and it helps us then to set some goals, write the mission statement, and look at things like obstacles that may show up for them. How can we overcome them? I have great exercises and powerful questions that I can ask.

I have them look at what I call the gap analysis. Where are you now, where do you want to be, and what do you have to do to get there?

We also want to know what enthuses and inspires them. I think my job is to connect the dots, as a retirement coach. How does this all fit together? What are their possibilities? What do they want to explore? What do they want to realize? That’s how we start.

Nichole: Fantastic. Joanne, thank you so much for your time today. You can visit her website at

Thank you again, and we’ll connect soon. Take care. Bye.

Joanne: Bye.

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