At midlife, many people find themselves yearning for something more – often, a more satisfying way to work.
Barbara Richards, a Vancouver-based executive and life coach, says that while this trend is not new, it’s becoming even more common as the influential baby-boom cohort ages. “At this stage, people are often established in life, and they’ve proven something to themselves. Then this urge for more fulfilment seems to emerge,” says Ms. Richards, author of Give Your Dream a Plan: 7 Questions to Ignite Extraordinary Results in Your Business.
Some of her clients know exactly what they’d like to do when that feeling arises, she says, but for others, “it’s more of a sense that they don’t want more of the same.”
Once they’ve completed an exploratory phase to articulate what it is they “want more of in their life,” she advises individuals considering self-employment to try a single project and then move on to part-time work, while maintaining their current career. “That way, they can begin to do reality checking and skill development without too much pressure,” she says.
Without that skills-building process, people who leave a corporate job to start their own freelance or consulting practices may find themselves blindsided by a lack of structure and marketing support, Ms. Richards explains. “When someone is transitioning into self-employment, we look at how to start building personal leadership and structure. And even for people with marketing experience, self-promotion can be challenging,” she says.
Having a comprehensive financial plan in place before making a major career shift is also an important part of the process, says Ms. Richards. “Knowing what your needs are and how to meet them is a key ingredient for success.”
Midlife career reinvention often means a major change in an individual’s financial life as well as professional life, says Bogdan Stetic, manager of financial planning at National Bank. “Without a financial plan, it can create a lot of stress and uncertainty, because of factors such as the loss of medical benefits and a steady income.”
Sitting down with a planner to map the required cash flow and calculate the savings required to meet both personal and business expenses can help ensure the success of the business, he says.
“Many people we see making this kind of shift still have obligations such as mortgages, car payments and so forth, so they need an income stream to supplement their business income,” Mr. Stetic says.
Without a steady income stream, he says, many generally minor expenses can have a magnified and potentially devastating effect. “Sufficient capital will also be required to cover startup costs. In addition, many lending institutions require significant personal investment before lending to a new business owner,” he adds.
Going through a financial planning process eliminates a lot of the stress related to any major life change, says Mr. Stetic. In the case of a career shift, “you can then focus your entire attention on your goals and what you are trying to achieve.”
That focus may provide unexpected benefits. Once they begin the process of shifting toward a career they’re passionate about, Ms. Richards comments that many of her clients find a level of energy they didn’t have access to before. “It’s often a surprise to people. As we work together, we talk about what energizes and what drains them. It sounds simplistic, but once they begin to work with that, they are able to better tap into opportunities around them,” she says.
“It’s a bit like putting a boat in a stream – it begins to move with the current.”
In next week’s Personal Finance Solutions feature, Bogdan Stetic answers our questions on the many ways a comprehensive financial plan can help you launch a successful business.