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Sometimes it takes work to create a happy and fulfilling retirement – a coach can help with that. This is the first in a series of articles on Retirement Planning.

After 33 years as a teacher and school principal in Halifax, Heather Horsfall sold up and moved back into her parents’ and grandparents’ home in Annapolis Royal, N.S., to join her husband, Don McKnight, who had retired earlier.

It was not exactly what she had anticipated – she felt a bit lost.

“I really didn’t know what I wanted, I only knew what other people thought I might like or should do,” the 58-year-old says. “I was happy but I wasn’t grounded and I most definitely wasn’t at peace.”

In relocating almost 200 kilometres for retirement, Ms. Horsfall had left behind her close circle of friends and crammed her days with new activities that she found unfulfilling compared with her workaholic days as an educator.

To put it in a nutshell, many people spend more time planning a two-week vacation than they do the second half of their life, the retirement stage of their life.
Janet Christensen, retirement coach

That all changed after a chance meeting with Janet Christensen on a Mexican beach. A professional retirement coach from London, Ont., Ms. Christensen’s knowledge and expertise prompted Ms. Horsfall to turn a brief chat in Baja, where they both spend their winters, into a more professional arrangement.

The coach led Ms. Horsfall through a series of “passion maps,” designed to help her discover what she really wanted to do, rather than the things she felt she should do, and ultimately become more comfortable with her new stage in life.

“To put it in a nutshell, many people spend more time planning a two-week vacation than they do the second half of their life, the retirement stage of their life,” Ms. Christensen says. “Those that do take some time to do the planning focus on the financial [aspect] and not anything else.”

Janet Christensen coached Heather Horsfall and helped to her decide which of her many interests to zero in on. One of her passions is creating hooked rugs which she designs and sells. (Paul Darrow for the Globe and Mail)

Janet Christensen is a retirement coach from London, Ont., and CEO of Dynamic Awareness Inc. She has co-authored 14 books, including Baby Boomers: Secrets for Life After Fifty.

The pair worked together for an intense six-week period, with continued follow-ups, to give Ms. Horsfall a new focus in life, which now has a bigger emphasis on her artistic passion – designing, creating and selling hooked rugs. With a family home in Annapolis Royal, winters at a trailer in Baja and summers at a 280-year-old farmhouse in Prince Edward Island, Ms. Horsfall and her husband are largely free of financial worries that plague many, thanks largely to her teacher’s pension and his as a member of the Ontario Provincial Police.

Ottawa retirement coach Daniel Roy says finances are absolutely critical for a fulfilling retirement. “You need to have an airtight financial structure in order to be able to enjoy the good things in life.”

Tracey Fieber is a retirement coach from Estevan, Sask., and owner of New Face of Retirement Inc. and audio author of The 5 Best-Kept Secrets to Retirement Success.

As a coach, Mr. Roy is fairly unique. He estimates that he is one of only 20 individuals in North America to be accredited both as a retirement coach and a certified financial planner. Most retirement coaches don’t touch the financial side of retirement, choosing to refer clients to a financial planner.

Though the coaching industry is self-regulated, and there is no way to determine how many retirement coaches have set up shop in Canada, a number have picked up accreditation from the U.S.-based International Coach Federation and its Retirement Options coach training program.

Retirement coaching is highly personalized, but many coaches start off with an assessment, either through an in-person interview or a questionnaire, followed by a three- or six-month period of coaching. The costs vary, but initial assessments cost about $500 with the total bill for a course beginning at about $2,000, stretching up to $18,000 and more for business or corporate clients.

Tracey Fieber, owner of New Face of Retirement Inc. in Estevan, Sask., moved into retirement coaching from the financial industry after spotting a gap in the market.

She can assist business owners in developing a succession plan, whether it involves handing over a family company to offspring or selling off entirely. Ms. Fieber recently helped Janice Hanson and her husband prepare Sun Valley Land Ltd., their Saskatchewan land brokerage business, so that their son and two others could take the reins, leaving them to spend their winters in Arizona.

Ms. Horsfall and Mr. McKnight mountain bike near their retirement home. They relocated almost 200 kilometres for retirement from Halifax to Annapolis Royal. Mr. McKnight had taken a headstart on retirement and happily filled his days with active pursuits, but Ms. Horsfall keenly felt the loss of a close circle of friends. (Paul Darrow for the Globe and Mail)

After working 14-hour days, Ms. Hanson was too busy to sit down and consider her retirement options. A cold call from Ms. Fieber got the ball rolling. She developed a handover strategy that dialled down Ms. Hanson’s workload to three days a week, and will ultimately see the pair sell off their shares in the land firm entirely.

“I was so busy that she would sit down with me and I felt like she was a psychiatrist,” Ms. Hanson, 58, says. “I would always feel better after I talked to her.”

Although financial concerns do have a lot to do with retirement coaching, Ms. Fieber says that many times the biggest transition is in the personal area.

Ms. Christensen, CEO of Dynamic Awareness Inc., says she challenged one of her preretirement clients to play golf every day while he was away on vacation, just as he said he was going to do in retirement. He quickly found that it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and golf began to feel just like a job.

“It’s not that you don’t golf,” she explains. “It’s finding that healthy balance and for some people it can also be the new social interaction. It’s about really finding the meaning and fulfillment in your life.”

The couple in front of their historic Annapolis Royal home which was passed down from Ms. Horsfall’s family. With the help of a retirement coach, Ms. Horsfall now feels she has left her workaholic days behind and has set off in a new direction. (Paul Darrow for The Globe and Mail)
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