Is Retirement Possible for Type A Personalities?


Ah, the joys of retirement. After putting in four or more decades of solid capitalism and supporting our great economy through sweat, equity, and entrepreneurship, we get to board the great ship of the golden dreams of retirement. No more day to day stress of managing all that we do as business owners: clients, wholesalers, vendors, employees, our competitors, the changing landscape of our economy and the business fluctuations that go with it, our nagging spouses asking us when we’re going to finally kick back and enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Is this really realistic? To just stop running and go from 120 miles an hour to, say, 30, or even zero? Assuming we have planned this correctly and we have our health, our business actually sells or is transferred to the next generation, and we actually have the cash to fund a 30 year gig of the golden years, is this a viable lifestyle?

For some, this will be a welcome way to spend the final three decades of our lives, but for a percentage of us, and you know who you are, this will be torture. For those of us who work with entrepreneurs and business owners, we all know that there are Type As among us. The driven, quick decision-making, always on the move men and women who can hardly sit still. How are they supposed to retire, just simply let it all go and suddenly become laid back retirees swimming in free time? This is a recipe for disaster for those for whom inactivity means boredom and depression.

If you are one of these folk, or close with them, you need to come up with a plan for how you or they will keep active and challenged when the daily stress and duties of running a business are over. We know what happens to those who just try to stop. They either decline in healthy rapidly from the depression of being “useless” (heart attacks, strokes) or start aggravating those around them with their restlessness.

There is no shame in reinventing yourself at this stage, but do it in a way that satisfies both your desire (and need) to keep moving and your families desire (and need) to slow down. A few ideas:

If selling or transferring your business, make sure you keep some advisory capacity with your ex-business or your industry for the following benefits:

A smooth transition to the new owners

A smooth transition to not being so involved in the business

If you have always been involved in charity, or want to be, now is the time to plan how to get more involved with charity, not just financially, but with your brains and time.

Just like in a car, going from 120mph to 30mph (or a dead stop) can cause significant damage. Retiring needs to be planned out no differently than the planning of your business. The consequences of not doing so can be disastrous to your health, mentally and physically—and to the mental and physical health of those who surround you.

Whether we are friends of that Type A person or their professional advisers, spouses, or colleagues, please have this conversation.  The 40 years of valuable contribution should not be lost through a stroke or heart attack just because this conversation never happened. Let’s preserve our country’s most valuable resource, the business owner, whether he or she is at age 23 or 63.