When you think of coaching, it’s probably sport that first comes to mind. And the origins of life coaching are in fact linked to using sports coaching techniques as a way of setting and achieving goals in other areas of our lives. The US-based community LifeCoachHub points to Timothy Gallwey's 1974 book the Inner Game of Tennis as a major influence on the development of the profession. It argued that, in tennis, our inner critic is as powerful an opponent as the one on the other side of the net.
Retirement coaching is a specific focus within life coaching that helps people think about the non-financial aspects of retiring, especially how they want to spend their time, which can have a huge baring on the financial plan. You won’t necessarily find a nice neat definition or crib sheet of retirement coaching techniques out there – not yet at least – but a great deal of academic work has been done around life coaching in general.
In a blog on Dutch psychology platform, Positive Psychology, Jeremy Sutton PhD summarises several general coaching models including one of the most popular, GROW, which he breaks down as “Goal – where do you want to be? Reality – where are you now? Options – what could you do to get there? Will – what will you do?”
Sutton outlines a number of other academic approaches when thinking about practical applications for retirement coaching. One of the most significant commonalities is the importance of conversations. The models highlight the power of asking open-ended questions to make the individual really think about what they want to achieve.
For retirement planning, understanding what the client wants to do in later life is crucial to calculating how much money they will need and how to fund it. But part of the problem is that many of us simply don’t know how we want to spend our retirement. We might imagine it being like a long holiday, but the day-to-day reality of life after work could be very different.
An EU funded research project to establish European guidelines for life after full-time employment goes as far as to say that we should all be training for retirement from the age of 50. Researcher Dr Concepción Bru from the project explains: “More and more people are living longer and in better health [and] the sudden stop in the activity you have spent your whole life engaged in can lead to depression and related mental health issues.” The research suggests that preparing early, physical activity and a sense of inclusion and purpose are key to a better retirement.