I started doing retirement seminars
Many years ago when I started doing retirement seminars for federal employees in the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), I thought it would be a simple journey. I would tell the audience how their benefits would work in retirement and dispel their fear. They would ask some questions and then it would be done.
I would have no attachment to this group of strangers and they would certainly have no attachment to me. These strangers came from all over the country, different groups twice a month, to entertain the idea of retirement and walking into a new season of their lives.
My premise was not based in reality. Those seminars transformed my life and connected me to strangers in a way I never imagined. I have always had a big heart and capable of loving even my enemies. But there was something uniquely special happening right before my eyes. We were embarking on a journey and I felt responsible to take the audience to safe harbor, but not in the way I had envisioned.
The first day of the first seminar of many, I looked out into the audience of faces I had never seen, yet I felt as if I knew them. As my assistant made last minute adjustments to get me ready to formally meet the audience, I kept trying to figure out what was going on in the eyes of my waiting audience. Then as the interactively designed seminar got on the way, it suddenly hit me that they were afraid and I felt all of their fear rush to the podium like a heavy blanket.
The seminar I had planned began to take on a new face, a different direction – not a battery of technical information from defined benefits plans to defined contribution plans. My audience of strangers was real people, with real families and real concerns, issues and problems with a defined amount of time to bring it altogether and make it work in retirement. Americans are living longer, and many actuary reports state that the average American will live perhaps another 30 years after retirement.
Those strangers quickly became individuals whose stories and faces will forever be etched in my heart. After spending nearly a week together, Fridays became bitter-sweet moments of departure. Through the hugs and tears, we departed with the bitterness of separation, but with the sweetness of knowing we had given our all in the seminar by having presented the tools needed to approach retirement with confidence and courage to retire well. The greatest gift one human being can give to another – is the gift of knowledge and information.
P. S. Always Remember to Share What You Know.