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Lessons Learned: Not Quite Ready for Retirement? Try the 5 R’s

It has been almost two months since it was decided I would step down as Dean of Augusta University’s Hull College of Business and almost a month since my last day as Dean.  While I am approaching traditional retirement age, I was pretty sure I was not yet ready to retire.  I felt like I still had a good bit of “gas in the tank” but didn’t feel like the Dean position was the best way to use that fuel.

While there were still rewarding aspects for me in that position, I felt like there were draining aspects of the job that made me feel that the “juice was not worth the squeeze”.  However, to make sure that was true and that I was ready for some different opportunities and challenges, I went through a process I call the “5 R’s”.  If you are weighing retirement from the business world, but not sure if you’re ready, you might consider the following process:

R-1 Recharge:  The first thing I realized I needed to do was recharge; get my energy back.  The last year has had its challenges for me both professionally and personally, so I didn’t want to make any decisions until I felt recharged both physically and mentally. I basically took a couple of weeks doing very little work-related, including almost a week at the beach.   Those two weeks did two things.  First, it provided me the necessary rest, relaxation, and reduced stress to improve both my physical and mental well-being.  Second, by the end of the two weeks, I was also sure I was not ready for retirement.  While it was nice to have limited demands, I knew I needed more purpose than complete retirement would provide.

Spending time with family can help recharge, reflect, and reprioritize when pondering retirement. Pictured left to right is Rick, daughters, AJ and Audie, and his wife, Lorie at Dodger Stadium last year.

R-2 Reflect:  Even if I had decided after R1 that I should retire, I would have still needed this reflection stage to help determine what to do in retirement.  While I decided that I was not ready to retire, I think my “big buckets” for the near future would have been the same if I was retiring from a regular job.  During my reflection period, I decided that my next phase would focus on faith, family, and community. Fortunately, remaining on the faculty at AU/Hull provides me the opportunity to focus on those “big buckets” either as part of my job or as a byproduct of the schedule afforded by that position.  A faculty member has much flexibility in his or her schedule, so such flexibility will allow me to continue to participate in my two Bible studies (faith) and spend more time with my wife and continue to see both of our adult daughters regularly, despite one likely moving to the West Coast this Summer (family).  My job will also provide a natural way to contribute to the community through my teaching and research (see R-5 below) and give me more time to support the good work of the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) Foundation of which I am a Board Member and other local organizations who make our community better.

R-3 Reprioritization:  As part of my reflection, I realized that as Dean, I spent too much time on elements of the job that did not provide me fulfillment. Not that they were not necessary and very important, just not things that led to my personal enrichment nor caused evident positive impact on those around me.  In addition, a serious medical diagnosis in my family that we are now mostly past, showed me where more of my attention should be.  Moving forward, while family has always been important to me, it has become my most critical priority, and I am hoping to prioritize positive community impact as the most important attribute of my future work.

If you are considering retirement, think about what’s next and consider the 5 R’s.

R-4 Retooling:  Once I decided what I was going to do, particularly in moving forward as a faculty member, the hardest part is the phase I am going through now, which is rebuilding my tool set to be an effective instructor and a productive researcher.  Fortunately, I have been afforded the opportunity to co-teach a couple of courses this semester and another this summer before taking on my own courses again in August.  This has allowed me to begin to hone my actual “in-the-classroom” teaching, which is what comes back the easiest.  However, I will need to get to work on developing syllabi and assessments which will make for the most enriching classroom experience for my students.  On the research side, right now, my greatest asset is my writing, which is attractive to potential co-authors, but I need to quickly begin work on redeveloping my analytic tools, which have atrophied during my years of administrative duties.  This will be hardest part of my transition.

R-5 Reward:  The final phase of realizing I wasn’t ready for retirement was the identification of the rewards that my job will provide in the coming years.  In the classroom, I will hopefully prepare students for careers in which they’ll improve the operations and supply chains of companies such that there will be a positive impact on their careers and our local economy.  My research will encompass similar areas, however, with an emphasis on improving processes in the delivery of healthcare, which I anticipate will have a positive impact on our community.   Additionally, I hope to provide my expertise to other efforts that improve our community.

I am fortunate to be transitioning into a position that is well-aligned with both my skill set and my purpose.  I hope that if you are considering retirement, you use something like the 5 R’s to assist in moving forward.  If you go through part or all of the 5 R’s and determine you may want to retire, be sure to find a purpose that provides you reward.

Rick Franza is the Professor of Management for Augusta University’s Hull College of Business.


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