Interview by Ceri Wheeldon
Ida Abbott wants us to rethink our approach to retirement. Here she shares with us why she decided to write this much needed book, and the key points she hopes we will benefit from by reading it.
Tell us a little about yourself
I live and work out of my home office in Oakland, California. My husband and I have been married more than 50 years and have two grown sons; one is married and has a new baby (our first grandchild) and the other is an expat who has lived and worked in several countries since college.
I was a trial lawyer for 20 years, then a consultant on legal talent development for the next 25. I still do that, specializing in mentoring, advancing women and diversity though sponsorship, and retirement. You can see more about my practice on my website, https://idaabbott.com
Much of my work has involved helping women move ahead in their careers, especially into leadership. Among other things, I co-founded the Hastings Leadership Academy for Women. https://idaabbott.com/hastings-leadership-academy-for-women/. Now I am also working with women who face gender-specific challenges in retirement.
When did you start to write?
As a lawyer, I wrote all the time and even taught legal writing in my firm. When I moved into consulting, I became a columnist for a legal journal and have served on several editorial boards for legal publications. I have written research reports, chapters in books, dozens of articles, and numerous other resources, as well as several seminal books on mentoring; women and leadership; lawyers’ professional development; and sponsorship. These can be seen on my website.
My most recent book, Retirement by Design, evolved out of my work over the past few years helping professionals (not just lawyers) prepare for and transition into retirement. Getting into this field was unplanned — possibly because I have always done a lot of mentoring and coaching, clients, colleagues and friends began to ask me for help. In order to be responsive and informed, I conducted research that led me to realize there was a tremendous need for support and guidance for senior professionals contemplating what retirement would mean for them. I also became convinced it was essential to focus on retiring “to” something, not simply retiring ‘from” a career, in order to deal with the emotional challenges that retirement presents. And the “design thinking” focus of work I’d been doing in other areas seemed perfectly suited to accomplish this.
What have been the challenges for you?
- Writing for and reaching a more general audience than I have written for in the past
- Refraining from offering too much advice and opting instead, to use a self-guided coaching approach. I’m by nature and training a problem-solver, but retirement is incredibly personal and open-ended; people have to come up with their own “solutions.” My book offers some guidance but most of it is a series of questions and exercises intended to help readers find the answers that are most relevant and meaningful for themselves.
If applicable, when was your first book published and what was it about?
The Lawyer’s Guide to Mentoring (NALP, 2000). I wrote the Second Edition in 2018.
What is the title of your latest book, and what is it about?
Retirement by Design (Ulysses Press, 2020) is a self-guided workbook that shows you how to apply design principles to create a personally tailored future.
How does your book differ from other comparable titles?
It’s not about financial planning for retirement. It’s not an advice book that tells you what to you. It guides you through a process for deciding what a great retirement would look like for you and then making that vision a reality. It emphasizes both practicality and creativity.
How do you hope readers over 50 will relate to the themes in your book?
I hope they will find the themes, techniques, and the book overall to be a highly practical and helpful resource for creating the retirement life they desire. And I hope the book makes the process of planning for and moving into retirement easier, less scary, and more enjoyable for them.
Are there any key issues you wanted to draw attention to?
- Retirement doesn’t mean withdrawal or obsolescence. You can relax, start a business, find an encore career, volunteer, travel, study, etc. – it’s entirely up to you.
- Retirement is a difficult life transition, and you need to plan for it. And the sooner you start planning the better.
- Retirement is an opportunity and a gift. Be open and alert to the many possibilities.
- It’s critical to involve and communicate with your spouse or partner if you have one.
- You don’t have to do this alone. Form a team of advisers as you go through the planning process and the transition.
- It’s vital to stay active, intellectually engaged, and connected to others when you retire. Friendships are especially important, and intergenerational connections are great for all concerned.
What are some other resources you recommend for readers interested in the themes of your book?
The book itself contains a comprehensive 16-page Resources chapter and includes some resources specifically for women.
What’s next for you?
Spreading the word! Speaking. Coaching individuals on retirement. Advising firms on how to facilitate retirement in a dignified and supportive way.
What 3 tips would you offer women looking to write their first book?
For nonfiction writers:
- Have a unique, or at least different point of view, that distinguishes you from other authors.
- Write for your audience, not yourself. Either respond to their acknowledged needs and interests or create interest by showing them what they need.
- Have a lot of patience and a thick skin.
Where can we find more info about you? (website, social media, etc.)
My website, https://idaabbott.com