January is often a time when people reflect and think about what they want to do over the next year. Some people over 50 may start to think about retiring, while others start to think about what their next chapter might be.
Five years ago, when Jenn Gruber was turning 50, she began to think about what she might do next. Her husband was getting ready to retire and her daughter was graduating from high school and going off to college.
“I’d spent 22 years putting my family first,” Jenn said. “I wanted to do what I wanted to do, but I had no idea what that was.”
She knew she wanted to do something that would incorporate all the skills she had learned over a lifetime of volunteer and paid work experience with non-profits. Over the years, she discovered that not only did she love leading groups, public speaking and writing, she was good at it.
So, Jenn began a journey of self-discovery including meditation, yoga, journaling,
and listening to podcasts, watching TED talks, and reading self-help books and articles.
“All of that led me to coaching,” Jenn said. “Helping people find more joy and more fulfillment in their lives felt very appealing to me and brought me back to what I wanted to do in my 20s.”
Although she was passionate about coaching, Jenn was still hesitant to take the first steps.
“I thought, ‘what if I’m not good at it?” Jenn said. However, once she started the certification process, she knew that coaching was the modality that she had been looking for. “I realized that through every job and position I’d held, I did a lot of coaching,” Jenn said. “I was always the person that the company leadership would ask, ‘What’s the mood of the organization? What do people need?’” Her training provided a framework for using the skills that had always felt intuitive to her.
had decided move forward, Jenn had another decision to make, who would she coach? “I thought it made sense to work with women like me,” Jenn said. She wanted to help women who were ready to start a new chapter but had lost touch with who they were, but that felt too broad.
“I’ve always loved helping people to feel more connected to one another, so I realized that I wanted relationships to be a part of my work. What I landed on was family transitions.” Jenn said.
Now, she helps people who are approaching retirement to not only explore their own goals, but also to think about how their relationships are going to be impacted by those changes. Her clients also include individuals whose partners are retiring, those whose kids are becoming young adults, and those whose parents are aging and declining.
Her own personal experience with her father, who was afflicted with Alzheimer’s, has helped give her insight into this area.
Training and Certification
Jenn went through extensive training to become a life coach. She first attended a 9-month program through the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC) and earned her Certified Professional Coach (CPC) designation. Then, after completing 100 hours of coaching and additional testing, she was awarded the title of Associate Certified Coach (ACC) through the International Coaching Federation.
Going into Business
In February 2020, Jenn launched her business. Although at first, this seemed an inopportune time to begin a business, Jenn found new opportunities.
“My entire marketing plan for the year went out the window.” Jenn said with a laugh. Instead, she pivoted and began facilitating virtual support groups and coaching clients struggling with COVID-related issues.
Jenn worked with SHIFT Yoga in Fulton, MD facilitating online “Support for the Soul” groups. In addition, Jenn led discussions for book clubs and groups of friends who pulled together, helping them deal with COVID-related issues.
Clients would say, “I’m not used to being with my spouse 24-7 and it’s driving me crazy.” But it wasn’t just about managing family relationships, people had many fears about COVID, and it caused them to re-think their lives moving forward, according to Jenn.
“It was a great way for me to get a lot of exposure,” Jenn said. During this time, she was able to make contacts and get her name out in the community, while also gaining more experience.
Building Her Business
Jenn also made a point to network. She joined the Business Women’s Network of Howard County. “Even though it was all virtual for quite a while, I made a lot of contacts,” Jenn said.
“I’ve also gotten a lot of referrals through other coaches,” she said. Because each coach has their own specialty, Jenn has had other coaches reach out to her. Sometimes the referrals come through the Facebook groups she belongs to and other times through iPEC alumni. “There aren’t a lot of coaches who do what I do,” Jenn said, referring in particular to the fact that she works with peoplewho are overwhelmed by their parents’ increasing needs.
Jenn has also built up a network of professionals who refer clients to her. “After the pandemic I put a lot of energy into referral partnerships,” Jenn said. These professionals include social workers, senior real estate specialists, estate attorneys and generic care managers.
Advice for People in Transition
Through her experience working with people transitioning into retirement, as well as her own personal experience, Jenn has found one thing that’s really important. She recommends you ask yourself, “What do I want my life to look like once I retire?”
Jenn said this is not about just planning out the big goals. She recommends you think about what day-to-day life will be. What time will you get up or go to bed? Do you want to set an alarm? Will you go to gym? Do you want to volunteer?
“Think about how you’re going to fill your days,” Jenn said. She also recommended asking yourself why you’re choosing to do those things, whether it be activities or down time. “What is going to bring you joy and fulfillment?”
Discover What’s Missing
Jenn said that when people first make the decision to retire, they often think about what they won’t miss after leaving their job. For example, “I won’t have to deal with difficult people anymore. “
However, she said it’s important to take that next step and think about what their former career provided them. According to Jenn, failure to look at the loss you may be experiencing as a result of retiring may leave a person floundering and feeling like “this is what I wanted, why am I not enjoying it more?”
For example, an individual may miss something like the social interactions at work. They need to think, “‘I do miss the social interactions so, I need to find new social interactions.’ It’s not that leaving was the wrong decision,” she said.
“People often don’t realize or anticipate how much the loss of their previous life will impact them,” Jenn said. “Then they start judging themselves for not handling things well.”
According to Jenn it’s important acknowledge what you are missing and where else can you find that feeling. “It’s not working every day that you miss, it’s the feelings that come from working every day that you miss,” Jenn said. Perhaps it’s the sense of accomplishment, or feeling appreciated, or being a part of a team.
She recommends that individuals remember why they made the decision to retire and think about what they are gaining in retirement.
“What is it that made you feel relevant before? What does relevance mean to you?” are questions that Jenn says can be great starting points.
Her Personal Transition
Jenn doesn’t just focus on an individual, but also on how the relationships in her clients’ lives will change as a result of major life changes. She knows first-hand. Her husband, Jim, retired December 30th, 2021. “It wasn’t a seamless transition for the two of us, even though he had been working from home for over a year.” Jenn said.
’s was a transition for Jim going from being on a schedule to having no schedule, especially since she was still on a schedule. They made changes to the way they communicate d in order to navigate this transition better.
Now, they talk in the morning over coffee. They both share what they are going to do that day. Jenn goes over her schedule so her husband knows when she is working and when she has time off. That way he knows when she’s available.
Jenn said this not only helps him, but it helps her as well. “I’ve worked from home in the past, and I’ve had trouble maintaining boundaries between work life and home life. By telling him my schedule, it helps me stick to those hours,” Jenn said.
In addition, they set up weekly conversations, where they discuss plans for the weekend and logistical details of their lives. It’s also an opportunity to talk about things that are bothering them. “It’s a safe time to have honest conversations. We started it during COVID,” Jenn said.
At first, Jim was reluctant. “So, you want me to set an hour aside each week so you can tell be everything I’m doing wrong.” Jim said.
“I explained, ‘No. We deserve to have the best in each other, and we’re not getting that.’ Now he admits that he sees the benefit. It’s a time to share whatever is on our minds,” Jenn said.
It is a time to discuss issues without the emotions that are present in the heat of the moment. They are able to me more receptive and less reactive and defensive. These meetings seem to work, according to Jenn.
The Second Spouse Retiring
Retirement is one change people make; however, when the second spouse retires, it is an entirely new transition.
Jenn said it’s important to keep in mind that each spouse may have their own perception of what retirement should look like. “There is no one perfect way to do retirement. Couple’s retirement goals can be very different from one another,” Jenn said. One person may be a homebody who thrives on down time versus another person who wants a full schedule and a lot of activity.
“No answer is the right one for everyone,” Each person needs to determine what does their ideal retirement looks like and where the crossover with their partner is, according to Jenn.
“Often one person wants to spend more time together than the other one does. There needs to be compromise and it takes time,” Jenn said.
“Start with what sounds fun and appealing to both individuals. Start there,” Jenn said.
Life as a Coach
Jenn works about 20 hours a week and feels she has found the right path. “I love helping people see things in a different way — helping them to see things they didn’t see before,” Jenn said. “With coaching there are no right or wrong answers. It’s all about helping people find the solution that is best for them.”
Jenn believes that people have the answer, and her job is to help them get to it. “They do know what they want, they just don’t know how to access it. Helping them figure it out is really fun for me and very rewarding.”
She believes her work has a ripple effect. “If a client feels happier as a result of our work together, that ripples out to everyone they touch. I like knowing I’ve impacted the world in a positive way.”
“So much time is wasted when people don’t understand each other,” Jenn said. “And a lot of that comes from them not knowing themselves, and what they want and need. When you look inward and figure that out, it’s going to improve all your other relationships as well,” Jenn said.
Jenn said the biggest hurdle in retiring is indecision. People often are unsure of when they want to retire and end up second guessing themselves.
“What’s really difficult is when somebody makes a decision and then they don’t feel good about it or question whether they’ve made the right choice,” Jenn said.
“You have to be really clear on why you’re making the decision to retire, then, regardless of what happens in the future, you can still feel good about basing the decision on very valid reasons,” she said.
If you are interested in finding out more about Jenn and the services she offers, go to: https://jenngruber.com/
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