Opportunities Abound in Carefully Planned Retirement


The Sickle-Billed Vanga is found only in dry forests of western Madagascar. Spotting one of these or any of the 104 other birds that are native only to this island nation in the South Indian Ocean will be the challenge for Nora Everett and her husband and father when they trek there on a bird-watching expedition. Everett now has time on her hands for such an adventure, as she has just retired as president of Retirement and Income Solutions, and chairwoman of Principal Funds, at Principal Financial Group Inc.

Madagascar is a big trip. Transitioning from work to retirement is no small matter, either. You’ve worked 50-60 hours a week for years at a company, giving it the best of your effort and then, all too suddenly, you go from full tilt to full stop. But maybe not absolutely positively full stop, if you’ve prepared yourself.

Everett had some guidance in reaching her end day at Principal. The company counsels all of its pending retirees on the various challenges and opportunities they will face once they exit the workaday life. And Everett did work on her own, including reading a self-help guide to post-work living called “Your Next Season: Advice for Transitioning from Intense Careers to Fulfilling Next Seasons.”

Though done with the C-suite, you still have energy that can now be directed toward satisfying personal goals. Gardening, perhaps, or other outdoor activities. Or travel, or staying in touch with the community by way of work with charitable and service organizations. Everett has played key roles at the United Way of Central Iowa, as well as the Chrysalis Foundation and Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines.

Everett believes she will remain with the Community Foundation, and will take measure of other volunteer opportunities.

“I can sit back and let this happen a little more organically,” she says. At her level of performance it’s not inconceivable that a corporate board opportunity could arise.

After devoting so much of her life to working, Everett says retirement now affords her the opportunity to devote more time to living. Witness the trip to Madagascar, or other pending vacations to Jackson Hole and Ireland.

“Now I have the ability to say yes to family,” she says.

Everett is not alone here. A 2017 survey by TIAA found that 93 percent of respondents said spending time with family is an important part of retirement years. And 80 percent said travel is important, as well. (Freedom from financial worries also was cited; as a key player at a company that’s all about building adequate retirement assets, it would not be a stretch to believe Everett has tackled that task.)

Financial security and travel and backyard picnics will be better enjoyed with good health, and Everett now has 50 or so hours a week to tend to her health and wellness. A competitive swimmer in both high school (Hoover) and college (Iowa State), Everett hopes to find more time for exercise.

Retirees certainly will have more time to read (though in getting ready for it, you might take notes from “How to Retire Happy,” by Stan Hinden, or “Purposeful Retirement,” by Hyrum Smith). Now that she has been through retirement advice books, Everett is spending time with “The Bucket List – 1,000 Activities Big and Small.”

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