9 Lives for Women Blog

A+ in Retirement Planning | September 9th, 2012

When Wendy Field of Westerly, Rhode Island was told recently that her senior-level position at UBS had been “eliminated” she did not fall on the floor in shock. It’s no secret that the financial services world is pretty tumultuous these days and just about everyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop. Without question she was financially and psychologically ready—after disciplined saving and a focus on building her retirement life for a solid 12 years. There was no drama:  it was really a matter of hanging up her business suit just a little earlier than planned.

How did she prepare herself so well for this abrupt turning point?  It started about 15 years ago, when Wendy was asked to be on a Community Affairs panel for UBS. That led to her involvement with Junior Achievement.  She then developed an after-school program for high school kids and ultimately joined the Board of JA in Connecticut. From this experience Wendy honed her passion for working with kids–and especially teaching them about business. At the time she was very busy doing loan syndications, so she filed away the idea of finding ways to combine business and work with kids in her retirement years.

Not only was Wendy getting closer to checking the “what will I do?” box, she also checked “where will I live?” She grew up spending summers on the Rhode Island shoreline, and by the time AARP was sending her envelopes in the mail, she had bought a second home and laid down new but familiar roots for her post-working years.

Wendy’s alma mater, the University of Rhode Island, is not too far from her weekend turned retirement home. She had always been an active alumna, and in the late 90s the Dean of the Business School asked her to join their Advisory Board. Little did the Dean know that he was helping Wendy lay the groundwork for a second career. For the past three years she has chaired the Board, influenced the direction and leadership of the college—and developed relationships with people in the area where she will live in retirement.

In her work at URI Wendy found the way to blend her business knowledge and experience with her knack for inspiring kids. Through the years she has mentored many students, spoken to the Finance Club, found students jobs and generally provided a reality check for young people who know very little about Wall Street. She likes the fact that she is giving back:  she remembers how hard it was to get a good first job. She directs a lot of her advice toward URI’s Career Services, hoping to influence initiatives that will help their graduates get jobs in a state that has very high unemployment.

Now that Wendy is free to invest much more time into her second career, the Dean at URI has endless ideas on how to use her talents. She’s particularly interested in a mentoring role for the Ram Fund 401 class, which teaches students how to invest real money from the URI Foundation. She’ll give these students a practical business perspective and unique insights as one of few women who made it to investment banking’s upper ranks. At the same time she’ll keep a close watch on the financial markets that have been such a big part of her life the past 30 years. Among many other projects, she’ll also lead Career Day, help students prepare resumes and scope out possible internships for them in her vast professional network.

Wendy’s retirement will not be all work and no play, however. She’s equally determined to lower her golf handicap, enhance her garden, and get to know more of the people who live in her summer community year round.

When I asked Wendy what women should do to find their retirement career, she said: “Start by giving back”. She knows firsthand that too many women live a myopic life–caught up in their careers and families 24/7.

“When you volunteer for various organizations, you look beyond yourself and your usual routine. You meet a lot of interesting people who open new doors–and you get involved in many interesting projects that can be parlayed into meaningful, fun and a less demanding retirement careers.”  –KAS

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