Most of us want to achieve financial independence early in our lives. But many of us lack a game plan for what we will do after quitting our full time job. I have seen people retiring prematurely and getting bored within three months as they have not planned their early retirement properly. Beyond money, people need a sense of achievement, they need some daily challenge, there is a need of belonging – of being needed by others. Getting all this can be difficult after you have given up your corporate job.
Here is a story of a friend who has made this transition successfully. Hopefully, his story will provide you with the ingredients of how to chalk out your second career path successfully.
Choose an area you are passionate about: Since he was in the tenth standard, 57-year-old TK (name changed on request), has been passionate about fitness. Within a couple of years of moving to Bengaluru, TK realised that fitness training holds vast potential in the city. Most denizens of India’s Silicon Valley hold desk jobs in the IT sector and inevitably turn obese by the time they are in their thirties. Hence, TK determined to leverage his interest and expertise in fitness training into a post-retirement career.
After 33 years in the corporate world, TK felt he was no longer enjoying his work as much as he once did. He was senior director when he quit his position.
Preparation is the key: Once he had decided which area he would work in, it was not as if TK left his corporate job right away. Instead, he prepared himself carefully for three years, starting from 2014, before he made the leap.
TK realised that his experience alone would not suffice to get him clients. He needed to acquire the proper credentials of a fitness trainer. In 2014 he completed a certification course for gym instructors. Then he started training people early in the morning and late in the evening within his own apartment building. This free service gave him invaluable experience and confidence. In 2017, when he finally left his job, he did a certification course in personal training, which provided him insights into how to offer one-on-one training.
The marketing challenge: Next, TK focused on marketing himself and his services. Today, there are mobile phone apps like UrbanClap, which have a listing of all sorts of service providers. Another app called UrbanPro provides trainers. TK empanelled himself with both. He got his first few clients via these apps, but thereafter, he got them mostly through the word-of-mouth recommendations of his early clients.
Most of the training he offers is one-on-one, or to small groups of three-four people. Since different people have different needs – like weight reduction or strength building – the training needs to be tailored to each individual specifically. He mostly makes use of the facilities available within premium apartment complexes, which have their own gym facilities.
His earnings have, of course, come down since his corporate days. Today he makes only about 50 per cent of what he earned as a senior director.
Prepare adequate financial backup: When TK left his job and started off as a trainer, it took him two months to get his first client. Building an adequate client base also took time. He says that anyone undertaking such a career transition must be prepared for the fact that his income will be nil during the initial phase and will then rise only gradually. The person must, therefore, have an adequate corpus to fall back upon. TK has made a few investments which provide him with a regular income stream.
What helped in TK’s case is that his spouse still works in a senior position within the IT industry. His daughter, who is doing her PhD in the US, manages a large part of her expenses herself through a stipend and a fee waiver. TK and his wife only have to fund about 30 per cent of her expenses. By the time he decided to quit his corporate job, his daughter had finished her post-graduation in India. This, too, gave him the courage to take this financially risky step.
His wife and he have always been financially prudent. When both of them worked, they regularly saved more than 50 per cent of their earnings.
Scaling up is the next challenge: Since he works mostly with individual clients, there is a limit to how much he can earn. TK, therefore, plans to scale up. He is now working out, a) on strategies for scaling by leveraging technology and distributed service delivery models, b) the investment required for scaling, and c) on mitigating the risks associated with scaling.
Words of wisdom: TK says that people who want to enter a new field must acquire adequate expertise in it. They should also begin planning for such a transition early. He suggests that one should start creating a financial backup from the age of 30 onwards. One should look out for areas that one is passionate about, and which have the potential to be converted into a business. One must then study the field closely and develop a viable business model for it.
Family support, says TK, is crucial. “Unless you have taken your family onboard and they agree with what you plan to do, you will find it difficult to pull off such a transition successfully,” he says.
The rewards of making such a transition, however, are immense. Says TK: “In corporate life, you are always tense and under pressure for one reason or the other. Today I am much more relaxed. I do what I love. I make my own decisions. As a result, my level of happiness and contentedness is much higher today.”
If you have retired early and want to share your story and learnings – please do write to me at email@example.com.