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Book Review: Retirement By Design

Using Design Thinking to Plan Your Retirement

By Camille Stell

Facing retirement can be a challenge. Ida Abbott has made it easier with her new book, “Retirement by Design: A Guided Workbook for Creating a Happy and Purposeful Future.”

This is not another tome with logical arguments in favor of retirement, coupled with an appendix of forms, though those books can be extraordinarily helpful. Instead, Abbott has created a guided workbook that helps you chart your unique path to retirement.

Design Thinking Helps Explore Ideas

Abbott’s guide uses the concepts of design thinking. If you are unfamiliar with design thinking, the creative problem-solving process arose as a method of product design in the late 1990s at Stanford University.

Abbott explains that in contrast to goal-focused problem solving, design thinking starts with what you are thinking and feeling and what you need and want. According to Abbott, “Design thinking inspires you to expand your thinking, to explore new ideas, push past obvious solutions, and create an innovative and flexible roadmap to the future.”

Using Design Thinking to Plan Your Retirement: A Personal Advisory Team for the Journey

One of the most impactful chapters is “Choosing a Personal Advisory Team.” As lawyers, the default is often to undertake the journey alone. Lawyers are analytical problem-solvers and accustomed to finding solutions. In fact, dozens of clients are paying you to do this for them at this very moment.

However, solving your own problems is not what you would recommend to your clients. As the African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”

Abbott, who is the author of “The Lawyer’s Guide to Mentoring,” 2nd Edition (NALP) and “Sponsoring Women” (Attorney at Work), offers advice on building your advisory team. Her suggestions include:

  • A professional retirement coach to guide and support you through the process.
  • A financial advisor who can help you understand your finances, your future income and expenses, and how to budget for the plan you are creating.
  • A close friend, therapist or spiritual leader who can comfort you during times of anxiety.
  • A physician who can give you guidance and advice about health management or a personal trainer who can provide discipline and support.
  • Mentors you admire who know you well, who can offer you insights and advice in an honest and supportive way.

Abbott recommends that at least one of your mentors is someone who has already retired. This mentor can share his or her personal retirement experience including the challenges and the benefits.

Retirement Looks Different for Everyone

Some people want to quietly set a date and walk out with little fanfare. Others build a plan that covers a transition for three to five years. Ida Abbott doesn’t tell you what retirement should look like for you. Instead, she shows you the path forward through design thinking to build the retirement that is just right for you.

You can purchase “Retirement by Design” by visiting the Ida Abbott Consulting website; through her publisher, Ulysses Press; or via Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other sites where books are sold.

Illustration ©

More on Attorney at Work

“Prepare Yourself for a Happy Retirement” by Ida Abbott

“Five Reasons Lawyers Avoid Retirement” by Camille Stell

“Five Ways a Sabbatical Can Help You Assess Retirement” by Camille Stell

“Your Boomer Retirement Problem Won’t Just Fade Away” by Ida Abbott

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Categories: Legal Career Development, Retirement Planning, You At Work
Originally published April 9, 2020
Last updated August 23, 2021
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Camille Stell

Camille Stell is the President of Lawyers Mutual Consulting & Services and the co-author of “RESPECT: An Insight to Attorney Compensation Plans,” available from Amazon. Named an inaugural member of NC Lawyers Weekly “Leader in the Law,” Camille is a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management, a member of the NC Pro Bono Resource Coordinators Network, and on the Advisory Group for the Duke Law Tech Law. Connect with Camille on LinkedIn.

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