Finding Meaning in Retirement

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Jennifer Cohen, senior vice president of leadership development at Ratliff & Taylor, speaks as fellow moderator Gregg Levine watches in the background.

IMPACT! discussion focuses on finding meaning in retirement

Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News.

By Jonah Rosenblum

What comes next?

That was the question to answer for attendees who joined Ratliff & Taylor’s Jennifer Cohen and Gregg Levine June 7 at “Planning For Retirement: Reinventing Your Life And Realizing Your Dreams.” The event was part of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s IMPACT! program, a volunteer initiative for adults over 50.

The inaugural IMPACT! event was on Jan. 7.

Levine laid out the central dilemma of retirement – and the evening session – almost immediately:

“Work not only gave us a sense of financial security, it gave us a sense of who we are,” he said.

He said that is particularly true in the United States, where he said work is more central to personal identity than in European countries he has visited.

The next hour and a half was spent discussing how retirees can find new friends, new jobs, new senses of purpose, and ultimately, figure out who they are.

Jim Grodin, of Aurora, participates in "Planning for Retirement: Reinventing Your Life and Realizing Your Dreams."

Oscar Berman of Beachwood was one of the participants June 7. A year into his retirement, the Temple Emanu El congregant has traveled extensively in recent months and will travel even more in coming months, including to Colorado, California and South Africa. He also has volunteered at Bellefaire JCB, reading to children, and said he wants to volunteer for the Animal Protective League.

“I keep myself doing this or that,” Berman said.

Muriel Weber, a Shaker Heights resident, already took one big retirement step, following her career in banking with a term as president of the board of trustees of Oheb Zedek-Cedar Sinai Synagogue in Lyndhurst. Weber told her breakout group June 7 that the synagogue played a critical role in helping her navigate retirement.

“My identity really revolved around my career,” Weber said. “I found this tremendous outlet for my skill set.”

Levine had a similar progression. He went from managing a wide number of states and personnel as a regional sales manager for British Petroleum to leading the company’s marketing at the 2012 London Olympics to marketing for Gay Games 9. In short, he went from managing a large swath of territory and people to working more on his own, first for BP and then outside of BP. He said such a gradual turn into retirement helped him avoid the depression some of his friends have encountered.

“One of the challenges people have is letting go,” Levine said. “An abrupt ending without a phaseout is very difficult.”

Those in attendance tried to consider how they could add activity to their own retirement. Berman noted he is bicycling more – and the group discussed a number of potential hobbies and volunteer opportunities. Cohen, the senior vice president of leadership development at Ratliff & Taylor, noted opportunities for further education while Levine, a Ratliff & Taylor consultant, pointed out the potential to travel to Israel as well as learn Hebrew.

Volunteering is a particular linchpin, according to Cohen, before leading the group through a number of exercises to help figure out where they might wish to volunteer and which strengths each individual might bring to the table.

“It’s just really good for your soul,” Cohen said of volunteering. “How many of you want to live longer? If you want to live longer, volunteer. Your unique skills, your unique gifts are needed by someone somewhere.”

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