Thursday, 5 November 2015

Ageing and Retirement - Age is only a number

Ageing and Retirement Age is only a number In a country which is being spoken about as the “youngest” country in the world, where over 700 million of us are under the age of 30, we have an increasing number of people who are growing old as well. Just like the baby boomers in USA, India too has its post-independence children, born after 1947. The oldest of these children will be in their early to late-sixties in 2015 and a majority of these pre-independence kids may probably still be working but thinking of the impending retirement. Looking back on the years gone by I am sometimes amazed at the resilience and persistence exhibited by us mere mortals in our lives. In our effort to make ends meet and prepare for our future we are often forced to endure thankless and sometimes abusive work environments for years on end. Stress becomes our new best friend as we attempt to pay never ending day to day bills while somehow also providing for big ticket expenses like education, clothes, cars and weddings. We are forced to delay the pursuit of our own interests and passions because there is either not enough time or not sufficient free money. As I pondered over and debated my own reality, I was curious about my peers' attitudes toward retirement I spoke with many friends, both men and women over 60 who were either already retired or were just starting to think about it. What I found most shocking was the level of denial and postponement in thinking about the subject of retirement. While many people had been diligent about saving and investing, few had considered the psychological jolt that usually accompanies the end of an active working career. My first realisation was that I would have a much greater degree of freedom under my control. I don't have to do but I do what I please to do. I have therefore redefined retirement to mean “Reaching a stage in life when one has the freedom to do what one wants.” I am reminded of an old poem I read At ten, we have just fun At twenty, we are still naughty At thirty, we think lofty At forty, we get shifty At fifty, we confront reality At, sixty, we seek serenity Author - Unknown However in today’s day and age, the retirement paradigm has changed completely from what we have seen with our parents and probably our grandparents. While the message may be the same, the ages have certainly changed over the past three decades. “Yesterday’s 60 is today’s 40” said a close friend to me when we were discussing getting older. “Age is only a number” said another So working in our regular jobs as employees till we are between 60 and 65 is something we can normally expect to do as per ore terms of employment. When I started work in 1979 at the age of 22 the retirement age in my company was 52 years and I used to think that three decades was a long way off. A few years later the retirement age was raised to 55 and like me, a lot of young managers in the company complained about how top management was interfering with our careers by allowing the “oldies” to stay on for another 3 years! Today as I approach 58, I wonder what it would have been like to have retired when I consider that I am at the peak of my career. As we reach the age of superannuation or retirement, I see so many of friends becoming insecure and afraid of becoming irrelevant. When it is time to retire, we forget what we told ourselves. What has changed in the last three decades that we are afraid to slow down or pace of work or recognize that our minds and bodies are ageing? Most of us would have achieved what one set out to at the start of one’s career or we would have accepted that what one has achieved is all that is possible in the career that we have chosen. We would have also seen the push coming from our younger colleagues in the work place to move aside to let the youth brigade move forward faster. There is no point in agonizing over the past because there is nothing that we can do about it. I have always believed in looking ahead with a positive frame of mind. Yet most people if they have led a relatively healthy life will, with modern medicine see our life expectancy increase significantly. Our parents would generally be well into their eighties and we could expect them to live in to their nineties. Given the right set of genes, there is no reason why we would not live to at least 90 years of age, maybe more if we have not abused our body too much. Retirement is not the end of the world. It is the beginning of a new and more fulfilling life without the stresses and strains, the pulls and pressures we had when we were young. We may have looked forward to retirement but a fulfilling retirement will not just happen. You have to plan for it and you have to plan by including the most important person in your life, your spouse. Unless both of you are in agreement with your plans, prepare for dissonance in both your lives. At the same time, I realized that with ageing parents, the baton for the next generation was passing to me. The next generation of children in my family was looking up to me. When I visited their homes, I would be seated first. I would be served first at dinner and when I spoke they would listen attentively. It was difficult to handle this contradiction. On the one hand I was beginning to feel less relevant at work and in the society that I knew and on the other hand I was being respected more by the next generation. I have met several people and discussed with them their challenges and their thoughts as they faced retirement. I have spoken to people in their thirties and forties as they agonised over making plans for the retirement of their parents. I have spoken to spouses who are preparing for a life with a much more inclusive husband post his retirement and I have spoken to husbands who have had very successful career and spouses who are wondering how life will be for the two of them now that both of them have “all the time in the world to spend together”. Let me draw a parallel to retirement with a setback. It is a stop in our life and we need to restart with a new direction and with renewed vigour. Think back to a recent setback or disappointment in your career or personal life. Think about how you felt. How long did it take for you to bounce back? Did you formulate an action plan? Did you blame yourself, or others? Did you eat a big plate of sweets or ice cream to give yourself a “sugar fix”? How you handle a setback defines who you are. Let's say there are two ends of the spectrum - the optimist and the pessimist. You may be at any point of the spectrum.  The optimist experiences a challenge. They see it as a temporary situation, something that they'll get past. An optimist will often make a plan for recovery, and take action. An optimist looks to the future.  A pessimist is at the opposite end of the spectrum. They see a problem, and the problem affects every aspect of their life, and no solution to the problem is in sight. There is usually someone to blame for this problem. Have you ever tried to help a pessimist solve a problem? They will argue with you that every possible solution will not work. There is no happy future, all is hopeless. A pessimist will say that an optimist is not realistic. Maybe that is the case. However, perhaps that slightly unrealistic view is what allows the optimist to meet the challenge head on and succeed. How can you move along your place on the retirement spectrum to be on the positive side as you look to reinvent, reboot and rewire your life? Examine your behaviour pattern. Be honest with yourself. • When a challenge arises, step back and see it for what it is. Look for the opportunity within the challenge. Sometimes the opportunity is merely the experience gained from getting through it. • Don't let the problem become your life. • Move into action to resolve the problem immediately. Make a plan and get started. • Believe in yourself and your power. Cast off society's belief about aging and retirement. Optimists may have greater success, health and happiness. Pessimists may experience a self-fulfilling prophecy of unhappiness and despair. You choose your spot on the spectrum from where you will make the start to rebooting your life. In conclusion it is my belief our new life ahead can be the adventure of a lifetime. It doesn't have to be a permanent rest. Ask yourself whether your negative beliefs about retirement are getting in the way of how you really want to live the "third half" of your life. The author is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of the best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office and The Buck Stops Here - Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur. Twitter: @gargashutosh

Monday, 2 November 2015

The steps needed to be your own boss

The steps needed to be your own boss “I want to be my own boss” is a thought that has definitely crossed the minds of most corporate managers at sometime in their careers. Yet most people hesitate to take this step for one reason or another. Giving up what one has today, including a regular pay check and the perquisites that come with the job to pursue a “dream” definitely appears to be an intimidating challenge for anyone who is contemplating changing his status quo. Yet for people who have made this change, the realisation is why they took so long to take this step. It is never too late or too early to make a start. Getting over one’s own fears and anxieties is possibly the biggest challenge that you will face. Ensuring support for one’s family helps every entrepreneur to take the plunge faster. Be prepared for a complete lifestyle change. An entrepreneur’s job is a lonely one. Days will blend into nights and weekdays into weekends. No job will be too small or big and what you take for granted as a corporate manager will be a challenge you will have to address personally. Yet, the fruits of your efforts will be visible at the end of each day. Find out what is your calling and stay the course. Once you have made up your mind on what you want to do, take a plunge with 100% commitment. Write out a realistic business plan for yourself. Part time entrepreneurial ventures have never succeeded. Once you have started your journey, you will be confronted with challenges that you would never have imagined. Yet, no challenge will be insurmountable. Funds will be a challenge when you start but will become a commodity when you start to succeed. A family investing its savings into a business is a strong message of confidence for any banker or private equity investor. Manage cash very carefully – costs have a habit of running out of control and revenues lag behind what you may have planned for. Getting a strong management team and empowering them is essential for success but finding the right talent for a start up will be a challenge. Good managers will not agree to join a start up and a start up entrepreneur will not be able to afford such managers. Therefore, it is necessary to draw upon skills of friends and family and part time managers to start any new enterprise. The author is the Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of the best selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office and The Buck Stops Here - Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur. Twitter: @gargashutosh

Friday, 9 October 2015

Selecting a Private Equity Investor

Selecting a Private Equity Investor A lot of businessmen would have raised money or are planning to raise money from a private equity investor to expand their business. I am giving below a list of points to watch out for as you go through the list of potential investors: Remember that a Private Equity investor is the business of making money from money and therefore his interest will be primarily in getting a substantial return in as short a period of time as possible. He is as interested in doing a deal as you are. You need his money and he needs your company to get a return on his money. 1. What do they bring to the table other than money: It is very important for you to select a PE player who brings more than simply money to the table. PE players specialise in industries and you should expect them to get you introductions to other players in your business as well as in the circles that may influence your industry. Watch out for “spreadsheet” specialists who will pound away on their computers to deliver valuations to themselves and you! 2. Do your own due diligence Just like a PE player will conduct a due diligence on you and your business before he makes the investment. Make sure that you also do your own diligence on the background of the PE player as well as the investments he has made. If you can talk to one of their investee companies, you must do so to understand from a counterpart on their experience with the PE player you are contemplating to give a piece of your business. 3. Study the term sheet terms very carefully You will be in a hurry to get the investment. Most promoters do not read the fine print of the term sheet. It is only later when the conditions of the term sheet start to be implemented does the promoter realise what he has signed up to. By then it is too late. 4. Use a lawyer you trust to get your agreements done The detailed agreements are critical. The PE player will generally work with the big law firms. Use a lawyer you trust who can guide you through the maze of the legalese in all the agreements. Understand how multiple agreements are linked together as well as all the terms you are signing up to including guaranteed IRR’s, tag along, drag along, QIPO and similar such conditions. 5. Don’t get pushed into growing your business at a rate that your PE investor wants Finally, make sure that you grow your business at a rate that you can manage without putting stress on the business or your management team. if your PE player pushes you to grow faster than you believe you can, it is better to push him back earlier than to get caught in a difficult business situation The author is the Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of the best selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office and The Buck Stops Here - Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur. Twitter: @gargashutosh

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Reboot Reinvent Rewire: Managing Retirement in the Twenty-First Century

Reboot Reinvent Rewire: Managing Retirement in the Twenty-First Century published by Harper Collins Today’s 60 is yesterday’s 40. So goes the saying these days. Yet, all of us have to retire one day from what we are doing today when we reach the chronological “number” listed out for us in our terms of employment. This could be anywhere from 58 to 65. Retirement is a sensitive subject for most of us and only when we reach the age of retirement do we start to think about it, leave alone plan for it. Given today’s health care facilities, most people will lead almost one third of their lives post retirement or post the age of 60. What are the options available to keep yourself occupied and busy? How will couples adjust to lives together? How much money is enough? Where should you plan to live? What will happen if adult children come back to live with you? Will you be able to continue to earn money? What health care challenges will you face? And many more topics. For the first time in India, the subject of Retirement has been covered in an easy to read manner. The author, Ashutosh Garg addresses these and more issues on the subject of retirement. He believes in the title that no one needs to retire in the traditional sense. What needs to be done is to reinvent, reboot and rewire one’s life. The author is the Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of the bestselling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office and The Buck Stops Here - Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur. Twitter: @gargashutosh

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Lee Kuan Yew

Lee Kuan Yew As I read about Mr Lew Kuan Yew unwell and in hospital, fighting for his life and possibly looking at the final lap of his journey on this earth, I am motivated to pen down some thoughts of him. I am not a Singaporean and I don’t live in Singapore. I am an Indian living in Gurgaon and I have had the rare privilege of living in Singapore for 6 years from 1989 to 1995 and of seeing him hand over the reins of the country he founded to Goh Chok Tong. It struck me that coming from a country where politicians did not believe in a retirement age, here was a leader who practised what he preached. Here was a leader who had worked on a succession plan for the country he loved so much that he realised that in order to meet the aspirations of his young nation, he wanted to bring in new leadership. Here was a leader who had developed incredible work ethic in his countrymen and built a country which stood above all others when it came to transparency and honesty. This must have taken some doing given that in the eighties and nineties, most countries of South East Asia and South Asia were mired in corruption. As Singapore strode ahead like a colossus building incredible infrastructure, several other countries continue to struggle with corruption and pathetic infrastructure three decades later. Yet, I remember his famous words which very simply stated that he would come back from the grave if anyone dared to harm his beloved country. Many years ago, I was asked to make a presentation to BG Lee when he was Minister of Trade and Industry during a trip to Mumbai. I started the presentation with two quotes from his famous father. These were comments that I had read from possibly his first speech to the Singapore Parliament. He said (and I am paraphrasing these and not quoting): 1. Singaporeans must realise that planning for their generation, for better or worse has already been done. You are where you are because someone thought of you. You must plan for the next generation. 2. Singaporeans must understand that the world does not owe us a living. BG Lee remarked at the end of the presentation that he himself did not recall his famous father having made these comments. Both these statements were from a visionary and selfless leader who had charted out the an ambitious course for his small island nation and within a short period of 25 years made a major mark on the world stage. So many political leaders from our part of the world would do well to emulate these thoughts instead of asking the same question every time “What’s in it for me?” It is because of him and his vision that built this economic miracle that Singapore now figures on every World map even though other islands of a much larger land mass don’t find a place owing to “scale” restrictions! I have had the rare opportunity of seeing LKY strolling down Orchard Road, his hands in his pocket, possibly surveying proudly what he had done to empower his people and create wealth for his nation. There were no security men around him, or none that I could see. Soon after the famous Gulf War, when he was asked if he worried about being surrounded by nations like Indonesia and Malaysia, his comment that his country did not have any oil or any natural resources that could invite any invader. Yet, he said, his country had a wealth of brains which helped to manage the region and if someone did invade, these brains would stop thinking! In closing I must add my voice the chorus of voices from around the world in wishing this great visionary and charismatic leader a speedy recovery. The World will be a much poorer place without him whenever he decides to take his final bow from the World stage. Ashutosh Garg @gargashutosh