5 lessons from Frank Lowy’s ‘frightening’ retirement

senior man looking down from a cliff

Image: eelnosiva/Bigstock.com

Westfield founder, 87-year-old Frank Lowy, recently retired and found that the thought of retiring was a ‘frightening thing’. That’s quite a statement from a Holocaust survivor who became an international property tycoon.

From a news report about his retirement, there are five things we can learn:

1. Retirement is a step into the unknown

Retirement is always a step into the unknown, which can be scary. After 60 years or so of building up and running this huge business, Lowy’s future was an unknown.

‘I was really afraid with what I would do when I no longer had the responsibility,’ he said.

It’s the same for anyone, no matter how well you plan your retirement. You don’t know exactly what’s going to happen because some things will be out of your control.

Having said that, the best way to start a retirement is to have a plan in place. That gives structure and some idea of what you’re going to do.

For Lowy, the fear didn’t last. ‘The day came and I felt great relief instead of all those fears that I had—they all disappeared.’

2. Retirement isn’t all about money

What we see with Lowy is proof that retirement isn’t all about money. He retired after selling his businesses for $35 billion. He had—and has—no fear of running out of money.

His fear was about what he would do with his life.

Money is important, for sure. But life at any stage is more than money. Retirement is no exception.

3. Retirement doesn’t mean walking away completely

Mostly, you don’t have to walk away completely from what you did before retirement. It’s true that Lowy is no longer the owner of Westfield’s 35 UK and US operations. They were sold in one of the largest corporate deals in Australia’s history.

And Lowy is no longer the chair of the Westfield board, but he is an investor in the company and he chairs an advisory board for the new owners—Unibail-Rodamco.

Most of us will take something of our work with us, and especially the skills we learned, into our retirement. Some will use them: the accountant who helps a non-profit organisation with their books; the labourer who now works his garden; or the businessman who starts a micro business at home.

4. Retirement allows you to look back

‘All my life from a young man I have worked very hard and I enjoyed it very much,’ said Lowy.

He came to Australia at the age of 22 and set up a delivery business. He had to work hard to achieve what he did. From his comment, it’s obvious that he’s found satisfaction in that.

Too often we look at the kind of business he built as the epitome of success. But there are other forms of success. A successful marriage, for instance.

Recently, an elderly neighbour died and at his funeral he was greatly praised for what he did for youth through the local soccer club. He would occasionally talk to me about his involvement in this, but at his funeral I discovered it was much more than I’d realised. That’s what brought him satisfaction during his final years.

Disasters do happen—sometimes we create them—but in our life there are also successes worth reflecting on.

5. Retirement works best with a positive attitude

‘I did a lot during my lifetime and I think it is time to make a change to my life at a young age of 87,’ Lowy told the media. He’s only 13 years away from being a centenarian and he’s saying he’s still young?

That’s positive.

And he was positive when asked about the future of retail, with the challenge of online shopping. He said he expects online shopping to find its ‘rightful place’ alongside conventional retailing. ‘I have no fear about the future for retail investors.’

That’s really positive in a world of doomsayers who think we’re seeing the end of the retail store.

It’s a positive attitude that can be the difference between a successful retirement and a so-so retirement. Actually, it’s the difference between a successful life and a so-so life.

Bruce Manners: the author of Retirement Ready?, Refusing to Retire, and founder of RetireNotes.com

Category: Attitude

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