Musings from someone who spent their career in practice (in my case as an accountant but I am assured it is very similar for a solicitor).
So, what am I really going to do when I retire? Not just the things I don’t have to do anymore. Like timesheets, those difficult clients who got such a good tax-saving tip down the pub, having to go into the office each day while most of the staff work from home.
First big question. Do something or effectively do nothing. Lots of research tells us that if we have spent most of our lives working hard with our brains (and if you are in practice you know what I mean) and then suddenly stop, you are likely to last no more than a year or two. Dead. Sorry but that’s what the statistics say. Anyway, you need something to be interested in.
Next question, do something for money or do it for free. Non execs or charity trustee. A bit of money is never to be sneezed at but they are different relationships and different self-satisfaction is involved. Of course, for some people there is a great big “something else” waiting. One of my old colleagues couldn’t wait to spend his time sailing his yacht all over the Mediterranean. But if that is you, you don’t need to be told what is waiting for you.
I choose doing it for free. How do you choose what. If you have the right sort of skills (and most people from practice have) it is mainly a matter of choosing from the offers. The offers won’t come immediately. Even if you have let it be known you are available, it will take time for the right openings to come up. Do not say yes to the first things to be offered. Unless they are great. If they are not very attractive, pause and something better will present itself. You can very easily take on far more responsibilities than you intended. Trust me on this.
I believe I have two primary motivations for doing charity trustee work. One selfish, one less so. The selfish one is that I am keeping my mind working, helping to run businesses (all charities are businesses and need someone like us to keep reminding them of that fact) like I used to, but without the same level of stress because the staff team is there to make things happen. The less selfish one is that I am working with organisations I have chosen because I really think they are, in some way, making the world a better place. And maybe I am, in a small way, making a difference.
And, most important, make sure the people you are working with, both other trustees and staff, are nice people, who you actually want to meet up with on the boards and committees. Do remember, if it all becomes a pain, you can always step down. It’s not as though you’ve lost your job.
Patrick Stevens, Trustee and Treasurer at Sussex Community Foundation