A former student wrote to say that having married in her junior year of college, she’d left to raise a family, As she nears retirement, however, she’s decided to return to school to finish her degree. Naturally, I applauded her decision just as I did when my mother earned her GED at 65. Given the health and longevity medical science has afforded the elderly, I think we should abandon the notion of retirement, altogether, and think of life in the 60’s and beyond as new beginnings.
Consider the experience of Charlene De Carvalho, a wife, mother and homemaker until she was almost 50. (“A Self-Made Heiress, by Patricia Sellers, Fortune, 12/22/ 2014 pgs.138-146.) For many years, she lived comfortably in London with her 5 children and her husband who was a successful banker. Her father, a man of wealth, had approved the marriage, satisfied his son-in-law wasn’t interested in his daughter’s money. (Ibid pg 142.) DeCarvalho didn’t think of herself as wealthy in her own right, however. She described herself as a woman who had babies with reasonable success and who lived off her husband’s salary and his bonuses, (Ibid pg. 142.) All she’d been given by her father was 1 share of Heineken stock, the world’s No 3 beer maker.
This wife and mother never gave much thought to money. She’d always led a sheltered life, so sheltered that when time came for her to attend college, her father insisted that she remain at home, within the family circle, until she was married. Nothing in her experience prepared her for the changes that would come when her father died. The share of Heineken in her possession was controlling interest in the brewing company. What’s more, it made her chairman of the board.
As De Carvalho admits, many people assumed she’d sell her 1 share of Heinekens, which might have been the case if her husband hadn’t encouraged her to accept her inheritance and agreed to help. So, this mother of 5 children with no business background, took her place at the head of the table in Heineken’s board room. When she did, she discovered she loved the work and was a quick learner. Together with her innovative CEO, the company that had faded during her father’s watch, became a dominate player in the corporate world. Today, De Carvalho’s personal wealth is in the double digit billions.
Life’s lesson hasn’t been lost on the board chairman. Having discovered her passion, De Carvalho’s advice to her children is to follow theirs. (Ibid pg. 146.) Her guidance applies to us all, especially to those who enjoy good health in their retirement. The journey left for the elderly may be short but to court change opens the road to wonderful adventures.