top of page
  • Writer's pictureBarbara Stewart

Planning for a Post Pandemic Non-Retirement

The best-laid plans of mice and men (women too!) go oft awry…

The adverse effects of the pandemic and recession have fallen disproportionately on women. According to an October 2020 Commonwealth Fund study from the US: “…although women made up 47 percent of pre-pandemic employment, they accounted for 55 percent of total job losses.” According to a Canadian RBC report from July of this year: “…in a matter of months, the COVID 19 pandemic knocked women’s participation in the labour force down from a historic high to its lowest level in over 30 years.”

I think it is fair to say that none of us predicted or planned for this scenario! Even if we were the responsible types who had a proper financial plan in place, chances are good that we now need to adjust it to accommodate a worst case scenario or two. I’ll get to my advice about how to make sense of your financial situation…but the best financial defense in my opinion? Play offense, and don’t retire.

Fortunately, many women want to work!

Traditionally, financial planning focused on retirement because companies would enforce retirement at age 65. Back in the fall of 2017, I wrote an article called Planning for a Non-Retirement and it was a huge hit with many views and picked up by the media. Trish Wheaton, the Founder of Leaning Out™ (and former global managing partner of one of the world’s largest communications groups) asked me if I could update that article for the pandemic, and rather than tweaking it I ended up writing this entirely new piece!

In the original article, Trish said “Sixty-five is the new 45. I had to ask myself ‘what’s next?’ I realized I didn’t have a clue. When I talked to my female peers in the same situation it turned out that they were feeling the same way. We were all used to being successful. People still want to invest in their passion…it’s just a question of where they invest it now.”

What qualities do we need most in a post pandemic world?

My research has shown that resilience is a key personality trait in women, which really bodes well for getting out of these awful situations. We’re used to making things work, especially in tough times. And…this is definitely a time to harness our creative energies and invest in our passions.

Crisis spells opportunity. As a Deloitte study from this October asked: “The 2008 financial crisis created huge demand for faster innovation in the financial services industry, which likely contributed to the rise of the fintech community. Could a similar disruption in the business environment due to COVID-19 be an opportunity to level the playing field for women?”

Five Post Pandemic Non-Retirement Career Opportunities

1. Start up a startup that solves problems

According to some early indicators I found and wrote about last month (the title was The Future is Female), women are starting three quarters of new businesses during COVID!

Where will high-growth businesses of the future come from? An article from May of this year said that venture capital needed a complete reset: “Today, facing down existential planetary and human health challenges, we need…more of the inspiring, purpose-driven operations that solve massive problems using approaches never before created.”

Lauren Robinson is General Partner at Highline Beta, an early-stage venture capital fund that invests in companies solving corporate problems. Lauren is based in Vancouver, Canada and she is on the Board of the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA). 

“In a pandemic, the focus is on solving the problems that matter, and women are at the table as investors, board members and leaders of their industries. Today, more than ever, investors have an appetite to look at how capital is allocated. The full circle of capital is being re-evaluated: financial capital, relationship capital, and intellectual capital. Many CEOs & corporate executives have seen their business models shift overnight. What will growth look like in a post-pandemic economy? What does the future of growth mean for businesses and for different industries? Many corporations are looking to startups to co-innovate and grow in a more efficient way. When I look at the profile of the businesses that are thriving right now…they are increasingly aligned with an urgency to solve problems that matter in the world, which often aligns closely with the interests and values of women investors.”

A perfect example? Elize Shirdel is the Founder & CEO of in Toronto:

“Just after I got my PhD and was pregnant with my second child, I went to work at a start-up in the marketing tech space. The environment was terrible and I didn't stay long, but it really opened by eyes to what the start-up world looked like, and I thought - they're building the future - and I wanted to be part of that. So I thought to myself…what am I going to build? What do I really need that isn’t available? Answer: Our family needs a babysitter. Out of that experience Datenight Babysitting was born, which has since grown into a larger platform: that helps families connect to the tools and services that they need to run family life.

Famtech (family tech) has been so overlooked yet moms control $2.4 trillion in North American spending! We've been growing our platform for a few years now and we've helped so many different types of families with their childcare requirements. We are filling a huge need these days in the pandemic: interactive online activities and academic support for kids. It's important work.”

2. Become an intrapreneur

An intrapreneur is someone who acts like an entrepreneur, but within an established company. It’s creating a new business or venture within an organization. Sometimes that business becomes a new section, or department, or even a subsidiary spinoff.

Özlem Yanmaz is a Partner (and intrapreneur) with Deloitte Digital Turkey:

“I have learned that it is quite possible to pursue entrepreneurship under the umbrella of big enterprise. In 2012, “Deloitte Digital” was launched as a global brand, not yet in Turkey by then; so we decided to make the business case that it should be. We prepared a detailed analysis of the marketplace and the competition and ultimately convinced Deloitte Turkey to take the decision to launch “Deloitte Digital”. Since then we’ve been offering a [range of digital solutions] that didn’t exist four years ago. We have enjoyed global success – we are doing a great business which makes a quarter of total consulting revenue locally.”

Wanted: Social intrapreneurs

Social intrapreneurs are a breed of entrepreneurs who work as employees within companies to develop business solutions for social or environmental problems. A World Economic Forum COVID Action Platform article from April discusses why we need social intrapreneurs more than ever during the pandemic: “While we struggle with the immediate logistical and medical impact of the COVID-19 crisis, there is a wider question about the purpose of business before us. The path to change won’t be easy, but we have an opportunity to demonstrate how large companies can work for the societies they serve. Only the most future-looking companies that are willing to innovate and adapt will survive. Looking internally at the power of social intrapreneurs can aid this rapid transformation.”

3. Freelance experts in interim management

Senior Management Worldwide (SMW) is the leading global provider of interim or contingent executives across Europe, Asia and the Americas, and their 2017 pre-pandemic survey found that there has been an increasing number of female interim managers globally. In Sweden women made up 25 percent of interim managers and in the UK over 30 percent. The rest of Europe was nearly 20 percent and in APAC over 35 percent were women. The average age of a female interim executive was 53 years old.

Which sectors are most in demand? “Marketing and sales are the most common interim assignments with 31 percent of respondents leading these initiatives followed by 22 percent acting as an interim CFO... The top four sectors using interim executives are manufacturing/engineering, banking/insurance/financial services and biotech/pharmaceutical/chemical and Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG).” 

I imagine that we will see an increasing demand for female interim executives given the rise in social justice movements and an increased corporate focus on diversity, although I haven’t yet found any current data on this trend.

4. Diverse boards

A May 2020 Forbes article highlighted a study showing that coronavirus treatments are likely safer if more women are on the board of directors: “According to the study, called “The Influence of Female Directors on Product Recall Decisions”, products and treatments are recalled 28 days faster – 35% faster – when more than one woman is on the board of directors, compared to all-male boards. “For these types of recalls, (that) is truly a matter of life or death,” according to the study’s executive summary.  It continued, “It’s only when there are at least two female directors on the board that the timeliness of severe product recalls increases; when there are three female directors, the recall decision moves along even faster. These can be prescription drugs “or life-sustaining medical devices.”

Joanne De Laurentiis is an Independent Director in Toronto who sits on a variety of boards: public companies, government agencies and private company advisory boards:

“We have all had to adjust to this new, no contact world and it has certainly presented both challenges and opportunities around the board tables I sit on. The biggest shift is a greater focus to considering strategic questions more robustly, and in the public sector boards, like the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) there is a more collaborative attitude in working with other levels of governments. In addition, there is a greater focus on social justice. #BLM has sharpened the attention to making boards more diverse, although I hear getting names is a bit of a challenge because those names have not been collected by recruitment firms.”

In order to find the right board for you, target organizations that have a need for your unique skillset to help them in their day-to-day business.

De Laurentiis points out: “Board members must have a strong combination of skills such as strategic thinking, problem solving, and leadership, but perhaps most importantly…they need to have specific expertise related to the business dealings of the organization.”

5. A portfolio career

A portfolio career means having several part-time jobs at once, rather than one full-time job.

Today’s environment has more challenges for the self-employed but also more opportunities. The trick as always is to position yourself in a sweet spot (or five). Where is the demand today? How can you address those business needs? Diversifying your employment portfolio and having multiple revenue streams is an excellent way to manage risk.

My own post pandemic non-retirement scenario looks much the same as it did before the world changed so dramatically. I multitask for income by working on a combination of research projects, writing, speaking and consulting. During the pandemic it has really paid off to have a diversified portfolio of uncorrelated types of work. While external researchers have been chopped out of many corporate budgets, virtual events picked up significantly with higher demand for global content due to the savings from having no travel costs.

Five Post Pandemic Non-Retirement Financial Planning Steps

What must happen for your non-retirement to be successful? How will you define success from a financial perspective? To answer these critical questions, my recommendation is to start at square one. Accept that your pre-pandemic financial life has changed. Plan for your post pandemic non-retirement with a blank slate.

Step One: Work through all of my top ten tips for managing your finances. Available here as a snazzy infographic. Especially the boring stuff! Put all of your paperwork on a desk. Sit down with yourself and make a comprehensive list of all of your various bank accounts, investment accounts; absolutely anything to do with your financial life. Take the time to learn the details.

Step Two: Invest in a high quality financial plan. Find an expert who will prepare an independent financial plan without pushing product. A good plan will include cash flow projections for multiple different scenarios that might play out post pandemic. Include scenarios such as becoming suddenly single: 90% of women will be single at some point in their lives due to divorce or widowhood. And many women will become ‘virtually single’ at some point due to incapacity in their partner, with 10% of all Americans over 65 having diagnosed Alzheimer’s.

A proper plan should also include a scenario that involves continuity of care planning - this is often what ultimately can deplete an older person’s investment portfolio. An evolving field is financial gerontology, focusing on the financial health of older adults.

Step Three: Prepare an IPS (investment policy statement.) Your IPS will serve as a point of reference for your ongoing planning and it will form the basis of your portfolio asset mix decision. Cover all the basics: income requirements, expected rate of return, time horizon, liquidity needs, tax restrictions and liabilities, and unique preferences.

Step Four: Ensure that your investment portfolio is aligned with your values. What really matters to you? If investors aren’t clear as to their values, they will be vulnerable to scare tactics, mass marketers, and dubious investment sales pitches. By taking personal responsibility for your values, you will have a better appreciation for your investment portfolio and you’ll find it easier to stick to your financial plan.

Step Five: Have a Plan B. Whether your non-retirement plan is to secure a few board positions or to position yourself as an interim CMO, uncertainty is the name of the game – today more than ever. What are your alternate sources of funding if Plan A doesn’t work out as expected?

Step into shoes that are big enough for you

Although we are currently living in strange times, it’s important to remember that some of the greatest leaps forward have followed very dark and painful periods in history.

Yes, the best-laid plans of mice, men, and women go oft awry, but on the positive side we are on the cusp of an incredible opportunity for female investors. Post pandemic, the businesses we create and the investments we make will have major implications for both the make-up and activity of public and private markets as well as the data set for female investing behaviour. I challenge you all to step into shoes that are big enough for you.

What is your post pandemic non-retirement strategy?


Barbara’s Rich Thinking® global research papers quote smart women from all ages, professions and countries and are released annually on International Women’s Day, March 8. Barbara is a keynote speaker for CFA Societies, banks and stock exchanges around the world and she conducts interview driven research for global financial institutions.

Learn more about investing success at



bottom of page