There’s not much in the way of a guide to figuring out what comes next after retiring from a full-time job. There are, however, terrific reinvention programs from institutions like Harvard, Stanford, Notre Dame, the University of Chicago and the University of Texas — if you can afford their price tags of $60,000 or more.
Many people can’t.
That’s why I was intrigued to hear about SOAR, a new four-month, virtual and in-person hybrid program from Claremont Graduate University. It starts in April 2024 and costs $3,995, plus housing. That’s still hardly chump change, I realize, but after speaking with Steve Tarr, a fellow at CGU’s Drucker School of Management who runs SOAR, I thought the details were worth sharing.
“Some of the other midlife programs have what you might call a capstone project, and you put together a business plan or figure out what a nonprofit you’re going to start is going to look like. That’s not us,” Tarr said. “If you come up with one of those ideas at SOAR, that’s great, but really it’s more about finding out who you are.”
SOAR stands for Seek, Observe, Act and Renew. The website says the program — run by CGU and the Drucker School of Management — is designed to empower the 25 to 30 SOAR fellows to “make creative decisions about the next steps in their lives.”
Read: Planning to retire in 2024? Do this one thing now.
CGU is looking for participants who are curious, driven to cultivate their sense of purpose and eager to consider new pathways and opportunities.
The program starts in mid-March with an online introductory session, where the fellows are given homework and reading assignments.
Read: Once considered on the cusp of retirement, these people are taking a ‘gap year’ after successful careers
A month later, the participants will spend three days on the CGU campus, situated 35 miles east of Los Angeles. “The immersive experience with your cohort in Claremont is what’s going to build this,” Tarr said.
In May and again in June, the fellows will meet up online to talk with professors and discuss ways of integrating the lessons into their daily lives.
This isn’t how SOAR was first envisioned, though. Originally, it was going to be a longer and costlier on-campus program.
But since the program is partly run by the management school named for Peter Drucker — the late Claremont professor and founder of modern management — its development has itself been a market-research project.
Focus groups considered three alternative SOAR formats: a nine-month residential program, a four-month program with multiple three-day weekends on campus, and the hybrid model that was ultimately chosen.
They favored the latter due to “accessibility and their own time management,” Tarr said.
Read: ‘Get out of your own head’: How to reinvent yourself in retirement
The five elements of SOAR
The SOAR curriculum, aimed at meeting the needs of “successful leaders transitioning in their careers,” has five parts.
Museum of Me looks at how museums tell stories in order to help fellows to tell their own stories.
Transitions deals with the emotions and challenges of change, teaching the tools and mindsets to navigate transitions effectively and move into the next phase of life.
Great Conversations assigns books and poems to help answer essential questions like: What is joy? What is a life well lived?
Purpose and Impact, taking a cue from Drucker’s priorities, helps fellows find the intersection between what they care about, what they’re good at and what the world needs so they can better define their next contribution. I’d call it finding your ikigai, the Japanese concept I’ve written about for MarketWatch.
Design Your Life uses design-thinking tools to generate ideas for your next chapter.
CGU plans to offer a second hybrid session of SOAR in fall 2024 and then, in early 2025, a third session that might feature an international trip or include immersive time at a Hollywood studio. CGU intends to run each session every year.
There will be a separate charge for each of the three sessions (the cost for sessions 2 and 3 has not yet been determined). Participants in Session 1 will get a discount on the subsequent sessions.
Read: What will retirement really be like? Most people have no idea what’s coming.
Other midlife reinvention programs
SOAR has similarities to a few other relatively inexpensive midlife programs from the Nexel Collaborative, a global alliance of colleges offering such programs.
The University of Colorado, Denver, offers the four-month, hybrid Change Makers program ($3,400 in fall 2024).
Union Theological Seminary runs the small, virtual, four-month Encore Transition Program twice a year ($2,500 in 2023).
The Encore Connecticut program for people who want to transition into nonprofit work is held over a series of Fridays and Saturdays on the Hartford campus of the University of Connecticut ($2,950 in 2023).
The Kokomo Experience and You Academy at Indiana University-Kokomo is typically four to six in-person sessions over a month or two (the February 2024 series on preparing for the April 2024 solar eclipse costs $140).
The University of Minnesota Advanced Careers Initiative, which paused in fall 2020, is expected to relaunch in late 2024 as a streamlined intergenerational version. It will likely have two options: fully online or a hybrid program like SOAR’s. The cost has not been determined.
Yale’s School of Management is working on an intergenerational encore program that’s expected to take place on campus and online; Marc Freedman, co-CEO of CoGenerate, formerly known as Encore.org, is the program’s co-designer and co-faculty director. Details, including the cost, curriculum and dates, will be announced in 2024.
The CGU folks are hopeful that SOAR will soar but note that the program may well change in future sessions, depending on what the 2024 fellows have to say about it.
“If the market says adapt, we will adapt,” Tarr said.