Retiring Couple Became Stuck: Option Solving Solution

We caught up with our relative and her companion this summer at a canal dock in central London. They were glum. Together they had journeyed from middle England over several months, negotiating many canals dating back to the 17th -18th century. A retirement dream was going badly wrong.

My cousin (H) had finally retired eight months earlier from her City job. Her long time companion (A) had worked for years as a multi-talented, private contractor. As a segue into full-time retirement they traveled to Australia for several weeks to look up relatives and then stopped off at their favorite leisure spot, Thailand, on the way home. With their house rented out for months ahead, they sped off to their purpose built canal boat – The Maisibert – fitted with all modern conveniences (shower, cooking equipment, couches, comfortable bed and so on). Their dog, a Nova Scotia Duck Toller, was specially chosen for its desire to live near water.

But now in London H was quite blue and depressed. Living in a canal boat was too restrictive. She didn’t have a suitable hobby. Some of A’s holdover business issues were creating a shortage of funds. There was nothing of note for them to look forward to because cash was too tight for now.

‘A,’ on the other hand, was pretty happy with his new life, apart from the over-hanging business financial issues where unreasonable clients were not completing their payments: probably not helped by the current economic crisis. He was disappointed that H was not thrilled by living out their earlier dream.

Our few hours together provided the opportunity to introduce Option Solving. Initially we challenged them to come up with the right question: “What is our best overall alternative future; to allow H more time ashore with family and friends, to not feel under financial pressure and to have the opportunity for regular foreign travel?”

We then helped them come up with two “bookends:” 1) Keep traveling the canals as we are; 2) Sell everything we have and start again (see book for the value of bookends). Clearly neither was an acceptable option right now. Such options jolted their intuitive intelligence to consider their more viable options: including A) Just use their canal boat for weekend trips, B) H start a bookkeeping training business from the boat, c) Stop off and stay with friends as they moved along.

Ultimately they came up with seven alternative options and we encouraged them to sleep on them overnight (see emotional distancing in the book): then to compare notes in the morning to make their joint decision. It was agreed: if they couldn’t do that, then they should talk about the benefits of their chosen option with each other and sleep on it again the next night. This should continue, until one or the other could agree with their partner. This wasn’t necessary in this instance.

Three months later we received an email from them saying: “Celebrated my 60th birthday week with 4 days in Prague…We had good weather, food, wine and beer…Also had 10 days in Spain returning last Wednesday and we are both thinking about going back for 14 days in March …We also booked winter moorings at…which enables us to have a car with us…” (Next blog posting within the week.)


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