Figure Out What's Next

A Portfolio Career Brings a Retirement with the Right Life Balance

career change kerry hannon purposeful living Aug 13, 2009

by Kerry Hannon

photo by Justin Veenema

Accountant Peter Harris wanted to improve his life balance. Developing a life portfolio plan helped him do it.

Peter Harris worked 26 years for one accounting firm during his first career. He made partner by age 31, but in his late 40s he hit a wall. Promoted sideways and asked to yield his status as an equity partner, Peter faced a choice. After realizing that he was not happy and could live on less than he was making, he came to New Directions as a client in our Life Portfolio program. His life has gone to the dogs since then. But Peter’s happy about it, and so are we.

During his assessment, Peter found that he wanted to rebalance his professional, volunteer and family time. He worked this into his portfolio plan. To produce income, he became a part-time consultant on state and local tax issues. He also volunteered, together with his wife, to help run a summer camp that reunites siblings in foster care who live apart from each other during the year.

But the part of his life portfolio that got his sense of purpose was greyhounds. Peter, a lifelong dog lover, learned that greyhounds are often put to sleep when their racing days are over. He decided to adopt two former racers and to train them for “pet therapy” for people in institutionalized care.

Peter brings the dogs to nursing homes and other facilities. He stands by a patient’s bedside or wheelchair as they touch, caress and talk to the animals. Contact with animals improves the emotional health of hospital and institutional patients. “Alzheimer’s patients connect with the dogs as they pet them,” Peter said. “There seems to be some kind of emotional linking that happens.

“It’s a win-win-win proposition. The greyhounds have gone from a kennel to a loving home, the elders whom we visit are thrilled to spend time with the dogs, and I know that I’ve helped make the day brighter for others.”

Peter sets aside one afternoon a week for pet therapy, which has become a priority on his busy calendar. The nursing homes and adult care facilities he visits are a far cry from the polished precincts of a corporate accounting giant. That was fine with Peter, who called his new venture hectic but fun and exciting. “Plus,” he added,” I don’t think I’ll ever retire. I’ll just change the mix of the portfolio activities.”


David Corbett and Richard Higgins are the coauthors of “Portfolio Life: The New Path to Work, Purpose, and Passion After 50.” 

Corbett is the founder of New Directions, Inc., on Boston’s historic waterfront, which offers planning in career and post-career fulfillment to accomplished individuals.

Higgins is a writer and editor. A Harvard Divinity School graduate and former Boston Globe writer, he edited More Than Money magazine.

Kerry Hannon is the author of What's Next? Follow Your Passions and Find Your Dream Job.  


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