University of Pennsylvania Head Football Coach Al Bagnoli had seemingly done it all. After 23 years at Penn he had amassed nine Ivy League championships, three undefeated seasons, sent several of his players to the NFL, and seen hundreds of others achieve non-sports career success after graduation. Bagnoli decided to call it quits as a coach last year and gracefully move to a desk job in the Penn athletic administration.
Then something happened a few weeks into the 62-year-old Bagnoli's retirement from coaching: he realized that the new role just wasn't for him. But Penn had already moved on with a new head coach Bagnoli himself had groomed as his replacement, so going back to his exact old job wasn't an option. Luckily for Bagnoli, another Ivy League school was still in the market for a new head football coach. That school was Columbia, and it was willing to pay much more than the Ivy League norm to finally turn around its program. Columbia hired Bagnoli and even the school's long-suffering football fans are currently experiencing a rare combination of enthusiasm and pride.
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Much of Bagnoli's story is unique, but not all of it. Of course not many of us have achieved the kind of career success Bagnoli has, but a growing number of reasonably successful professionals are starting to reassess the traditional idea of retiring in their 60's. Some of that has to do with the financial pressures of trying to live comfortably when life expectancy rates in this country are stretching into the 80's. And there's another factor not too many people talk about, but they should. Successful, hard working men and women often experience severe depression in the first year of their retirements. Sometimes that depression has the most dire effects. My father, who was a pulpit Rabbi for 23 years, often told me that most of the funerals he officiated seemed to be for congregants who had retired within the previous 1-2 years.
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I don't think Bagnoli was depressed by any means. But at his introductory news conference at Columbia he diplomatically expressed his disappointment in his post-coaching life by saying his new duties weren't as challenging as he'd hoped they would be. He even jokingly referred to his new title, "Director of Special Projects," by saying he really didn't know what the title meant. Now he goes from that non-challenging, hard-to-define position to the Columbia job, which many people consider to be the most challenging in college football. In all the years I've followed Al Bagnoli and his career, I don't think I've ever seen him happier than he was at that news conference in New York last month. He looked very much like a man who was not only excited to take on a new challenge, but also relieved to be paroled in a way from a post-coaching life that just wasn't making him happy.
Bagnoli's story is proof that financial concerns shouldn't be the only reason you may want to consider postponing retirement. It might be the best thing for your mental and physical health too.