Serena Williams is finally hanging up her tennis racket. One of the greatest tennis players in history made the announcement in Vogue—as you do—and spelled out how and why she is finally calling it quits at 40.
Williams has won 23 Grand Slam titles in her career, and leaves as a global superstar, household name, and someone with a net worth estimated at $250 million.
So it’s not as if her retirement is going to look like your retirement, or mine.
But…here are three things about her retirement that sound pretty wise, or sensible, for all of us.
1. Don’t think of it as an end, but as a beginning.
Cliché? Sure. But still true. Williams isn’t just moving away from her first career but moving toward her second. “I have never liked the word retirement,” Williams tells Vogue. “It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me.” She says she had initially thought about her next move as a “transition,” but she didn’t want to appropriate that word from the transgender community. Williams is leaving tennis age 40 because she still wants to have another baby. “Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.” That includes not just expanding her family, but also a huge range of other ventures.
Marianela Collada, a financial planner with Tobias Financial Advisors in Plantation, Fla., says that many of her clients are taking the same approach as Williams. “I find that more and more people are not liking the word “retirement,” she says. Instead they are thinking of it as “Freedom…the idea that they can build something and plan to do something they truly enjoy because they could.”
Few people will “retire” from their first career at 40, but we are living longer than ever and even ordinary people leaving work at 65 or 60 or 55 will have years, possibly decades, of productive life ahead of them. The days of the gold watch, the golf club and an early grave are long gone (thank heavens).
2. Leave when you still love it.
“Believe me, I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family,” Williams says. “I don’t think it’s fair. If I were a guy, I wouldn’t be writing this because I’d be out there playing and winning while my wife was doing the physical labor of expanding our family. Maybe I’d be more of a Tom Brady if I had that opportunity.” She adds: “There is no happiness in this topic for me…I hate it. I hate that I have to be at this crossroads…I don’t want it to be over, but at the same time I’m ready for what’s next.”
Williams is leaving while she is still competitive at the very top, making the finals of the U.S. Open and Wimbledon in 2018 and 2019. She says she will retire after next month’s U.S. Open, letting her bow out on the stage where she won her first Grand Slam in 1999
3. Plan your move years in advance.
Look at Serena Williams’ biography and you realize that in between winning all those tournaments she has also managed an extraordinary second career…planning her second career. She’s been speaking out on political causes, racked up a huge range of lucrative corporate endorsements and tie-ins (including Nike, of course), built her own company, and launched her own venture capital fund.
“Planning is about building the life you want,” says Tobias Financial Advisors’ Collada. “You can’t plan if you don’t know where you’re going.” Williams, it seems, has always had a plan.