For over 30 years Teresa Wolande worked as a high-level executive in the insurance industry. She traveled internationally for business with fortune 500 companies. Currently, in her retirement, she is working on projects that are more philanthropic, as her desire is to give back. Her focus is on a networking forum to collaborate with other benevolent executive-level women who have eased into retirement and struggle to find a direction for a new sense of purpose. The forum is a safe place to go to discuss business issues with an aligned peer-group. The group aims to rethink life as a retiree, going forward in a meaningful way.
The networking forum is designed for high powered women to regain a sense of purpose. It provides a feeling of contributing by engaging with their community in a very altruistic way.
The group meets once a month and they have gone on retreats. The retreats allow women to interact with other women across the country who are part of this forum group. They also discuss new ideas to increase their network. It is a very structured organization. They invest in the right tools and books and provide guest speakers to address a variety of relevant topics.
Where are you from?
I am from Chicago. My husband also grew up in Chicago. I think coming from the Midwest I was fortunate enough in my business life to spend a lot of time abroad as well as spending time in different areas of the country. I think it gives you a very good perspective of the world. I had the opportunity to see how other cultures view the world.
How did you start your business forum?
When I was in business, I was a part of the young presidents’ organization. A big part of that organization is belonging to a forum. It is a group of about 8-10 people. From a business standpoint, it is a safe place to go once a month to discuss business issues with your peer-group. Most of us were either presidents or CEO’s of our companies. You had a group where you could push ideas to and get some objective feedback. They were not a part of your business but knew enough about business to give you good advice.
After retirement, I was at a crossroads. Everything had changed I was questioning, where to go and where my next journey would lead. I was in my sixties but still felt as though I still had a lot to contribute. I was in retirement mode with my husband. That relationship had changed. The relationship with my children had changed when they became parents. I sensed that there was a real need for women to go to discuss their changing roles. I felt as though I was in the fourth quarter of my life. I recognized that I still wanted to contribute, but now it would be in a different way.
I spoke to my friend in Colorado who had started a group with a lot of success. She has chapters throughout the country. I suggested to her that we do the same in Naples, where I spend half the year. I thought it was really good because a lot of women just get lost. After you retire you don’t know what to do. Basically, what you do is the same thing every day. You don’t feel as though you’re contributing. It’s important to interact with other women across the country who are part of this forum group, especially if you’ve worked all your life. That is how I came up with the conclusion that this network was good to do.
My friend has a very structured approach to her network. She has workbooks and a way for the women to interact. We looked at legacy issues and questioned how to take steps towards the process. We and how to deal with a retired husband. It is not easy dealing with a guy who used to run an entire company and now is not doing anything. There are a lot of women falling into this category. We have gotten a lot of good feedback.
What do you love most about the network?
The thing that I love most about it is that it gives me a sense of purpose. When you retire you have to rethink your life going forward. You interact differently with your children and your grandchildren who are going ahead with their lives. This just gives you a tremendous sense of purpose. It makes you want to get up in the morning and make something happen with this. At the end of the day, you see these women engaging with the community in a very positive way. They mentor needy children at school and other services along those lines. They serve the community directly. That is so much better than black-tie dinners and writing a check. Women can do this on their own time and it immediately feels like you’re contributing. You’re not just writing a check; you are contributing yourself.
Are there any groups that you are a part of or any events that you attend?
We have our own group meetings that we attend once a month. We also go on retreats that are designed to interact with other women across the country who are part of this forum group. We all have the same mission and the same objectives around what they are doing. The retreats help you come up with new ideas and increase your network. Even in your fourth quarter, you want to be networking. It gives our women a sense of really doing something. So much of your identity is caught up in your work. This gives women another chance for a sense of doing something meaningful. It might be very different than it was before, but it is more like leaving a legacy and contributing to the community.
Have you made any investments or funding towards this?
You have to have funding. You want to get everything in place. It is not a lot of funding. The women pay to be a part of this network. We want to invest in just the right tools or books or guest speakers. It gives our forums a little bit more meaning. It is not just another group of women who get together just to complain or talk about stuff that doesn’t matter. We have a lot of structure in our group, so it requires an investment. You invest in being a part of the bigger picture in the forum groups that are countrywide.
Overall, how has this changed your life?
It all comes back to having a good sense of purpose. When you were working you had objectives and goals that you needed to do. As your children are growing you have objectives and goals for them. But as they become adults and you become into that “fourth quarter,” it is more important for you to start thinking about legacy issues and what you want to do. It has given me a really strong feeling about what I want to do. This is what I want to accomplish in the years that I have left. The reality is that when your sixty you have about twenty-five more good years. You want to take those twenty-five years and make it a good second career for yourself.
What advice would you have for someone else starting out with this hobby?
I would tell anyone wanting to do this to get out there and do it. Don’t be afraid to reach out. I think what has held a lot of women back is contemplating what a project will involve. They also wonder what it will entail. They wonder if it is giving to much of themselves. I think you just have to put yourself out there and say, I think it is something that is important, and we should do it as a group. As we find our way, we are going to find the right balance of time. Spending that time on yourself and spending that time on the greater good for the community gives you a much stronger sense of self. That is why you just have to get out there and do it.
Do you have any other hobbies that you can share?
I am an avid golfer. When I had my back-fusion, it put a kibosh on that, for now, but I think that it will make me a better golfer. It has been a long recovery, but it will be good for me. I also read a lot. I am trying to get into social media. I believe it is harder for us to engage in that because we were never raised with social media. I also love to exercise, and I stay fit. I think that keeps me very positive in my life.
For more information, please visit teresawolande.com/