Google’s CFO says he’s stepping down to actually spend time with his family

On his way out, but for how long?
On his way out, but for how long?
Image: Reuters Mark Blinch
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Google’s chief financial officer announced in a lengthy note on Google+ yesterday that he will retire as soon as Google finds and trains a replacement. With the average American retiring at 62, the 52-year-old Patrick Pichette (who is Canadian-born) is bowing out a full decade earlier than most.

It’s easy to see why. The role of CFO can be one of the most demanding in the corporate world, and those pressures can take a serious toll on wellbeing.

Pichette’s note touched on the unrelenting pace, though his focus seemed to be on the enjoyment:

Being member of FWIO, the noble Fraternity of Worldwide Insecure Over-achievers, it has been a whirlwind of truly amazing experiences. But as I count it now, it has also been a frenetic pace for about 1500 weeks now. Always on – even when I was not supposed to be. Especially when I was not supposed to be. And am guilty as charged – I love my job (still do), my colleagues, my friends, the opportunities to lead and change the world.

Given his positive outlook, Pichette may find that leaving the high-intensity corporate world early can be as difficult, if not harder, than staying put. Retirement ranks as one of life’s most stressful events, with countless executives who have attested to the difficulties of transitioning into a slower, more isolated style of life. When former Lehman Brothers CFO Erin Callan left the companies in her 40s, she wrote in a 2013 New York Times op-ed that leaving her job “devastated me. I couldn’t just rally and move on. I did not know how to value who I was versus what I did. What I did was who I was.”

That Pichette’s immediate plan is to travel the world with his wife may help cushion the emotional blow. But there are also health risks to contend with for those who retire early. US retirees, for example, are 40% more likely to get a heart attack or stroke than their employed counterparts. In a BBC story about the downsides of retirement, which range from heart trouble to depression, researcher Gabriel Sahlgren explained how research suggests that “loneliness leads to mental illness and that could lead to physical illness because you stop taking care of yourself.”

Perhaps wisely, Pichette isn’t committing permanently to retirement. Instead, he writes that he and his wife want to “enjoy a perfectly fine mid life crisis full of bliss and beauty, and leave the door open to serendipity for our next leadership opportunities, once our long list of travels and adventures is exhausted.”