Career Danger Signs

THE CFO IS, IN many companies, the second-highest-paid person. Unless CFOs are independently wealthy or have scored a big win on equity in previous employment, they generally rely on their income to live a certain lifestyle. CFOs may be known internally for their frugal nature, and most often they live within their means, but until this senior finance professional is ready to retire, she counts on the income she is earning to live.

The recession of the late 2000s was a wake-up call for many senior corporate finance professionals. Too many CFOs found out the hard way that their careers could not be taken for granted.

Career CFOs are individuals who need to keep busy. When I speak to CFOs who are between opportunities, I find one of the most difficult issues they face is that they are not as busy as they were when they were working.

Irv Lichtenwald, CEO of Medsphere, became a CFO early in his career. One day in 2003, after much planning and preparing for an orderly transition, he retired. It was his choice, and he was looking forward to enjoying life.

He soon found himself bored and itching to be active again. One day he was having lunch with a friend who was an investment banker, and mentioned that he was bored. The investment banker friend then asked him to join a company his bank wanted to invest in. Lichtenwald has not looked back, and is now CEO of the company he joined as CFO.

I asked my CFO advisors what was their biggest fear about being ...

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