Encore's "Generation to Generation" Campaign Has Its Heart in the Right Place

OntheHouseIf you're a Boomer who's not familiar with Encore.org, you should be. Encore is a nonprofit that focuses on "second acts for the greater good," which is something many of us are thinking about or have already started to pursue. Now Encore has launched a new campaign called "Generation to Generation" with the goal of getting older generations to help younger generations.

Writing for Next Avenue, Richard Eisenberg says Generation to Generation’s five-year goal is "getting one million adults over 50 to 'help young people thrive' by volunteering and working with needy children." Eisenberg references a survey conducted by Encore in which 80 percent of respondents said “making the world a better place for the next generation is important or very important.” In addition, 77 percent of respondents 60 and older said life after age 60 is a time of mostly “freedom, growth and giving back.”

The first push for the Generation to Generation campaign will be mentoring, which can be accomplished through the campaign's numerous partners, including the AARP Foundation Experience Corps, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and VolunteerMatch.org.

Generation to Generation sounds like a campaign that is very well targeted to Boomers who want to give back. I can tell you from personal experience that helping younger generations can be fulfilling. As a volunteer, I have counseled budding entrepreneurs in branding and marketing. Knowing I helped them start or improve their small businesses was rewarding. 

To learn more about the Generation to Generation campaign, visit this website: http://www.generationtogeneration.org/

Retirement and the Boomer Money Gap

MusingsOne of the looming financial crises in our country is what we might label the "Boomer money gap." A primary reason that Boomers want to continue to work well past the traditional retirement age is because they need the income. According to a recent study by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, 66 percent of Boomers plan to or are already working past age 65 or do not plan to retire at all. Half plan to continue to work after they retire, mostly for income and health benefits.

Sadly, the study indicates that the estimated median current household savings of Boomers in all retirement accounts is just $147,000. Most Boomers are woefully under-funded when it comes to their retirement years. Even if Boomers can live on a modest annual income, life expectancies reaching into the 80s will mean stretching financial resources longer than anticipated.

Most Boomers, reports the study, expect Social Security income to be part of their retirement, but a third (34 percent) think it will be their primary source of income. About three quarters (78 percent) of Boomers expect retirement income to come from such retirement savings vehicles as IRAs and 401(k)s.

Retirement expert Mark Miller notes in an article for The New York Times that typically, social security income "replaces just 39 percent of pre-retirement income for the average worker retiring at 65..." He includes a number of strategies from financial planners for improving retirement income for those who haven't saved enough money. Among the ideas: "ramping up" contributions to retirement plans, waiting as long as possible to file for Social Security benefits, continuing to work past retirement age, downsizing a home or paying off a home mortgage, and understanding when to draw money out of retirement accounts. The article is well worth reading.

Probably the best thing my wife and I did to ensure a financially secure future was choose a competent, impartial financial planner. We have worked with this same professional for over twenty years, and never has that person been more important than in guiding us during our retirement years. Even though I was a successful small business owner, I could not have set and met life goals or managed investments without the help of a financial adviser. If you're facing a retirement money gap, get a professional to assist you. 

The Health Insurance Conundrum for Boomers

MusingsThe Medicare "open enrollment" period started on October 15 and runs through December 7. This annual rite of passage for individuals turning 65 marks a time of health insurance transition for Boomers, so it seems like a good time to consider health insurance in general.

Boomers likely remember the time when employer health insurance plans were a right, not a privilege. In my full-time employment years (both as employee and employer), I took employer-paid health insurance for granted. Not only that -- the employer-paid plans were excellent: The majority of the monthly premium was paid by the company, deductibles were low, and the coverage was comprehensive.

Nowadays, full-time employment is not a guarantee of similar health insurance coverage. Employers have become far more stingy and workers are expected to shoulder more of the burden. If an employee leaves a full-time position, retaining health insurance coverage becomes a problem. For example, I left a company with a fine health insurance plan and started my own small business. I was able to stay on my previous employer's plan for a short period of time via COBRA, but when that ended, I had to purchase health insurance on my own, since I was not yet Medicare-eligible. This was prior to the Affordable Care Act. My private health insurance plan became my largest monthly expense.

When I reached the age of 65, I signed up for Medicare. While I was relieved of some of the health care insurance costs, I learned that Medicare is not a free program. Part A is provided without cost, but Part B requires a premium payment. You must also pay additional amounts for Medicare supplemental insurance and prescription drug coverage, which I chose to do. The fact is, if you are on Medicare and you want health insurance coverage that is anywhere close to the insurance you enjoyed as an employee, you will be paying for it -- and you may be doing so at a time when you can least afford it. Keep in mind that there is no "family plan" in Medicare, so if your spouse also wants to be covered by Medicare, he or she will have to sign up and pay as well.

I am happy Medicare exists. It does relieve Boomers of the uncertainty of covering catastrophic medical costs, and for those Boomers who are willing to pay for it, more comprehensive coverage is possible. With all of its flaws, government-supported Medicare is surely better than fully private insurance or no health insurance at all.

Still, for Boomers who leave full-time employment, patching together health insurance coverage prior to age 65, and being adequately covered even with Medicare, are challenges to anyone with a reduced income. Those of us who want suitable coverage will continue to have to pay for it. That's a budget line item that will be increasingly difficult to swallow.

5 Tips for Boomer Couples Who Want to Start Their Own Business

OnYourOwnFor the over-50 set in particular, the economy has created a new breed of entrepreneurs: couples who want to start their own business. For many couples, working side by side seems like an ideal solution, a way to combine being your own boss with spending more time together. The first thing couples learn, though, is meshing their personal and business lives is a special challenge. My wife and I started a small service business in our late 50s and managed to make it work. Here are five tips based on our experience to help make your journey easier.

1.   Share a Passion

Your business is likely to be more successful if you share a passion. It could be anything: an interest in art, a love for animals, a concern for the environment, or something else. It’s important to then determine if that shared passion can be translated into a viable business idea: something people want to buy. The best way to do this is develop a business plan that proves what you want to do can be turned into a sustainable business.

2.   Fill Each Other’s Gaps

We learned that we each had particular strengths and weaknesses when it came to running a business. It would be easy for these qualities to become irritants, but instead we worked collaboratively to fill each other’s gaps. Everyone is good at some things but not so good at other things. If you can learn to compensate for each other’s weaknesses, accept each other’s strengths, and work toward a common goal, your business will benefit – and so will your personal relationship.

3.   Set Goals Together

When you set goals together, you automatically internalize them. Writing down goals and agreeing on them makes them real. You want to set a goal that makes you reach a little but is still achievable. We set goals for lots of things: the starting date of our business, the number of clients we wanted to acquire, our anticipated income each year, and even how many years we wanted to run our business. Our goals helped us visualize our success.

4.   Build Your Knowledge Base

In your business, you learn there are things you know and things you don’t know. When you encounter something that goes beyond your joint areas of expertise, you either have to quickly acquire the knowledge you need or get outside support. If you always have a thirst for knowledge, seek out answers, and view co-owning a business as a learning experience, you will be more likely to succeed.

5.   Maintain Your Perspective

Fully expect that your business will have its ups and downs. That’s why it’s important for both of you to maintain your perspective and keep yourselves grounded. You want the business you operate as a team to enhance rather than detract from your personal lives. It should fulfill a personal dream both of you have and take your relationship to a new dimension. Running a business will be challenging and sometimes seem overwhelming, but maintaining your perspective will help it be fun and rewarding.

LMMH book cover-jpgFor more tips, read the book Let’s Make Money, Honey: The Couple’s Guide to Starting a Service Business by Barry Silverstein and his wife, Sharon Wood (GuideWords Publishing, 2015). It's available in print and eBook formats. To get the paperback at the special discounted price of $10.95 (a $6 savings), go to www.createspace.com/5616668 and enter the code: GKYC7AGA.

Should You Live (and Work) Abroad?

OntheGoAre you one of those Boomers who, for whatever the reason, finds it to be an exciting idea to live and work outside the boundaries of the U.S.?

You are not alone. Living abroad has caught on with Boomers. The Social Security Administration reports that in excess of half a million people receive their Social Security benefits in foreign countries; obviously, this doesn't account for those Boomers who may have relocated to another country prior to receiving their benefits. These days, because Boomers are working in their 60s, 70s and even later, living abroad also means working abroad.

If this is something that interests you, it pays to be prepared. Kerry Hannon's article for AARP will help. In it, she offers seven great tips, among them, "go for a lengthy visit," "seek out virtual employment," and "learn the local etiquette for business relationships." Kerry offers examples and details in her excellent article as well.

Another good source of information is the U.S. Department of State's webpage concerning working overseas: http://www.state.gov/m/fsi/tc/79765.htm This page offers links to a number of useful resources, including "The Big Guide to Living and Working Overseas" and the "International Career Employment Weekly."

For the adventurous Boomer, living and working abroad could certainly be an option for a uniquely different kind of retirement. But as Kerry Hannon points out in her article, it's essential to "do your research." She mentions two good sources, "World's Best Places to Retire" and "2016 Annual Retire Overseas Index," both of which sound like must-haves for the Boomer who's bound for foreign lands. This is not a decision to be made lightly.

What is a "Happy" Retirement?

MusingsWhen it comes to a "happy" retirement, not everyone will have the same perspective. One reason may be the simple fact that not everyone even agrees on what retirement is, or should be.

That's why I'm glad there are at least some retirement experts who are trying to figure out what it takes for most people to feel they have a happy retirement. Richard Eisenberg, the Money & Work Editor for the website SecondAvenue.org, shares his views in an excellent blog post entitled, "9 Keys to a Happy Retirement." I have excerpted a few highlights below.

The first key is essential: "Figure out in advance what you want out of retirement," and it goes hand in hand with the second, which is to "talk frankly together" with your spouse or partner about what you both want out of retirement. Advance planning can help you set realistic expectations and achievable goals and avoid disappointment down the road.

Eisenberg includes some keys that, not surprisingly, have to do with money and health. Here's one you may not have considered, though: "Keep a schedule, but not like the one you had before you retired." The point here is to organize your time in a way you see fit, because, writes Eisenberg, "Having some kind of schedule prevents you from getting bored, depressed or lonely.

The article is well worth reading in its entirety... and as a bonus, at the end Eisenberg includes links to other articles, as well as eight recommended books, about happy retirement. 

Learning is Living

OnaWhimViewed positively, our later years can be a time for learning about things we never had the time to learn about. For most of us, "free time" was such a rarity in our younger years. Now, though, the luxury of time permits many Boomers to invest in learning for enjoyment. There are many ways to engage in learning, some in-person and some online. Several learning opportunities are likely to exist right in your own community.

Writing for NextAvenue.org, Nancy Collamer offers some excellent suggestions for taking "classes on the cheap." Among her ideas are taking a "MOOC" (Massively Open Online Course), typically offered at very low cost by some of the world's best known educational institutions. There are also a variety of online platforms mentioned by Collamer that offer a wide variety of online classes.

Another great option is a local community college. Many community colleges offer not just degree courses, but continuing education courses, workshops, job training, and certification programs. My local community college, for example, provides many free courses for small businesses through its Small Business Center in cooperation with SCORE.

Perhaps you're even motivated to return to school to complete an undergraduate degree or pursue an advanced one. Some colleges and universities offer reduced or free admission for seniors. You can find a state listing of such colleges here.

Finally, communities with large retirement populations often host senior learning centers. One such center, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), operates at numerous colleges and universities throughout the country. These institutes provide reasonably priced courses and workshops for seniors, as well as social events and opportunities for seniors to volunteer as instructors. Find the OLLI nearest you here.

Our retirement years can be a time for educational rewirement. After all, learning is living.

Writing a Last Letter: Sensible or Nonsensical?

MusingsA recent article in The New York Times by a geriatric physician discussed the idea of writing a "last letter" to loved ones. It is something Dr. Periyakoil recommends to patients, not just when they might be facing their imminent demise, but also when they are still healthy, "before it's too late." The primary reason, the doctor writes, is because writing the letter might alleviate end-of-life regret: "The most common emotion [my patients] express is regret: regret that they never took the time to mend broken friendships and relationships; regret that they never told their friends and family how much they care; regret that they are going to be remembered by their children as hypercritical mothers or exacting, authoritarian fathers."

Dr. Periyakoil was so committed to the last letter concept that she spearheaded the "Stanford Letter Project." This project of the Stanford University School of Medicine offers anyone three free tools, basically letter templates, to help write a "what matters most" letter, a "friends and family" letter, and an "advance directive" document.

After reading the article, I thought I'd read some of the accompanying comments. I was surprised to see several comments that were downright derogatory about the notion of writing a last letter. A few choice excerpts:

"...these sample letters seem kinda underwhelming and shallow to me."

"If people feel a need to do this, fine, but to encourage the practice is unnecessary, and kind of morbid."

"If you have something to say, tell me to my face. Otherwise, I don't want to hear it."

"The idea of summing up one's life in a template form letter, another digital to-do in the list, strikes me as pathetic and depressing."

"I think it would be cynical to write a letter of regret to try to absolve yourself of all your life's guilts at your death."

In fairness, there were also positive comments about the idea of a "last letter," but my purpose in quoting some of the negative comments is two-fold.

First, in my opinion, the real reason for writing such a letter is to be honest about one's feelings and, perhaps, to attempt to make things right before leaving this earth forever. Some of the naysayers seem to miss the point, either because they are insensitive to that need, or they are too hung up on the use of a "template," which is nothing more than a vehicle for those who need it.

Second, and again it's only my opinion, I think some of the comments reflect the sad fact that the very act of sitting down and writing a last letter is viewed as archaic. Also, at times I get the feeling that some people are not willing, or maybe not capable, of writing anything meaningful anymore. It seems to me that we have become something of a say-it-fast-and-short verbal culture that treats the written word all too casually. As a writer, of course, I am biased toward the importance of the written word.

Anyway, these are just my opinions... I'd welcome any thoughts you might have on the pros and cons of the "last letter."

Please read the thoughtful comment posted by Cheryl. See "Comments" below.

Older Entrepreneurs Continue to Break Ground

OnYourOwnI've written before about the older entrepreneur phenomenon. For many years through the Small Business Center at my local community college, I counseled hundreds of small business owners in branding and marketing. A considerable percentage of those business owners were 50 or older.

A recent New York Times article confirms the high level of interest in business ownership by Boomers. The article cites a compelling statistic: According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), "one in four people between 44 and 70 are interested in becoming entrepreneurs." The article also mentions that the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which studies entrepreneurship, found that over 24 percent of new entrepreneurs in 2015 were 55 to 64 years of age.

When you think about it, Boomers are perfectly positioned to go out on their own. Unlike younger entrepreneurs, Boomers have already acquired a portfolio of skills and a wealth of knowledge, distilled from their own careers working for someone else. Both their business experience and their maturity combine to make them credible business owners and potentially reduce the risks of starting a new business. Still, many Boomers may lack the funding or confidence to take the plunge. That's why it's encouraging to see more and more programs popping up in support of older entrepreneurs. The Times article references a number of such programs around the country, including a partnership between AARP and the SBA.

As I've mentioned before, I'm an example of the older entrepreneur trend. My wife and I leveraged our skills and started a small service business together in our fifties, ran it successfully for seven years, and then sold it. Operating our business was a great midlife experience that allowed us to do something we enjoyed and generate income after we left our professional careers. Admittedly, not every couple can work together, but it worked for us.

So if you have the urge to start a business, know that you are in good company. There are plenty of Boomers doing the same thing.

Why Ageism Hurts Everyone

MusingsThose of us over 60 -- and even those of us over 50 -- have a sneaky suspicion that those under 50 are somewhat prejudiced against us. No, this isn't paranoia, it is reality. And it is especially real in the workplace.

Ashton Applewhite, someone who writes about ageism and author of the book, This Chair Rocks, could not have said it better in her recent New York Times article, "You're How Old? We'll Be in Touch."

She asks why can't Americans over 50 find work? Her answer: "The problem is ageism -- discrimination on the basis of age. A dumb and destructive obsession with youth is so extreme that experience has become a liability. ... Age discrimination in employment is illegal, but two-thirds of older job seekers report encountering it."

Later, she makes a wise observation regarding attitudes in the workplace about both young and old workers:

"Age prejudice -- assuming that someone is too old or too young to handle a task or take on a responsibility -- cramps prospects for everyone, old or young. ... Unless we tackle age bias, [Millennials] too are likely to become less employable through no fault of their own, and sooner than they might think."

Finally, Applewhite lobbies for real activism on the issue:

"What is achieving age diversity going to take? Nothing less than a mass movement, like the women's movement... Confronting ageism means making friends of all ages. It means pointing out bias when you encounter it (when everyone at a meeting is the same age, for example).

"Confronting ageism means joining forces. It means seeing older people not as alien and 'other,' but as us -- future us, that is."

These are surely some of the wisest words I've read about age discrimination, which seems to be deeply embedded in our culture. Boomers and those beyond the Boomer generation are, statistically, a significant portion of this country's population, and it is the Boomer generation that holds the nation's greatest wealth. Our sheer numbers alone should give us the power to stand up against ageism. We all should do just that when we suspect someone we know is being discriminated against because of age.