Higher Education at an Older Age

OnaWhimA common characteristic of Boomers is their desire to learn for enjoyment. Education seems to become all the more precious as we age; the popularity of adult education courses through such organizations as OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) is evidence of that fact.

Sometimes, though, higher education at an older age serves another more practical purpose: To learn new subjects and skills that are directly applicable to employment. There are obvious challenges in returning to college, but it is a route that is becoming far more common than you might think. The payback is in potentially making yourself a more attractive job candidate.

If you are considering going back to school for job-related purposes, you might want to check out this article:  "The Time is Now: Going Back to School at 50." Posted by Maryville College, which has helped pioneer online college courses, the article discusses reasons you might want to return to college, factors to take into consideration, and degrees and career paths that might be available to you. The article links to a "going back to school checklist" and also points to numerous additional resources. Check it out.


"RBG" -- A Must-see Documentary that Destroys the Aging Myth

MediaIf anyone typifies the adage that you are only as old as you feel, it is Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. At age 85, Ginsburg often works through the night and spends an hour a day with a personal trainer on a physical regimen that would put people half her age to shame. She has even overcome two of the most serious forms of cancer, colorectal and pancreatic, as well as the loss of her husband Marty to cancer.

Her story is brilliantly told in the documentary, RBG, that recently ran in select movie theaters. If you missed it, this is definitely a film you want to catch when it hits the streaming market. While the documentary includes the standard biographical overview of a celebrity, it speaks to the wonderful relationship she had with Marty, who supported and encouraged her at a time when women were not supposed to be working, much less as attorneys. RBG highlights the remarkable achievements of this slight, quiet woman from Brooklyn, New York, who as an attorney won five of six cases before the Supreme Court, paving the way for the equal treatment of women in our society.

Another aspect of the film is invigorating: It depicts how Ginsburg has become a virtual cult hero among young women, proving that age is no barrier when it comes to greatness. The film offers insight into the personal life of Ginsburg, too, humanizing a Supreme Court Justice in an intimate, endearing way. We see, for example, the warm friendship Ginsburg had with Antonin Scalia, her polar opposite on the Court, and her ability to laugh at herself while watching a Saturday Night Live skit parodying her.

Whether you are a Ginsburg fan or not, it is hard not to respect and admire her after watching RBG. I highly recommend it.


Are You Miscalculating Your Retirement Income?

MusingsAs a Boomer, you have probably found it useful, at one point or another, to calculate the retirement income you think you will need. Unfortunately, not all of those seemingly handy online retirement calculators are as helpful as they may seem.

According to the Retirement Income Industry Association, some online calculators can offer "extremely misleading" data. That's why it may make a difference to use the right calculator.

This useful article from The Balance evaluates and ranks a number of online calculators on the basis of three key criteria: accuracy, usability, and education. Check it out.

In addition, it should be obvious that an online retirement calculator is just one tool. When it comes to something as important as planning for retirement income, many factors come into play, including Social Security payments, Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from retirement accounts, and income taxes. While a calculator can give you a rough idea of what you will need, you'd do best to work with a financial planner to get the complete picture.


Why the Gig Economy May be a Boomer's Best Bet

OnYourOwnI've written frequently about how age discrimination tends to force Boomers out of their jobs and into early retirement. In March 2018, a rather stunning report by Pro Publica and Mother Jones uncovered alleged massive elimination of older workers at no less a stellar company than IBM. According to the Pro Publica investigation, "ProPublica estimates that in the past five years alone, IBM has eliminated more than 20,000 American employees ages 40 and over, about 60 percent of its estimated total U.S. job cuts during those years. 

"In making these cuts, IBM has flouted or outflanked U.S. laws and regulations intended to protect later-career workers from age discrimination, according to a ProPublica review of internal company documents, legal filings and public records, as well as information provided via interviews and questionnaires filled out by more than 1,000 former IBM employees."

Sadly, this is just one example of widespread actions taken against highly skilled Boomer workers who have decades of experience, want to continue to work, and in many cases, need to continue to work. Once let go, of course, age discrimination continues to plague them, since an unfairly fired Boomer often has great difficulty getting re-hired by another company.

This is one reason the gig economy is flourishing. Self-employment in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is highest among people 65 and older (24.1 percent), with second highest among people 55 to 64 years of age (14.7 percent). A forecast by Intuit predicts that 7.6 million Americans will be working in the "on-demand" economy by 2020, which is  more than double the number in 2015. The on-demand economy will continue to see healthy growth in subsequent years, with some 79 percent of workers saying they take on part-time gigs.

Some other facts about the gig economy are impressive enough to open the eyes of Boomers who need to seek non-traditional employment, as reported by The Balance:

  • 70 percent of self-employed workers chose that status of their own free will for either a primary or supplemental source of income (McKinsey Global Institute)
  • Over 50 percent of self-employed workers want to stay that way -- they intend never to return to traditional full-time employment (LinkedIn ProFinder)
  • 20 to 30 percent of workers in the U.S. and Europe are engaged in "some form of independent work" (McKinsey Global Institute)
  • Numerous industries are showing robust growth for self-employed workers, including healthcare, real estate, construction, finance, and software/IT services (LinkedIn).

Bottom line: If you are on the outs with full-time employment, maybe it's time to get into the gig economy.

 


Number One No More

MusingsNext year for the first time, the Boomer generation will relinquish its position as the #1 generation in terms of percentage of the U.S. population. Taking over will be... who else but the Millennials.

Statistically, it doesn't really matter, but socially, it's a big deal. We are already witnessing the mass cultivation of Millennials with products and services targeting them as Boomers fade in popularity. Similarly, businesses have little compunction when it comes to ejecting a Boomer employee in favor of a Millennial employee.

The Wharton School of Business has something to say about the coarseness of letting Boomers go because of age: "...companies eager to move baby boomers along should be careful what they wish for. For one thing, millennials are less likely to stay in jobs than others, and turnover often carries high hidden costs. For another, few workplaces have mastered a system for transferring knowledge from one generation to the next."

The fact is, age discrimination is widespread across many businesses, putting Boomers in a precarious position because it is difficult to prove and take legal action against an employer who practices age discrimination. According to Wharton professor of legal studies and business ethics Janice Bellace, “It is much more difficult to prove age discrimination than race or sex discrimination." Bellace says the burden of proof that an employee was demoted or fired because of age lies with the employee. “That’s a very heavy burden of proof,” she says. “In real life, if an employer would like to push out an older worker, the employer’s [managers] would have to be idiots not to lay down some paper trail that suggests that there were some other reasons for dismissing the person. It’s even more difficult in a hiring case, because the plaintiff must prove that there was no other reason, except for age, that the employer preferred another candidate.”

Age discrimination will therefore continue to be a big challenge for Boomers, who may need to find non-traditional employment as an alternative, such as becoming self-employed and working on a contract basis.


"Unvarnished Truths" About Retirement

MusingsSome Boomers approach retirement with apprehension, while others are chomping at the bit to start a new life. Jonathan Look decided to retire early -- at age 50 -- and follow his muse. Six years later, he shares some of the things he learned along the way, and they're not all pretty. Still, if you're close to retirement, or already retired, Look's 21 "unvarnished truths" are worth reading and considering. They include such eye-openers as:

  • Money is overrated.
  • Time is your most valuable asset.
  • Your bucket list is crap.
  • You can't make people happy.
  • Negativity wastes life.

Sounds to me like Look is quite the philosopher. Take a look at his entire list of unvarnished truths about retirement on NextAvenue.org. You may not agree with everything he has to say, but he certainly isn't afraid to be thought-provoking. And if you aren't a subscriber to NextAvenue.org, I suggest you sign up for the free newsletter. It is one of the more valuable information sources for Boomers in pre-retirement and retirement.


A Boomer's Sense of Purpose

MusingsHaving a sense of purpose in life offers lots of positive benefits, but "purpose" sometimes seems to be a concept that applies only to one's youth. When we're younger, for example, developing a sense of purpose is often associated with job satisfaction, career success, or starting a family.

Shouldn't Boomers have a sense of purpose too? Yes, of course. In fact, recent research suggests purpose is just as important for Boomers, according to a fascinating article, "How to Find Your Purpose in Midlife." Eric Kim of Harvard's School of Health, for example, found that "people who report higher levels of purpose at one point in time have objectively better physical agility four years later than those who report less purpose." Patrick Hill of Washington University "found important advantages for more purposeful adults, including better cognitive functioning and greater longevity."

Another interesting aspect of research into finding purpose in midlife suggests that a particular kind of purpose is of greater significance to Boomers. According to Anne Colby of Stanford University, research showed "Those who were purposeful beyond the self said their lives were filled with joy and happiness.”

The article, which appears in Greater Good magazine, published by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, also offers some tips on developing a sense of purpose. Not surprisingly, one avenue that relates directly to purpose is volunteering. Jim Emerman, vice president of Encore.org, advises, “The key things to think about are: What are you good at? What have you done that gave you a skill that can be used for a cause? What do you care about in your community? Those questions really help one focus.”

 


Creative Ways to Generate Part-Time Income

OnaWhimAs Boomers age, we may want to leave our full-time positions, but we are concerned about generating at least some income to supplement Social Security and retirement savings. On this blog, I've covered a number of ways Boomers can earn part-time income. Here is a handy list of seventeen part-time and creative possibilities, each of which is described in further detail in an article on the Entrepreneur website:

  1. Animal caretaker
  2. Tour guide
  3. Sharing economy "landlord"
  4. Market researcher and tester
  5. Temp
  6. Gardener
  7. Babysitter/caretaker
  8. Teacher/instructor
  9. Seller/consignor
  10. Tutor
  11. Online mock juror
  12. Independent consultant
  13. Home cook
  14. Mystery shopper
  15. Copy editor
  16. Movie or TV extra
  17. Transcriptionist

Read the entire article here: https://www.entrepreneur.com/slideshow/309408


Is the "Spend Safely in Retirement" Strategy Right for You?

MusingsIt's a refrain you hear more and more: Boomers are under-funded when it comes to retirement. The answer may be the "Spend Safely in Retirement" strategy, developed by researchers from Stanford University's Center on Longevity and the Society of Actuaries. According to a recent article in The New York Times, the strategy uses a person's retirement savings to "mimic a steady pension." It includes three steps in combination: Working longer, delaying payments from Social Security, and budgeting withdrawals from retirement savings accounts, such as IRAs or 401(k)s.

Many Boomers already realize they need to work longer, but depending on your anticipated Social Security monthly payment and the total amount available in your retirement savings account, you may be able to work part-time instead of full-time. Even a modest income can help you cover living expenses and offset the need to draw from Social Security too soon. You can draw Social Security benefits as early as age 62, but financial experts advise waiting until age 70, when you are eligible for the maximum amount. (Social Security benefits are based on your work earning history, so the actual benefit amount will vary for individuals.) The key thing to know is that, from age 62 through age 70, Social Security payments increase by 8 percent.

As for your retirement savings, you have likely been accumulating principal and interest in a tax-deferred vehicle. At age 70-1/2, according to current regulations, you must start taking a "Required Minimum Distribution" (RMD) each year, which will be subject to income tax, but presumably at a lower tax rate because your income is now less than during your peak earning years. The RMD is the minimum based on tax regulations, not based on what you might need to live on. That's where the juggling comes in. Steve Vernon, one of the Center on Longevity researchers who came up with the Spend Safely in Retirement strategy, tells The New York Times that a retiree might want to think of Social Security as a monthly "paycheck" that supplements any employment-related earnings, while the annual RMD can be viewed as a "bonus." Whatever way you think of it, it is important to establish a realistic budget you can comfortably live on and see how it matches up with the income you receive from the three sources -- work, Social Security, and retirement savings.

In terms of specific income, the Spend Safely in Retirement strategy will vary widely for every individual or couple, but the strategy is applicable to most people, as long as you can combine some employment income with Social Security income and  payments from retirement savings. Sounds like a sensible way to approach retirement, doesn't it? 


That Hobby of Yours May Make You Some Money

OnYourOwnIf you're looking for a little extra income in retirement but you don't really want to work in a traditional job, the most obvious option is working a gig. The "gig economy" is thriving, with such opportunities as car driving services, home rentals, and freelance jobs. But there is another interesting possibility: Turning that hobby of yours into a money-maker. One recent study indicates that over one-quarter of American entrepreneurs launched startup businesses from a hobby.

If this sounds intriguing, be sure to read "A Beginner's Guide to Monetizing a Hobby" at MagnifyMoney.com. This comprehensive article covers many of the issues related to turning a hobby into a money-making venture, including:

  • Assessing goals
  • Testing your hobby as a business
  • Outsourcing
  • Finding clients
  • Marketing
  • Pricing
  • Common mistakes
  • Tax implications

The article also includes stories of hobbyists-turned-entrepreneurs.

The area in which I live is flush with artists and craftspeople. While the competition is stiff, I personally know two Boomers who retired from traditional jobs and pursued artistic money-making hobbies. One of them, a former business executive, had a passion for working with wood. He learned the craft and started to make small objects, such as pens and Christmas tree ornaments, as a hobby. He turned that into a part-time business. Another person, a former floral designer, had a talent for watercolor painting. She concentrated on painting birds and began to sell her work at craft fairs. People liked the bird paintings so much that she opened a small studio and has become locally recognized for her unique style. She is even being asked to do custom paintings.

Maybe becoming a money-making hobbyist is something you could consider to spark life's second half.