Channel Your Norman Lear

MusingsIn early December 2017, Norman Lear was a Kennedy Center Honoree at the 40th annual national celebration of the arts. While Norman Lear doesn't qualify as a Boomer (he was born in 1922), this comedic genius has undoubtedly had an impact on all of our lives. He is perhaps best known as the creator of the hit TV show, "All in the Family," which famously exposed the narrow-minded but hysterically funny logic of one Archie Bunker to viewers all across the country. That was not his only television breakthrough, however; Lear created such significant shows as "Maude," "Sanford and Son," "Good Times," and "The Jeffersons."

Lear did not restrict his expansive thinking to the entertainment business. He also founded the non-profit organization, People for the American Way, as well as the Business Enterprise Trust, the Norman Lear Center at the USC Annenberg School for Communication, and the Environmental Media Association. Along with his wife, Lear purchased one of the few surviving copies of the Declaration of Independence and then took it on a tour of all fifty states so Americans could see it. At the same time, he launched a nonpartisan youth voter initiative that accounted for registering over four million new young voters.

Lear published his autobiography, Even This I Get to Experience, in 2014. The book offers some insight into Lear's philosophy of life and how, despite his own challenges, he succeeded.

Norman Lear continues to be active and engaged at age 95. An iconoclast, he is always seen wearing his distinguishing trademark, a white hat (which he even wore to the Kennedy Center). Few of us can hope to achieve what Lear has accomplished (and is still accomplishing) in his lifetime, but what a great model for all Boomers. Lear demonstrates that advancing in age need not be a barrier to living a full life. 


Your Child as Your Business Partner

OnYourOwnFor some Boomers, the dream of owning a business is a family affair. I have first-hand knowledge of this: My wife and I started a small service business together after we left our professional careers. We wrote a book about it: Let's Make Money, Honey: The Couple's Guide to Starting a Service Business. While not all couples have the ability to work together, we found it to be a good fit for us and a great experience.

Here's a different spin on starting a family business: Taking the plunge with your adult child. A recent article in The New York Times explores this possibility and cites a few relevant examples of Boomers who made working with their children work. There are solid reasons such an arrangement can be successful. For one thing, Boomer parents seem to have better relationships with their adult children than previous generations. For another, adult children ages 18 to 34 are more likely to live in their parents' homes, making working together a natural next step.

There is a practical aspect to a parent-child business proposition, writes Christopher Farrell: "Age discrimination can be a major hurdle to employment for those 50 years and over. At the same time, young people can find it tough to land a job that’s engaging and offers a career path. For both age cohorts, starting a business can often be a better alternative." Another nice benefit: If the business is successful, the Boomer never has to worry about a succession plan; the adult child simply takes over when the Boomer is ready to retire.

A Boomer-adult child business relationship is just one more way Boomers are redefining our retirement years.

 


Is Consulting for You?

OnYourOwnI remember a time when a professional became a "consultant" for a brief period of time while looking for full-time work; sometimes, in fact, "consultant" was a code word on a resume for "on my own until something better comes along." Nowadays, however, consulting is not only a legitimate career path for the self-employed, it is also a viable second career for older professionals.

There are numerous potential benefits to becoming an independent consultant, not the least of which is the very word "independent." Benefits include the potential to earn high income, setting your own schedule, and re-purposing skills you already have and expertise you developed during your first career.

Still, consulting isn't a "slam dunk" for everyone. Writing for NextAvenue.org, Jonathan Dison, author of the book The Consulting Economy, has some sound advice for you before you consider plunging into the world of consulting. He talks about four lessons he wished he had learned before he became a consultant:

  1. Trust is everything
  2. Become indispensable
  3. Know the skills that are in demand
  4. Know your tax write-offs as a consultant

This article is a must-read if you're considering becoming a consultant. If you'd like a copy of Jonathan's book, you can purchase it directly from Amazon below.


Avoiding the Cash Crunch in Retirement

OnaWhimWhether you opt for part-time or full-time retirement, you'll realize very quickly that the lower your retirement income, the more you'll have to adjust your lifestyle. Americans are notorious for spending as much as, if not more than, they earn, which is why a majority of older Americans have simply not saved enough for retirement.

If you are not quite ready to retire but you're concerned about the adjustments it might mean to your lifestyle, one strategy you can follow is establishing a budget that constrains your expenses as if you're retired before you retire. The idea is to treat retirement as a kind of "test run," since your budget for expenses will ultimately have to mesh with retirement income that is likely to be quite a bit less than what you earn as a full-time employee. Living within a retirement budget before you actually retire could also give you some idea of what kinds of compromises you may have to make -- or what amount of income in addition to Social Security payments and retirement plan payouts you may have to earn if you want to maintain a certain lifestyle. One thing will probably be true for most retirees: your retirement budget will need to reflect the reality of reduced income.

Trey Smith offers a nice explanation of this strategy in an article he wrote for NextAvenue.org. For example, Smith discusses the need to isolate work-related expenses, which will be eliminated in retirement, and view all other expenses as personal expenses that can be adjusted. He also discusses expense areas that need special attention, such as car payments, housing costs, and travel. By carefully analyzing expenses and learning to live within a retirement-style budget while you're employed, Smith, says, "you’ll have a better understanding of whether you’ll need to make adjustments because you’ve seen what it’s like to live the retirement life."

Read the interesting reader comment below.


Boomers Serving the Boomer Market

OnYourOwnThe notion of being your own boss has great appeal for a growing percentage of Boomers who want to continue to work but on their own terms. Self-employment offers you freedom, flexibility and, potentially, higher income than a traditional and sometimes menial job.

Of all the self-employment options available to Boomers, one of the more intriguing ideas may be to concentrate your efforts on a business that actually serves Boomers. Due to the aging of America, services for those 65 and older are booming. As a result, the "longevity economy" could spell opportunity for an enterprising Boomer, according to Kiplinger. Contributing editor Susan Garland writes, "The inclination of many older individuals to take advice and help from their peers offers aging boomers a big advantage in the growing senior-oriented market. Just think of a service or product that you or your aging parents could use, and it may be a niche that you can fill."

Garland cites as examples a number of Boomers who have entered the market with services targeting the senior set. CPA Barbara Green started a business helping older Americans deal with "their day-to-day financial affairs." Freelance writer Cristina Pastor works part-time as a dementia-care coach. Psychologist Eloise Stiglitz started her own retirement coaching business. Tavis Schriefer came up with a novel way to screen calls from telephone scammers that resulted in a new business designed to protect the elderly.

Imagine what your parents have needed as they age, or what you will need as you advance in age, and there is probably a service opportunity awaiting you. Potential service areas include healthcare, finance, personal shopping, cooking, home safety, specialized organizational services, downsizing consultation, and more. In many cases, older clients will feel much more at ease dealing with a business owner who is older himself or herself.

If you've ever considered striking out on your own, don't overlook an audience segment you already know a lot about -- Boomers like you!


Slowly, the Older Worker Market Improves

OntheClockWhile the nation's unemployment rate continues to be low, the unemployment rate among workers 55-plus is deceiving. That's partly because those older workers who are employed may be working part-time when they really want to work full-time. There is some good news for older workers, though: An overall low unemployment rate means companies may be loosening up their hiring practices and offering positions to more mature individuals.

According to AARP, CVS, United Health Group, AT&T, and The Hartford are four examples of companies that are actively recruiting older workers. CVS, for example, promotes positions through an initiative the corporation calls "Talent Is Ageless." Almost one-quarter of CVS employees are over 50 years of age, and older workers are matched with younger, less experienced peers to offer them valuable guidance. The Hartford, through "The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence," actively seeks employees from senior centers and retirement communities.

AARP is encouraging companies to join in. The AARP Employer Pledge Program is a national effort to help employers solve their current and future staffing challenges and direct job seekers to employers that value and are hiring experienced workers. Working with AARP, participating organizations have signed a pledge that they:

  • Believe in equal opportunity for all workers, regardless of age
  • Believe that 50+ workers should have a level playing field in their ability to compete for and obtain jobs
  • Recognize the value of experienced workers
  • Recruit across diverse age groups and consider all applicants on an equal basis.

AARP also offers helpful web-based resources specifically for 50-plus workers:
 http://www.aarp.org/aarp-foundation/our-work/income/back-to-work-50-plus/

It is encouraging to see at least some companies acknowledge the value of experience and maturity that older workers bring to a workplace.  


The Benefits of Retiring in a College Town

MusingsIf you're considering a retirement relocation, it makes a lot of sense to consider a college town. The benefits of living in a college town are significant for retirees, among them:

  • Because of the student population, the town is bustling, lively, and youthful.
  • Restaurants, retail, and consumer services targeting students can be attractive to retirees as well.
  • College and university campuses are often cultural centers, featuring music, dance, theatre, lectures, museum exhibits, and excellent libraries.
  • Larger universities may have first-class hospitals and medical centers that provide quality healthcare.
  • Educational institutions often allow seniors to audit classes and sometimes enroll at no charge or a reduced tuition. Seniors can often make use of campus facilities as well.
  • Some institutions have OLLIs on campus. (OLLI is the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, an educational program for seniors; find a complete list of OLLI locations here: http://www.osherfoundation.org/index.php?olli_list). I can tell you from personal experience that OLLI is a great resource for seniors, both in terms of stimulating courses taught by your peers and social interactions and activities.
  • And, as retirement expert Kerry Hannon points out in her blog post, "Great Retirement Jobs in College Towns," colleges offer potential retirement job opportunities, such as adjunct professor, career center counselor, adviser, etc. Hannon notes that, out of the Forbes list of the twenty-five best places to retire, nine of them are college towns.

Thinking of a retirement relocation? Maybe you should think about a college town.

 


When Should You "Really" Retire?

MusingsI've written a lot about how Boomers are redefining retirement, often transforming it into a time of "rewirement" during which they turn the whole concept of retirement on its head. Rewirement might mean taking a new job unrelated to one's previous career, starting a business, doing part-time work and volunteering, or something else completely different. For many Boomers, working through their 60s and possibly their 70s is desirable; for some, it is financially necessary. As a result, the very meaning of retirement has changed dramatically from previous generations.

Still, even if retirement has been redefined, it certainly indicates a time when Boomers are often going through some sort of significant change that could be related to the loss of a career, adult children leaving the nest, and a new perhaps less secure financial situation.

Wrestling with the basic question, "When should you 'really' retire?" is difficult without putting your hands on some basic data. To help in that regard, retirement expert Mark Miller addresses some key issues in his article for Reuters. He discusses financial considerations, health insurance, and such intangibles as lifestyle.

In his article, Miller references a helpful checklist of questions concerning when to retire published by the Society of Actuaries. (Now that's a group that probably knows a thing or two about making financial projections!) You can download a copy of this checklist at the link below.

Download When to Retire


Freelancing at Any Age

OnYourOwn"Older but wiser" is an old adage that Boomers could put to good use when it comes to establishing a freelance career. Often, your background and experience can be a plus in freelancing, unlike in the traditional job market, where younger employees are sometimes favored over older ones. Freelancing is essentially a form of self-employment in which you offer your services on an hourly or contracted job basis, directly to a client company, or via "resellers," who provide you with work on behalf of their clients. You may have heard this referred to as the "gig economy," (working on specific assignments rather than as a part-time or full-time employee) but that's just a contemporary term for freelancing.

There are several attractive aspects to freelancing. Freelancing offers you the ability to be your own boss, set your own rates (although they must be competitive), and enjoy a flexible work schedule. Contrary to popular belief, freelancing is not just for creative types; it used to be that a freelancer typically was a writer or graphic designer, but these days, companies are looking for freelance workers with a wide variety of skills. There are, for example, freelance software engineers, legal assistants, accountants, marketing project managers, and so on.

Carol Tice is an "older" freelancer who worked in banking and law for more than three decades and transitioned into a full-time freelance writer. She has some great advice for Boomers who may want to consider starting a freelance writing career in an article on her blog, "Make a Living Writing." When I read it, I was impressed by the fact that Carol's counsel could just as easily apply to any older freelancer, not just a freelance writer. The five steps she suggests are:

  1. Take stock of your skills
  2. Step up your marketing efforts
  3. Keep learning
  4. Manage your time
  5. Plan ahead.

You can read the entire article here: http://www.makealivingwriting.com/older-freelance-writing-career/


What "The Vietnam War" Should Mean to Boomers

MediaI've heard a number of reactions from Boomers to the Ken Burns-Lynn Novick film, "The Vietnam War," currently playing on PBS television stations. Some folks are watching it with a sense of deja vu. Others feel uncomfortable investing the time in a documentary that revisits a painful chapter of their lives.

As a piece of film-making, "The Vietnam War" is monumental -- 10 episodes, 18 hours. It took over 10 years to complete. I for one find it quite compelling, less so because of the inevitable violence and gore of war. Some scenes leave me sickened and, I admit, make me hesitant to continue viewing additional episodes. Still, I find the behind-the-scenes story of the war fascinating, as told via previously private presidential tapes, excerpts from hearings, and reporting on the growing war resistance movement. Perhaps most of all, the personal interviews woven throughout the film (including rare commentary from North Vietnamese soldiers), along with the vignettes of those who participated in the war, have a lasting impact. The story of "Mogie" (Denton) Crocker, for example, a young patriot who, despite being underage, joins the Marines and eventually gets killed, dramatizes the very personal and devastating effect of the war on American families.

The Vietnam war was the war of the Boomer generation. It was also the first war that invaded our living rooms on a nightly basis. Whether you were for it or against it, whether you served in the armed forces or were a committed protestor, the war remains inextricably linked to our lives as Boomers. For many of us, the war upended our lives when we were the most vulnerable. For some of us, it ended our lives prematurely.

Yes, "The Vietnam War" is a film that may cause a considerable amount of discomfort as you relive it on television. But it is an important moment in history we cannot and should not forget. It has an eerie relevance to the war in Afghanistan, and also to the lack of faith we continue to have in the leaders of government. When one looks around our world today, there seem to be plenty of Vietnam-like conflicts that remain. As Edmund Burke said, "Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it."