Musings

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. 


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


5 Steps to Help Ensure Adequate Retirement Income

Guest Post by Merilee Kern

MusingsWhile plenty of people are duly committed to saving for retirement through 401k, IRA or other nest egg-inducing personal finance plays, however devotedly and even over many years, it turns out several may actually be suffering a false sense of security. 

“For many years, financial planners have espoused general formulas for determining the amount of income retirees will need, the most popular being the ‘70 percent rule’ that suggests that retirees will need to replace just 70 percent of their pre-retirement income to provide for their living needs in retirement,” notes Ray LeVitre, CFP, author of 20 Retirement Decisions You Need to Make Right Now; and founder/managing partner at Net Worth Advisory Group — a firm specializing in retirement financial planning

“That may have been an effective guideline a few decades ago when the rule was established; however, for many retirees, relying upon it today may be fraught with financial peril."

According to LeVitre, modern-day aging cost considerations include:

  • A male turning 65 years old today can be expected to live another 19 years versus 11 years in 1970; for women, they can expect to live another 23 years

  • The chances of retirees or an elder family member requiring some form of long-term care is 7 in 10.

  • Many of today’s retirees are carrying some form of debt into retirement, including mortgages, consumer debt and student loans.

  • Although inflation has moderated somewhat since the 1970s, lifestyle costs, such as housing, food and transportation consume a larger portion of a retiree’s budget today.

  • Although health care cost increases have slowed, the rate of cost increases continues to be well above the general rate of inflation.

I asked LeVitre what baseline, foundational steps those within 15 years of retirement can do to enhance lifetime income sufficiency. Here’s what he had to say:

  1. Track your expenses now. You should begin to track your living expenses and gradually adjust your budget to smooth out your consumption between your living requirements now and your requirements in retirement.

  2. Start living like a retiree now. Taking it a step further, you could take the approach of changing your lifestyle now to reflect how you expect to live in retirement. That might mean downsizing your home now, reducing your leisure travel, driving more efficient cars, and generally adopting a more frugal mindset.

  3. Increase your savings. Any combination of the first two steps should generate steady increase in excess cash flow which should be saved for retirement. Pre-retirees within 15 years of retirement should target a minimum of 15 percent of their earnings for contributing to their retirement.

  4. Start exploring your Social Security options. Retirees who are able to postpone their Social Security benefits until age 70 can significantly boost their lifetime income; and additional Social Security planning for spousal benefits could increase it further.

  5. Don’t invest too conservatively. Although the natural inclination is to reduce your exposure to risk-based investments like equities the closer you are to retirement, reducing your exposure by too much, too soon could stunt the growth of your capital. To ensure lifetime income sufficiency, today’s retirees should always have some exposure to equities. A broadly diversified, well-balanced portfolio of equities, bonds and cash offers the best opportunity to maintain the necessary growth of capital needed while minimizing volatility over the long-term.

LeVitre also underscored that, regardless of your planning method or process, it would be a mistake to succumb to standard formulas or a generalized approach to retirement planning.  

“Right now, your retirement vision—formed by your specific needs, wants, attitudes and beliefs—rests in your mind, and it will undoubtedly change as your outlook and priorities change,” he says. “But, you should always base your income needs on realistic assumptions.” So it’s time for America’s aging population to do a collective fiscal-future reality check. 

Merilee Kern, MBA, is an influential media voice and communications strategist. As the Executive Editor and Producer of "The Luxe List International News Syndicate,” she’s a revered consumer product trends expert and travel industry voice of authority who spotlights noteworthy marketplace change makers, movers and shakers. Merilee may be reached online at www.TheLuxeList.com. Follow her on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.


No Easy Solution to Age Discrimination

MusingsIf you'd like to get an eye-opening perspective on age discrimination, read Chris Farrell's recent article on NextAvenue.org. He discusses a Supreme Court case which essentially sided with R. J. Reynolds, a company that allegedly discriminated against a 49-year old highly qualified job applicant named Richard Villarreal. Despite the 50-year old Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which in theory protects those 40 years and older from age discrimination in the workplace, the Supreme Court let a lower court ruling stand; Farrell writes "The courts dismissed Villarreal’s suit saying the ADEA claim he brought only protected existing employees, not job applicants. The courts also agreed with Reynolds that Villarreal hadn’t 'diligently' pursued why he didn’t hear back about his application."

Farrell points out "The Supreme Court and many lower courts increasingly defer to employers on hiring and employment decisions when it comes to what the ADEA calls 'reasonable factors other than age.' (For example, employers can justify as a reasonable business decision laying off their most expensive workers who happen to have seniority and are mostly older.)"

So if there is no legal recourse when you believe you have been discriminated against because of your age, what can you do? Chris Farrell has some excellent suggestions, but all of them put the onus on Congress or the federal EEOC to take action.

Farrell makes an impassioned plea to government and industry to institute a kind of hiring known as "safe harbor," along with training programs for older workers: "The timing may be propitious for an experiment combining safe-harbor hiring and well-funded training programs for older workers. After eight years of steady economic growth and an unemployment rate at 4.4 percent, employers are currently looking for workers. Yet management too often seems blind to the opportunities available from recruiting older applicants with skills, knowledge and experience."

Sadly, there is no easy solution to age discrimination, which puts many Boomers at risk in the job market. Maybe this is one reason an increasing number of Boomers choose to work for themselves.

Read Farrell's thoughtful article here: http://www.nextavenue.org/the-supreme-court-turns-its-back-on-age-discrimination/


Americans are Still Not Saving Enough for Retirement

MusingsIt is no wonder that more and more Boomers are staying in the workforce, maintaining either full-time or part-time positions or working for themselves. Many Boomers need to continue to work, because surveys indicate that Americans simply are not saving enough for retirement.

For example, a new AARP survey of 1,500 middle income workers ages 40 to 59 confirms that retirement savings take a back seat to other financial needs. According to AARP, "76 percent of respondents have accomplished significant financial goals such as buying a home, while more than 70 percent have paid off mortgages, student loans or credit card balances. Some 67 percent have saved for a family vacation. 

"But just 48 percent say they’ve saved enough to live comfortably through retirement. Nearly 30 percent say they forgo essentially free money by failing to get the full employer match in company-sponsored retirement plans; nearly 25 percent aren’t using recommended savings tactics such as setting aside automatic paycheck deductions."

AARP believes the problem is so serious that the organization has launched an interactive coaching tool to help people squirrel away retirement savings.

Under-funded retirement is really no surprise. Consider how the very nature of work and retirement has changed during our lifetime. It is exceedingly rare for an employee to remain at a company for many years, and just as rare for a company nowadays to provide a pension plan. Some companies offer to match retirement contributions made by employees, but the employee still has to pay into the plan from wages earned. Ironically, some jobs many once considered poor career choices from a monetary perspective, such as teaching or mid-level government positions, could now be considered attractive because of their health insurance or pension benefits.

In addition, the cost of goods and services continues to rise even as workers' wages remain stagnant. The average American family often has two incomes, but that is hardly enough to cover more than the basics of life. What if that family wants to send a child to college? It is likely they would have to start saving for that college education when the child is a toddler. Add to this the reality of monthly rent or mortgage payments, credit card debt, and putting aside some money for an emergency, and it is pretty obvious that saving for retirement is not a priority.

The fact is, "retirement" is just not a possibility for millions of Americans. There are many conditions that need to change for most people to be able to consider retiring. Boomers are often credited with redefining retirement, but I suspect part of the reason we are redefining retirement is not just because we want to, but because we have to. 


Mourning a Career Loss

MusingsRetirement expert Kerry Hannon recently said this in an article that appeared in USA Today: "People go into mourning when they retire. Your whole identity is caught up in who you are and what you did."

I'm guessing many Boomers, especially professionals, can relate to Kerry's claim. Those of us who toil for decades in the same career reach a significant point of conflict as we enter our Sixties. Some Boomers cannot see retiring from a career that is so much a part of them, while others may be anxious to try something different but fear the unknown. If your career has defined you, what happens to you when you leave your career?

There is life after a professional career. Part of it is realizing there is a person underneath, not just a professional, who has interests, desires, and skills that may be applicable to other areas. Hannon says, "You're not reinventing yourself, you're redeploying. Maybe you're taking what you're good at and redeploying into a new arena."

Hannon suggests that Boomers who want to continue to work beyond retirement age (and research indicates almost half of us do) prepare for a post-retirement career. She advises a five-year plan to ready yourself for a new challenge. That's critical, writes Hannon, "because it'll give you time to test your new career direction, be it through volunteering or converting a hobby into a stream of income."

Her steps, which are described in the article, include soul-searching, doing a test drive, networking, researching, and getting your finances in order. This is smart advice; most Boomers prepared for their careers, so why not prepare for post-careers? Retirement planning is not limited to finances -- it also involves life and second career planning.

Read the full USA Today article, "Here's the New Retirement Goal: Love Your Job and Keep Working." 


Avoiding the Dangers of "Staying Connected"

MusingsIncreasingly, Americans want to be instantly connected to each other and the wider world, no matter where we are, and the most common route for connectivity is the Internet. From a practical perspective, networking in a broader sense is really all-encompassing, making it possible to search for and access online information, shop online, use social media, get cash from an ATM, watch television, make phone calls, and more.

But, as you've seen in recent news headlines about cyberattacks, connecting can have consequences. Americans expect that makers of computer hardware and software, as well as network providers, take cybersecurity seriously and provide mechanisms to keep customers protected from viruses, malware, and cyberattacks. Even if they do, however, we need to take individual responsibility for protecting our own identities and personal information. This becomes all the more challenging when we expose ourselves to others online. As some of us find out, the online world can be more dangerous than we imagine.

Sadly, older Americans seem to be more vulnerable to online attacks and, perhaps even worse, to deception. According to the Department of Homeland Security, seniors are defrauded at twice the rate of the rest of the population. It can never be repeated too often: Never give out personal information online or over the phone if you are unsure of the authenticity of the person or organization asking for it. In addition, follow the basics of good online security practices: Never click on links in emails unless you know the sender, do not visit banking and other financial sites over public Wi-Fi networks, secure your smartphone with a password and/or fingerprint, and use passwords that are difficult to hack. On this last point, you might want to consider using a password manager, such as LastPass or Dashlane, for extra protection.

An excellent objective resource for Boomers concerned about cybersecurity is the Department of Homeland Security's "Stop. Think. Connect." resource guide. It has lots of helpful information and you can find it here: http://www.stcguide.com/explore/older-americans

All of us need to be conscious of cybersecurity, especially today. 


Working Past 65 Probably Means Embracing Compromise

MusingsOne of the biggest Boomer topics in news media, blogs, and newsletters is working past 65. I've discussed the trend numerous times in my blog. Boomers in general are interested in working past 65 for two primary reasons: remaining relevant (or feeling fulfilled) and continuing to earn income. Several big issues are likely to come up, however, such as:

  • Keeping your current job vs. taking a new job
  • Working full-time vs. working part-time
  • Staying in your field or making a career switch
  • Working for a specific need, such as to get benefits.

What Boomers who want to continue to work learn, sometimes the hard way, is that pretty much everything is a compromise. At 65 years of age or older, unless you are self-employed, your employability is viewed in a different light by most employers. The basic business decision for an employer is whether to retain or hire an older worker with a wealth of experience who very likely costs more, or hire a younger worker with current skills and potential who costs a lot less. For most employers, the choice is obvious, and the Boomer comes out on the losing end.

Compromise, therefore, becomes the name of the game if you want to stay in the work force. Writing for NextAvenue.org, Retirement expert Kerry Hannon offers five excellent rules for seniors who want to keep working and potentially switch careers. She suggests, for example, that Boomers who want a new career path should be prepared to take a pay cut. Compromise. She also says that you should be ready to negotiate benefits and possibly "trade" one benefit for another, depending on what is more important to you. Compromise. Read Kerry's entire article here: http://www.nextavenue.org/keep-working-60s-beyond/

It is admittedly difficult for Boomers who have had professional careers or have been in the same field for decades to find themselves struggling to remain in their current position, work in a new field, or even obtain a part-time job that is fulfilling. This is probably one reason a significant percentage of Boomers end up working for themselves.

There is no easy answer, and everyone's situation is different. But chances are you will have to, that's right, compromise.


Why Boomers Want to Age in Place

MusingsAs we age, we rely on people, places and things that are most familiar to us and give us comfort. For many people, aging also means a shrinking world in which a comfortable home is vitally important. This could be one reason that, according to AARP, more than 80 percent of people ages 65 and older want to stay in their homes as they age.

Staying in a home can be a challenge, however, if the home is not fit for aging in place. AARP estimates only about 1 percent of current homes are conducive to aging in place. This creates a difficult choice for many older Americans: Either they have to move or they need to upgrade their existing homes.

An excellent article on NextAvenue.org addresses the challenge head on. Will Your Home be Ready for Aging in Place? includes numerous suggestions for how to "redefine a home" to accommodate seniors. Among the ideas are the following:

  • Stairless entries
  • A gradual outdoor incline up to the entry instead of ramps
  • Doorways wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers
  • Lever-style doorknobs
  • Lever-style faucet handles
  • Shallower countertops to put items in easier reach
  • Curbless shower stalls
  • Slip-resistant floors and lighter-color floors for greater visibility
  • Lower placement of light switches and higher placement of electrical outlets
  • More windows for better indoor light

Obviously, some improvements are minor, while others require significant remodeling. The key is something called "universal design," says Richard Duncan, executive director of the R.L. Mace Universal Design Institute in Asheville, NC. He tells NextAvenue, “You can call it 8-to-80 or lifelong-living [that] responds to people over their lifespan through all of life’s changes, not just when older.”

Check out the article here: http://www.nextavenue.org/home-ready-aging-in-place/ Food for thought!