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." 


Partners in Life and in Business

OnYourOwnIf you and your spouse have some basic business skills and you are leaving the traditional workplace, you might consider running a business together. Partners in life can be partners in business, although it does take a clear recognition of the differences.

My wife and I ran a small service business together after I left my professional career as an advertising executive. We used that business as a bridge from full-time work to part-time retirement. An unexpected bonus was that we were able to sell the business after seven years.

So what does it really take to start a business together? One of the most important things is setting boundaries. In our case, we tried to be as specific and detailed as possible in divvying up who did what, basing the decision on who was best suited to which area and tasks. We agreed early on that each of us would have responsibility for certain areas, but part of our mutual responsibility was keeping the other person informed about our respective areas. 

It may seem mundane, but you and your partner should sit down and put on paper every single function of your business and assign one of your names to each. Both of you should keep copies of the list so there is never a misunderstanding. It is also important to determine which decisions can be made individually and which should be made together. For example, any decision about financing your business should be a joint decision; which bills to pay when, however, probably doesn’t require dual decision-making.

Another area where boundaries come into play is personal versus business time. Being in business together often makes it difficult to separate your business lives from your personal lives. It is a real comfort to know that you can talk about business matters with your partner after business hours, but that can cut both ways. Hard though it is, try to turn the business switch off when you leave the office for the day (especially if the office is your home). You both need some breathing room away from the business – time for yourselves to talk about other things, to spend time together having fun, and to re-connect as a non-business couple.

Cover openWe were so invigorated by our experience being in business together that we wrote a book about it: Let's Make Money, Honey: The Couple's Guide to Starting a Service Business.

As a reader of Happily Rewired, you can get a copy of the print edition of this book for just $10.95 -- $6.00 off the regular price of $16.95, a 35 percent savings!

To take advantage of this special offer, you must order the book here: www.createspace.com/5616668  When you check out, enter this code: GKYC7AGA to get your $6 per copy discount.

If you have ever considered going into business with your spouse or significant other, this book is a must-read. It has received rave reviews from reviewers and readers alike. 

Save $6 on the print edition when you order now!


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. 


Get Your Copy of "Second-Act Careers" for Just $1.99

BooksRetirement expert Nancy Collamer's excellent book, Second-Act Careers, is available in eBook form for just $1.99 (regularly $11.99) for a limited time. The book, subtitled "50+ ways to profit from your passions during semi-retirement," features Nancy's great advice about how to leverage your current background and experience into a "second-act" career. Chapters include:

  • Build Multiple Streams of Expert Income 
  • Create an Information Empire
  • Start a Small Service Business
  • Pursue a Business-in-a-Box Opportunity
  • Trade Your Time for a Paycheck
  • Make a Living While Making a Difference
  • Get Paid to Travel
  • Ten Reinvention Lessons Learned
  • Envision the Life You Want
  • Look to the Past for Clues to Your Future
  • Ask, Analyze, and Assess
  • Research the World of Possibilities
  • Try It Out!
  • Some Final Tips on Creating Your Second-Act Career

This offer is only good until May 28, so buy your copy of the eBook now by clicking below! 


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!


Why 70-1/2 is a Magical Age

MusingsIf you're closing in on 70-1/2 years of age, you're about to reach a milestone that has been established by our government as a magical age. On the positive side, that's when you must start drawing from your retirement accounts without penalty (it's called "RMD," or Required Minimum Distribution). On the negative side, it's now time to pay the taxes on that income, although they are likely to be paid at a lower rate because of your age.

There are very specific rules related to drawing from your retirement accounts. According to Wharton business economics and public policy professor Olivia Mitchell, "The rules are specified related to your age. For example, beginning at age 70 1/2, you must take out about 3.7% of the total amount in your IRA and the same amount out of your 401K plans if you’re retired. By the time you’re 80, the percent goes up to about 5.5. And at age 100, you have to take out 15.9%."

Mitchell adds that things can get complicated if you're still working at age 70-1/2, or if you have retirement money spread across several accounts: "...wait until you’re 70 1/2 to start drawing down your retirement accounts as long as you’re not working. If you have several IRAs, the law says that you can amalgamate the total and take your required minimum distribution out of just one of them, so you don’t have to dip into each individually to get to the total. However, if you have several 401(k) plans from previous employers, you have to take it out of each one separately. So, it’s a little complicated."

Mitchell has some other sound advice about retirement accounts. You can listen to or read her comments here: http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/are-you-ready-for-retirement/

I have a few comments on the matter myself.

First, I wish the government would make things easier, not more difficult, for retirees. It seems to me that the worst time to have to deal with complex financial issues is as you grow older. If you've had to deal with the wonderful world of Social Security and Medicare, you already know how convoluted things can be with these two programs for older Americans. Unfortunately, drawing on your own retirement accounts after you reach 70 isn't much easier.

Second, once again this reinforces the need for a trusted, objective financial planner. If you're already in your sixties and you don't have one, do not delay any longer. It is never too late to get solid financial advice, and with retirement account distributions coming up, it's essential. I have said it before on this blog, but I'll say it again: One of the smartest things my wife and I did early on in our marriage was to get a financial planner to help us. It made all the difference in the world.

Reaching that magical age of 70-1/2 can be a good thing in many respects, but making the right financial moves can make it better. 


What is Your Retirement Path?

BooksIn her new book, Too Young to be Old, Nancy Schlossberg researched and identifies six different paths to retirement. She writes about them in an excerpt on NextAvenue.org. While she reminds us that paths are not completely linear, and retirees choose paths in their own unique ways, the six paths she details are worthy of consideration. They are:

  1. Continuers
  2. Adventurers
  3. Easy Gliders
  4. Involved Spectators
  5. Searchers
  6. Retreaters

Continuers, writes Schlossberg, continue on a path similar to pre-retirement but make modifications, while Adventurers see retirement as an opportunity to do something brand new. Easy Gliders take a more laid back approach, while Involved Spectators stay involved with their previous careers. Searchers continue to seek their niche, while Retreaters either disengage before finding out what's next or become depressed and unmotivated.

Has Nancy identified a retirement path that resonates with you? Are you on a path that is really a combination of the above paths, or have you discovered a path of your own? Read Nancy's NextAvenue article here, and consider buying her book here:

Too Young to Be Old: Love, Learn, Work, and Play as You Age (Lifetools: Books for the General Public Series)


Will Self-Driving Cars Help Reduce the Loss of Independence?

MusingsAccording to a recent article in The New York Times, "Nearly 16 million people 65 and older live in communities where public transportation is poor or nonexistent. That number is expected to grow rapidly as baby boomers remain outside of cities." The article went on to discuss why self-driving cars may be the answer for such aging Boomers. Joseph Coughlin, the director of the MIT AgeLab, was quoted in the article, saying, “The aging of the population converging with autonomous vehicles might close the coming mobility gap for an aging society.” Coughlin also said that 92 percent of older people want to age in place.

Reading this article got me thinking about the larger issue for aging Boomers: the loss of independence. I lived through the loss of independence with my mother over fifteen years ago. When she broke her hip in her late eighties, her independence became a thing of the past. It also led to a quick decline. Coupled with the onset of dementia, her physical and mental infirmities made it impossible for her to age in place. After trying to maintain her independence in her condominium with the help of home health care aides, I had to make the decision to move her to a nursing home. She died not long after the relocation.

Today, my wife is the primary caretaker for her 93-year old mother. While her mother is in excellent health and lives independently, she can no longer drive. Whether it's shopping, day trips, or short outings, my wife and I take responsibility for the transportation.

Caring for older parents is increasingly common among Boomers, even as they age themselves. It offers a look into our own future as we see first-hand what it would be like to lose our independence. For some of us, aging in place may be a viable option. For others with means, an assisted living facility or continuing care retirement community may be the answer. Today, there's always Uber and Lyft, but tomorrow, it sure would be nice to know that such things as self-driving cars could extend our independence as long as possible.  


MacLaine Shines in "The Last Word"

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 3.34.40 PM MediaEvery once in a while, I like to talk about a movie that I think has special relevance to Boomers. "The Last Word" starring Shirley MacLaine is a quirky movie that may have slipped under your radar since it had a limited release and didn't get stellar reviews (which usually means it's worth seeing!). My wife and I are likely to see any movie that features Shirley MacLaine (now a spry 82 years old), and we were not disappointed in this one.

MacLaine plays Harriet Lauler, a retired adwoman who is brash, strong willed and at times irascible. Lauler applies her knack for selling products during her career to an unusual desire: She wants to have her obituary created before she dies. This leads to her enlisting Anne Sherman, a young journalist played by Amanda Seyfried, to write the obituary. It would be accurate to define the movie as a dark comedy.

I'd rather not share more of the plot since it will give away too much. Suffice it to say that MacLaine shines like a very bright light, somehow acting the part with gruffness and warmth at the same time. She turns Lauler into a fascinating character study of a very successful businesswoman who has a giant hole in her personal life. One of the more interesting aspects of the movie is Lauler's mother-like relationship with Sherman and grandmother-like relationship with an adorable waif.

There are many messages in this movie about life, love, relationships, and redemption lost and found. MacLaine's tour de force is reason enough to see it. My wife and I, however, rate movies on the basis of whether or not we have something to talk about when we leave the theater, and "The Last Word" prompted a lively discussion.