Retire? Not Me!

Musings Senior-2642041_1920We may soon have to ban the word "retirement" from the Boomer lexicon. In order to write this blog, I scan numerous other blogs, newsletters, websites and articles that deal with aging and retirement. A common theme across virtually all of them is how Boomers are completely redefining retirement, almost on a daily basis.

I've begun to think of the concept of retirement as the "instead of" time of life. Instead of retirement, Boomers are reinventing themselves through any number of second act pursuits. Some potential retirees volunteer, some travel, some start new ventures of their own, and some want to or have to continue to work.

Retirement and Its Discontents, a recent book by university professor Michelle Pannor Silver, draws from in-depth interviews she conducted with people whose departure from their life's work meant losing a core and fundamental component of their personal identity. In the Introduction to her book, Silver addresses an interesting paradox: "Although retirement is primarily thought of as a time to enjoy life without the burdens or work, some people can feel burdened by a life without work. For these people, retirement can feel deeply constraining and limiting. Retirement's freedom can create challenges for people whose life's work was closely associated with their sense of self-worth."

I think Silver's salient observation about the retiree's "sense of self-worth" is a central theme in the retirement dilemma for many Boomers. Professionals in particular may feel a real loss when they leave their careers because it may have been their careers that defined much of their lives. How do they resurrect the feeling that this next stage of their lives has meaning and purpose? How do they achieve fulfillment from something else -- something that may not be as all-encompassing and exhilarating as their work lives?

Of course, there is no uniform answer for every aging Boomer. Each of us finds our own unique path to what's next. This is the part of retirement that is both vexing and liberating. What's most important is that we do not let the concept of "retirement" close ourselves off from life -- rather it should represent a welcome new phase of life for all of us.

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This Was "Hi Tech" in the 50s and 60s

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The innovations of the current Digital Age are remarkable, but we sometimes forget that we enjoyed technological marvels in the 50s and 60s. I thought it might be fun to look back and consider the innovations we thought of as "hi tech" when we were growing up.

Technology was very much a part of the lives of Boomer kids – it was just different kinds of technology. The most enticing technological advancement was television (and eventually color television). However, there were other thrilling innovations, such as the 45 rpm records that created a market for “single” hits, and transistor radios, which made it possible for kids to carry around radio stations that played their favorite rock ‘n’ roll tunes.

Other technologies would become important to our young lives. For example, the push button (“Touch-Tone”) telephone replaced the rotary dial in 1963, heralding a new era of easier teen talk. The Polaroid Land camera amazed Boomer kids by producing instantly developed photographs. The microwave helped mom create almost-instant meals.

Magnetic tape came into its own, affecting Boomers in two ways: On the video side, television shows could be recorded on tape instead of film; by 1963, “instant replay” became a feature of sports events. On the audio side, the 8-track tape made it possible for teens to play their favorite albums in their cars (even if the tape jammed every now and then). That was followed by the equally unreliable cassette tape.

Technology was changing in the world around Boomer kids as well. In 1959, the first commercial plain paper copier introduced by Xerox revolutionized the duplication process. Also in 1959, two patents were granted for tiny electronic circuits known as “microchips,” the core of just about every technology device we use today. Jet airliners began to fly domestically and internationally in the 50s.  The 1957 launch of the first U.S. satellite ended in failure, but it would foreshadow future space successes, including astronauts landing on the moon in 1969.

Commercial computers appeared in the 50s, but the first personal computer did not come along until 1975 – and even then, it was in the form of a kit. The early 60s saw the introduction of the IBM Selectric typewriter, the invention of the laser, and the first use of a factory robot. The first computer mouse was invented in 1964 and the earliest version of video games appeared in 1966.

The Boomer era brought with it technological changes of great significance, even if the Information Age was still in its infancy. Here are just two hi tech examples -- one "winner" and one "loser" of the Boomer era.

Winner: Touch-Tone Telephone

13i-TouchToneTelephoneBoomer kids (and their moms) sure liked talking on the telephone. Not to be sexist, but it was largely adolescent and teenage girls who burned up the telephone lines, spending hours chatting with their friends. A prized birthday gift for a Boomer kid was getting his or her own phone (a land line phone with a physical cord was the only option back then). Of course, conversations with a boyfriend or girlfriend often had to be conducted in the privacy of a closet! Telephone technology kept up with our communication needs. In 1959, the Bell System’s “Princess,” brilliantly targeting women, featured a low-profile design, a light-up dial that functioned as a night light, and a remarkable range of colors. It was the perfect accessory for any bedroom. In 1963, a revolutionary technology known as “dual-tone multi-frequency” was introduced by Bell under the name, “Touch-Tone.” How exciting it was to push those buttons and here the different tones! It took twenty years for Touch-Tone technology to replace rotary or pulse dialing, but push-button phones eventually became a worldwide standard.

Image: Touch-Tone Keypad, Bill Bradford, Flickr.com, CC BY 2.0

Loser: View-Master

13h-ViewMasterDebuting in 1939, the “View-Master” was a stereoscope device that used cardboard reels with pairs of photographic images that appeared to be three-dimensional when viewed. It became popular with Boomer kids in the 50s after View-Master acquired a competitor and gained licensing rights to Walt Disney Studios. Throughout the 50s and 60s, newer, more streamlined versions of the View-Master were introduced, including the first plastic model in 1962, along with an ever-increasing line of reels. When GAF bought the company in 1966, the reels appealed to Boomer kids by relying on tie-ins with cartoon characters and television shows. However, the decades-old technology was aging; it could never really compete with color television and the movies. GAF tried to keep View-Master vibrant by introducing “talking” models and projectors in the 1970s and 1980s. In an effort to maintain brand relevance, Mattel, the current owner of View-Master, teamed with Google to produce a “View-Master Virtual Reality Viewer.” A movie based on View-Master is also being considered. Really?!

Image: View-Master, Deiby Chico, Flickr.com, CC BY 2.0

This post is an excerpt from the new book, Boomer Brand Winners & Losers by Barry Silverstein. Copyright 2020, Barry Silverstein. Publisher: GuideWords Publishing. Available in print, eBook and audiobook formats at all online booksellers.

HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.

Check out the new book featuring 156 best and worst brands of the 50s and 60s!


Age-Old Learning

Musings Glasses-272399_1920For many Boomers, learning is part of living. The aging process may cause aches and pains, sleepless nights and other irritations, but it is also a time when we can open up our minds to new things. Thankfully, opportunities to learn abound -- and increasingly, those opportunities are specifically targeting Boomers.

One great example of Boomer-oriented learning is the growing number of OLLIs across the country. About twenty years old, OLLIs -- Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes -- are educational programs for seniors that are associated with select colleges and universities. At present, there are 124 OLLIs nationally with at least one OLLI in each of the 50 states plus D.C. You can find a list of the institutes here: http://www.osherfoundation.org/index.php?olli_list

Also encouraging is the growing number of undergraduate and graduate schools that offer free or reduced tuition to seniors. In addition, more colleges than ever are offering regular or continuing education courses that address some of the work and life challenges Boomers face as they age. Even programs designed to help Boomers pursue encore careers are starting to appear, as reported in NextAvenue.org. Two such programs mentioned in the article are Notre Dame's Inspired Leadership Initiative and the University of Minnesota's Advanced Career Initiative.

The importance of educating seniors (as in older Americans, not high school seniors) should not be under-estimated, given increasing lifespans and the likelihood that Boomers will be working far beyond the traditional retirement age. According to an AARP report cited in the NextAvenue article, “With people living longer, more adults are turning to continued education for both personal enrichment and to learn new skills. Providing programs tailored to their interests and needs is a promising opportunity for both the public and private sectors, while updating the skillsets of the 50-plus cohort will give them added credibility in a competitive workplace.”

The age-old need for learning takes on new urgency when it becomes "old age learning."

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Check out the new book featuring 156 best and worst brands of the 50s and 60s!


"Oscar" isn't the Only One Who's Aging

Media Oscar-3200050_1920That famous little statue will be handed out at the 92nd annual Academy Award ceremony on February 9. Yes, "Oscar" is 92 years old.

This year, it's encouraging to see a whole host of "older" (i.e., over 50) actors and directors get nominated. As my colleague Julie Gorges writes in her blog, Baby Boomer Bliss, "I keep hoping that Hollywood, and society at large, haven’t completely forgotten the value of the older crowd with their knowledge, life experience, and insight. Maybe this is a step in the right direction."

I think it can be said with some degree of confidence that acting is a timeless art, and we are just as taken with outstanding performances from older actors as from younger ones. How can you be anything but impressed by the acting of Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce in "The Two Popes," or Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci in "The Irishman." (It was, however, a bit unsettling and even spooky knowing that De Niro, Pacino and Pesci were digitally modified to look younger for most of the movie.)

Interestingly, both "The Two Popes" and "The Irishman" were produced by Netflix, so there appears to be a growing opportunity for older actors as the number of streaming options have increased. Companies such as Amazon and Netflix are producing numerous television series and movies featuring older actors, recognizing, perhaps, that the 50-plus crowd is a formidable demographic making up a solid portion of their streaming audiences.

This is positive for two reasons: First, it reinvigorates and extends the careers of aging actors. Second, it acknowledges that older characters can and should be represented prominently in television and films. Too often in the past (and even today), older characters have been relegated to minor roles or, worse, parodied and ridiculed in the media. It is refreshing to see Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin ("The Kominsky Method") and Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin ("Grace and Frankie") as headliners in two successful television series on Netflix. Sure, both shows poke fun at aging, but in a realistic and sometimes poignant manner.

Employing older actors and depicting older characters on screen is a more accurate representation of the real America. Let's hope the trend continues. 

HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.

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Check out the new book featuring 156 best and worst brands of the 50s and 60s!


Why Every Boomer Needs a Retirement Timeline

Musings Business-3081427_1920Think about this statistic for a moment: About 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day.

In times gone by, 65 was the magic retirement age -- and it is still the magic Medicare age (that is, everyone who turns 65 is eligible to apply for the government health insurance plan called Medicare). These days, however, age 65 is just one marker on the retirement timeline. As Certified Financial Planner Dana Anspach writes for The Balance, "Certain retirement events are triggered at specific ages... As you age, the rules for specific ages change."

Since retirement is a very personal decision, it makes a lot of sense for every Boomer to develop his or her own unique retirement timeline. However, you should be aware of the triggers to which Anspach refers. It is never too early to plan for retirement (or "rewirement," as I like to think of it), but age 55 is the time to "get serious about planning," Anspach writes.

Think of 59-1/2 as the first big trigger in terms of tax implications. That's the age at which you can begin to withdraw from an IRA or 401(k) without an early withdrawal tax penalty. There are a few exceptions, but since tax law is a moving target, you should consult your accountant or the IRS before making any decisions.

Age 62 is the next big trigger. According to the Social Security Administration, if you were born between 1943 and 1954, you are entitled to Social Security benefits as of age 62. Your benefit amount varies depending on your work history; however, if you decide to draw Social Security benefits at this age, you will receive only 75 percent of the monthly benefit to which you are entitled.

Age 65 is important because, as mentioned previously, you can be covered by Medicare at this age. Medicare can be overwhelming -- it has several "parts," and it is not entirely free. Apply several months before your 65th birthday. Get complete information at https://www.medicare.gov/ . Medicare is unrelated to Social Security benefits; in other words, you can be covered by Medicare at age 65 whether or not you have applied for Social Security benefits. At this age, if you were born between 1943 and 1954, you would receive about 93 percent of your monthly Social Security benefit.

Age 66 is the "full retirement age" if you were born between 1943 and 1954. (Full retirement age varies for individuals born after 1954; visit the Social Security Administration website -- https://www.ssa.gov/ -- to learn more.) This is the age at which you can collect 100 percent of your monthly Social Security benefit.

Age 70 is a milestone for many Boomers, and it also is an important trigger. Under current Social Security Administration regulations, this is the magic age at which everyone, regardless of when you were born, gets the maximum "delayed retirement credit" if you have not yet taken Social Security benefits. As an example, if you were born in 1943 or later and you wait until age 70 to collect your Social Security monthly payment, the twelve-month increase to your monthly benefit is 8 percent. That's significant, especially if you live a lot longer! After age 70 there is no increase in your monthly benefit other than COLA, or Cost Of Living Adjustments, if these are enacted by law.

Age 70-1/2 is a trigger but a new law called "SECURE" enacted at the end of last year changed its importance. This age used to mark the end of when you could contribute to traditional IRAs and the beginning of when you had to start taking an "RMD" (Required Minimum Distribution) from an IRA or 401(k) retirement plan to avoid tax penalties. With this new law, you can now continue to make contributions to traditional IRAs even past age 70-1/2 (you could already do so with Roth IRAs and the law doesn't change that). In addition, under the new law, you do NOT have to take an RMD until age 72, as long as turn 70-1/2 in 2020 or later.

Age 72 is a new trigger date, as indicated above. This is the date all those who reach 70-1/2 in 2020 or later must begin taking RMDs from retirement plans to avoid tax penalties. You should consult an accountant and financial planner to fully understand the RMD calculations and tax implications.

These are the primary trigger ages for a general retirement timeline, but you should add any other ages that are important to you personally. I hope you found this helpful -- and not too confusing!

HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.

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Check out the new book featuring 156 best and worst brands of the 50s and 60s!


Are These Your Main Retirement Worries?

Books Man-2546100_1920Retirement is a stage of life that Boomers may anticipate with joy and relief, but it can also be a time of worry and anxiety. In a podcast for Knowledge@Wharton, Wade Pfau, author of the book Safety-First Retirement Planning, says many of those planning for retirement have three main worries:

  1. Longevity risk - "The longer you live, the more your retirement costs. You have to plan for that."
  2. Market volatility - "When you're living on distributions from your assets, market volatility gets amplified and has a bigger impact."
  3. Spending shocks - "Those are the potentially large expenses that may or may not happen. If they do happen... they require additional assets to cover that type of uncertainty."

Obviously, all three of these worries relate directly to the financial side of retirement. Boomers who contemplate retirement also need to consider other aspects of retirement such as personal fulfillment, health and social engagement. Still, for most of us, the ability to afford a comfortable retirement is crucial.

In his book, Pfau offers eight guidelines for what he calls a "safe retirement." First and foremost, he says, is to build a retirement plan around the notion of how long the money should last. "You have to anticipate the possibility of living to an advanced age," says Pfau. "You have to strategize about being able to fund a more costly retirement because you’re living longer." He adds that it is also important "to be efficient in terms of not wasting resources."

Safety and security in retirement involves managing what Pfau calls the "four Ls" -- Lifestyle, Longevity, Legacy and Liquidity. He says, "The lifestyle and longevity are your retirement budget. Legacy is your legacy goal. The most important advice would be to think about liquidity. Liquidity is the idea that you have money to cover unexpected expenses."

You may want to factor Wade Pfau's perspective on a safe retirement into your own retirement planning. Learn more about his book or purchase it below:

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Check out the new book featuring 156 best and worst brands of the 50s and 60s!


Still Working Full Time? Get Ready to Be Fired

OntheClock Keyboard-155722_1920In modern-day America, nothing seems to be as tenuous as a Boomer's full-time job. The federal ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act), intended to protect Boomers from employment-related age discrimination, has been found to be largely unenforceable when it comes to layoffs or firings, even if they appear to be motivated by the employee's age. Consider it one more empty government "guarantee" to protect citizens.

Writing for Knowledge@Wharton, Jeff Pundyk, former publisher of The McKinsey Quarterly, claims: "Mid- and late-career management is being hollowed out by consolidation, technology, the gig economy and globalization, leaving experienced workers unprepared to navigate the new world of work. ...Too often when experienced workers who have developed the skills to rise within an organization find themselves displaced or stuck among a shrinking cohort, their skills, expectations, and experience fail them. And the older they are, the greater the risk — and the tougher it can be to find something new."

Unfortunately, this may sound like very familiar territory to accomplished employed Boomers, who are the most vulnerable to the whims of corporate management when it comes time to jettison highly compensated employees. Pundyk writes "Those who can adapt will both shore up their value within their organization and be better prepared should they find themselves on the outs." He offers some excellent advice for Boomers in his article:

  1. Adopt an "untitled mindset."
  2. Develop a portfolio of projects.
  3. Save for the worst case.
  4. Embrace ambiguity.
  5. Always be learning.
  6. Know your story, and
  7. Tell it.

Read Pundyk's insightful article for further details on each of these strategies.

Pundyk's conclusion: "Having a job no longer solves for stability. It can provide some sense of security for as long as it lasts, but don’t mistake short-term security for long-term stability. With the right mindset, however, stability can come from you, not from your employer."

Excellent observations worth pondering.

HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.

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Check out the new book featuring 156 best and worst brands of the 50s and 60s!

 

Two New Boomer Books to Start the New Year Right

BooksHappy new year... happy new books! Here are two new books, just in time for the start of 2020, that are written especially for Boomers.

Boomer Brand Winners & Losers

This remarkable book features fascinating stories of 156 best and worst brands of the Boomer era. Relive the days of Cap’n Crunch and Cocoa Puffs, E-Z Pop and Pop-Tarts, cap guns and comic books. Recall the time when automobiles ruled the road and a transistor radio was “advanced technology.” Learn how television played a key role in brand advertising. Discover which brands blossomed and which were a bust. This book is a real "blast from the past" that Boomers will love!

Read a free chapter excerpt here.

Ten Secrets to Losing Weight After 50

Are you over the age of 50 and struggling to lose weight? Have you tried countless diets to no avail? Do diet methods you used in the past no longer work? It’s not your imagination. As you age, you tend to gain weight and it’s harder to lose than when you were younger. Through extensive research and trial and error, author Julie Gorges finally unlocked the secret of losing weight after the mid-century mark. After explaining why it’s so hard to lose weight after 50, she shares 10 things she was doing wrong and what she changed to finally succeed.

Read a free chapter excerpt here.

HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.


Retirement Your Way

Books Man-4060500_1920Everything I read suggests the Boomer generation has been the first to truly change the notion of retirement. I've witnessed this personally -- - every Boomer I know (including myself) views retirement as an opportunity to reinvent, rewire, or refresh their lives.

The biggest question Boomers face is not whether to continue to be vital and active, but rather what to do next. There are many books available that can help point you in the right direction, including John D. Anderson's Replace Retirement. Writing for NextAvenue.org, Anderson  says "Your second half of life can be invigorated and energized by living out one or more of three opportunities. You can do all three at once, but will benefit most by focusing your energy on one, and enjoying the other two as additional fuel." He identifies these three key "drivers" to success in the second half of life:

  1. Pursue Professional Mastery
  2. Revive a Dream
  3. Improve Your Word

Check out what Anderson has to say about each of these drivers in his article.

I think Anderson has accurately identified the areas that are likely to be of greatest importance to most Boomers as they consider what to do next. There is much to be said for maintaining flexibility and, if finances and time permit, pursuing more than one avenue in life's second half. Anderson's suggestion that Boomers concentrate on one area but include the others as secondary interests makes sense for those who want to enrich their lives. This concept has worked well for me: I maintain a part-time professional career, but also pursue personal passions and volunteer activities.

If you can make it work, retirement your way -- the way you want to structure it -- should be the best way to live out the rest of your years.

HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.

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Check out the forthcoming book featuring 156 best and worst brands of the 50s and 60s!


How Not to Become a Statistic

Musings Warning-sign-30915_1280As Boomers age, they become less employable (not their fault) and more financially vulnerable (sometimes their fault). The concerning thing is the statistical evidence that these two factors converge to create a crisis for a good number of retiring Boomers.

Here are some sobering statistics that raise red flags, as reported by NextAvenue.org:

  • 36 percent of workers and current retirees have $1,000 or less in savings.
  • 47 percent of current retirees were forced into early retirement. 55 percent of them had to leave work because of health problems or disabilities. Only 20 percent were forced into retirement due to changes at their companies.
  • The number of workers older than 55 will grow to 25 percent of the workforce by 2022. However, many of the lower paying service sector jobs, such as grocery clerks, waiters/waitresses and substitute teachers, will be held by the post-retirement age worker instead of younger workers.
  • An incredible 80 percent of American workers cannot afford to retire at all.

A legitimate question is: How do you avoid becoming a statistic?

There are several things to monitor as you age, including your health, your financial situation, your living situation, and your life responsibilities (such as potentially caring for your elderly parents or financially assisting your adult children). Caring for yourself comes first -- and that means checking your own health statistics periodically (weight, blood pressure, etc.), and being vigilant about diet and exercise. On the financial side, you should be living within your means and working with a financial advisor to ensure you are following the best strategy when it comes to investing, saving and drawing upon retirement assets. The last thing you want to do is outlive your money.

Statistics regarding retirement in America are indeed concerning. You need to pursue a smart course of action so you do not  become a statistic.

HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.

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Check out the forthcoming book featuring 156 best and worst brands of the 50s and 60s!