How to Navigate Post-Career "Retirement"

BooksI've long been a fan of the concept of "rewirement" instead of retirement. If 2020 taught Boomers nothing else, it is that the word "retirement" needs to be retired and thrown into the lexicon dustbin. There are two main reasons for this:

  1. The pandemic required many of us to reconsider our work lives. Our jobs may have ended prematurely, or the financial hit of the pandemic was severe enough to cause us to need to work beyond traditional retirement.
  2. Pandemic or not, many of us want to continue to work beyond traditional retirement because it gives us additional financial security and/or purpose in life.

Still, younger Boomers approaching that magical retirement age of 65 may be pondering exactly how they can navigate their post-career retirement years -- if indeed they retire at all. I've read several books that address this very subject. One of the more engaging ones is the new book, Retirement Heaven or Hell: 9 Principles for Designing Your Ideal Post-Career Lifestyle by Mike Drak.

When Mike involuntarily left a career after more than three decades in financial services, he entered what he calls "Retirement Hell." Through trial and error, he found his path to "Retirement Heaven" and decided to write a book about his experience to help others navigate this challenging transition. Typical of the wry wit in the book is Mike's pronouncement, "Think of me as a retirement crash test dummy." Mike shares some excellent advice, offering nine specific principles designed to help readers enjoy "an exceptional retirement." He discusses each principle in detail and lays out an action plan for how to move forward into new territory.

Interspersed throughout the book are Mike's salient observations about his own journey. He also includes numerous snippets concerning how the pandemic shaped his thinking and the impact it inevitably has on retirement planning. These elements make the book both personal and timely. In the end, Mike encourages us to strive to become "Retirement Rebels." Mike suggests these folks "are the trailblazers who have regained the curiosity and wonder of a child, traveling the world to see and experience new places, entering marathons in different cities, learning to use new technology, volunteering, starting new businesses, and posting all about it on social media."

Retirement Heaven or Hell is a worthwhile read for any Boomers about to take their next step or those who have already entered their post-careers and need some guidance and encouragement. If you want to order the book from Amazon, I've included a direct link below.

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Stay Informed in the New Year

OntheHouse Screen Shot 2020-12-22 at 11.32.49 AMOne of the best things Boomers can do in 2021 is stay informed about aging and longevity. Our generation is living longer than previous generations and the implications are significant. Probably the two most important aspects of increased longevity for Boomers are our health and our finances. Our primary concerns are remaining healthy and being able to live comfortably (i.e., without serious financial worries) in our later years. Some of us are likely to live well into our 90s, so these are of vital importance.

One very valuable source of information is the Longevity Project, whose mission is:
"We foster research and public conversation to build awareness of the implications of longer life, and bring together leaders from business, government, and the social sector to plan for the transitions in healthcare, retirement planning, the future of work and more. Together with our lead content collaborator, the Stanford Center on Longevity and other leading universities, think tanks and media organizations, our goal is to support a new awareness of the longevity challenge and support change so that people around the world can live healthier, more secure and more fulfilled lives."

This past December, the Longevity Project, in collaboration with Stanford Center on Longevity, sponsored the "2020 Century Summit," a four-day virtual symposium (free of charge) featuring world-class speakers who discussed "the implications of the 100-year life." Numerous panel discussions provided rare insight into longevity. The four days featured the following broad areas:

  • Rethinking Longevity in the Age of Pandemics
  • Longevity & the New Map of Life
  • Funding the 100-Year Life
  • Longevity Next

I attended several of the sessions and found them to be fascinating. The speakers were outstanding and in many cases they shared visionary ideas about aging and society, both in the United States and worldwide. Whether you are concerned about aging in place, working in your later years, financial security or what the "longevity economy" will look like globally, you are bound to benefit from the information that was shared during the 2020 Century Summit. All of the sessions were recorded and are available here: https://www.longevity-project.com/century-summit

The Longevity Project is a leading example of the kind of information gathering and sharing that will help our generation make better decisions and be able to live more successfully in our later years. As the world's population grows older, more research organizations are focusing on aging. In addition, more products and services will increasingly become available to Boomers. Staying informed is one of the best weapons we have as we age.

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eBooks for Boomers - Half Price, December 18, 2020 Through January 1, 2021

Books Year-5780050_1280Take advantage of this special year-end sale on books written especially for Boomers.

From December 18, 2020 through January 1, 2021, GuideWords Publishing is offering readers of Happily Rewired three great eBooks at half price!
 
Just go to any of the links for the books below to learn more about them. When you place your order, simply enter the code SEY50 at check out. You'll get the eBook in your choice of format (PDF, EPPUB or Kindle) at 50 percent off the regular price. Be sure to take advantage of this special offer by January 1, 2021.
 
Boomer Brands
Regularly $4.99, sale price $2.49
 
Boomer Brand Winners & Losers
Regularly $4.99, sale price $2.49
 
Let's Make Money, Honey:
The Couple's Guide to Starting a Service Business
Regularly $6.99, sale price $3.49
 
Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay
 

Happy Scam-adays

Media Road-sign-464653_1920It's holiday time and Boomers should be thinking about... scams. That's right, scams.

This time of year we focus on celebrating the holidays but sadly, it's also a time when scammers are doing their best to bilk Boomers, as well as others. Everyone is vulnerable to scamming during the holidays since we tend to be distracted and let our guard down. This is an especially trying holiday time with the pandemic, because many of us have restricted our travel and we are likely to stay home rather than visit family and friends. That means you may be spending more time online -- so you are more prone to scams. You also may be answering calls on your phone more often, even from phone numbers you don't recognize.

Unfortunately, online and phone scammers alike are becoming much more sophisticated. They are posing as charities, banks, government agencies, shipping companies and more. For example, emails, websites and text messages might look completely legitimate, but they could be fake. (Have you gotten any of those "shipping notice" texts recently? That's one of the latest scams.) The same is true of phone calls that seem to come from banks, Medicare, the FBI or the IRS.

To keep you from turning your holidays into "scam-adays," I recommend that you read an informative series of articles, "Scams & Older Adults: What to Do?" You'll find it on an excellent website for seniors, Tech-enhanced Life, here: https://www.techenhancedlife.com/articles/scams-older-adults-what-do

This series of four articles, written by a retired psychologist, contains valuable information and tips:

Part 1: Scams & Older Adults. Why older people are especially vulnerable to scams – it’s not just because they are less tech-savvy than younger generations.

Part 2: Forewarning. How scams generally work, what their objectives may be, and ways to recognize signs and situations that increase your vulnerability. (Includes lots of actual examples.)

Part 3: Forearming. Ways to reduce your vulnerability to scams and ways to help yourself and your loved-ones to remain scam-free by following some basic safety rules.

Part 4: Taking control - When you need to step in. What you can do if you need to step in directly to help a loved-one manage their affairs to avoid exploitation. (Your parents or older family members are even more susceptible to scams than you are.)

Consider this my holiday gift to you -- so you'll be able to celebrate the holidays without getting scammed!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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Why You Should Treat Retirement Like a Small Business

Notebook-1850613_1920 OnaWhimMany Boomers are "retired," but those in the know don't think of it that way. Instead, they treat retirement as if it is a small business they run. Doing so is something Boomers either learn from running a business previously or from meeting with a financial adviser. Either way, it makes a lot of sense to treat retirement like a business. Here are some of the ways it will make a difference:

  • Manage income and expenses in retirement, just like a small business.
    Retirement income may be fixed (such as a monthly Social Security benefit) or variable (such as a Required Minimum Distribution from an IRA, or interest from investments). It is important to know how much income you receive on a monthly and annual basis and from which sources so you can support your lifestyle. Expenses should be itemized and managed monthly or quarterly so you know when bills are due and where you are spending your money. This will also be helpful in managing cash flow.

  • Do a projected budget each year.
    Owners of well-managed small businesses project their income and expenses annually (or sometimes more often) in the form of an operating budget. This is just as valuable an exercise for retirees. Projecting income and expenses for the next year based on current and previous years is a valuable lesson in fiscal responsibility. It allows you to compare income and expenses from one year to the next, look back historically at how income and expenses have changed, make necessary adjustments to the current year and make reasonable estimates of how much money is coming in and flowing out for the year.

  • Analyze expenses carefully.
    Wise business owners assess each and every expense category to determine where they can operate more efficiently. In retirement, you can do the same thing. Make your own list of expense categories and examine each one individually as part of your overall budget. Your mandatory expenses (rent, utilities, etc.) should be separated from discretionary expenses. If you use the above-mentioned budgeting process, you can start to hone in on expense categories that can be reduced or perhaps even eliminated. 

  • Build in contingencies.
    Experienced business owners realize that there could be unanticipated losses of income or unexpected expenses. The conservative way to plan for this is to build contingencies into a budget. In retirement, that means ensuring that you have adequate savings, an emergency fund or other financial vehicles such as equity lines available so you'll be prepared for something out of the ordinary. One of the largest expense areas in retirement tends to be health costs, so be sure to allocate contingency money for unanticipated medical needs.

These are just a few examples of ways in which you can treat retirement like a small business. If you've done any kind of personal budgeting, you're already off to a good start. Most of what I've described here can easily be done with spreadsheet software. It just takes a bit of time and financial discipline. If you are unfamiliar with basic accounting, there are plenty of sources available via a simple internet search. Numerous personal finance apps could be of assistance, and your financial adviser could also provide valuable guidance.

The end of the year is an ideal time to think ahead and set up a simple system so you can treat your retirement like a small business in 2021. 

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On the Hunt in '21

OntheClock Kelly-sikkema-uUBltZemj1E-unsplashIn my previous post, I suggested that many Boomers will be taking stock as they head toward next year, and some may be considering early retirement. The coronavirus pandemic may be one key factor in the current retirement rate, and data suggests more Boomers are in fact retiring. A recent Pew Research Center report indicates that, in Q3 2020, around 28.6 million Boomers said they were out of the work force due to retirement. That number was 3.2 million higher than in Q3 2019. Since February 2020, the number of retired Boomers has increased by about 1.1 million. (The percentage of increase was larger for Boomers 65 and older.) Contrast that to last year: The rise in Boomer retirees from February to September 2019 was only 250,000.

For some, however, early retirement is not an option. You may want to work or need to work in 2021. If so, an issue surrounding employment is likely to be an insidious factor -- ageism. I've written about the discriminatory nature of ageism in our society on many occasions, so I don't need to remind you that it is an ever-present reality when you are looking for a job.

Ageism is a challenge and there is no magic formula for breaking through the ageism barrier when seeking employment. Still, Boomers will find encouragement from prospective employers who value their experience and maturity. For older workers seeking employment next year, retirement coach Nancy Collamer solicited tips from other coaching colleagues and she offers this list of five solid tactics:

  1. Diversify your networking strategies
  2. Network before you need to do so
  3. Spiff up your LinkedIn presence
  4. Pivot to high-growth industries
  5. Get creative.

Read the details about each of these tactics in Nancy's NextAvenue article here: https://www.nextavenue.org/how-to-get-a-job-in-2021/

NextAvenue also offers an area of its website called Work & Purpose with helpful, informative articles concerning finding a job, starting a business, starting a new career, volunteering and workplace issues. Many other sources are available to Boomer job seekers -- AARP's Job Search Resources page is a good place to start. In addition to full-time employment, a growing number of  opportunities exist in freelance, consulting and part-time employment.

If you're "on the hunt" for work in 2021, stay positive. Know your capabilities, capitalize on your experience, cultivate contacts and be persistent. You have a lot to offer!

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Which Path Forward?

OnaWhim
Website-1166592_1920We are coming to the end of a year like no other. I suspect that most of us will be more than happy to see 2020 go. Of course, we face the question we often contemplate as a new year begins: Which path forward? It's a question that could be particularly challenging for Boomers right now.

On the positive side, it is looking like an effective COVID-19 vaccine will become available in 2021. If this is true, we may be in a position to look forward to eventually returning to a "normal" life -- at the very least, seeing people we love, enjoying social events and traveling if we so choose. It will be remarkably refreshing if many of the things we used to take for granted will be safe for us to do again. Still, even with a vaccine, we'll have to be wise about how we navigate life. The virus won't magically disappear. Wearing masks and maintaining some degree of social distancing, even if modified, will remain essential. That will be the new normal.

Many Boomers will likely be taking stock next year. We'll have to consider how the pandemic has affected our livelihood, our retirement, our financial condition, our physical health and our mental health. Everything needs to be re-evaluated, as with the financial meltdown of 2008-2009. Some of us may have to make tough decisions about working or not working, retiring or not retiring. Writing for NextAvenue.org, retirement expert Kerry Hannon reminds us to be cautious about taking early retirement. Drawing Social Security payments too early is one potential downside. Hannon cites Alicia H. Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, who writes, "Benefits claimed at 70 are 77% higher than those claimed at 62."

Hannon has some solid advice for anyone considering early retirement:

  • Prepare a budget
  • Carefully consider the pros and cons of any early retirement package you may be offered
  • Determine all of your sources of retirement income
  • Plan withdrawals from savings and investments
  • Be sure to take health insurance into account
  • Talk to a financial adviser.

She offers helpful information about all of these areas in her article.

I've always believed the toughest challenges can open up new and sometimes unexpected opportunities. For example, even at their lowest point and with numerous previous failures, some of the most successful entrepreneurs have persevered and prevailed. We can too, regardless of which path we choose to go forward.

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The Lingering Effects of 2020

Musings Covid-19-5144238_1920Chances are Americans -- and certainly Boomers -- will be happy to see the year 2020 come to a close. Too many of us have had to deal with the unanticipated health, social and financial impacts of the pandemic. And it is likely that the effects of 2020 will linger long into next year.

One of the key financial challenges for Boomers is the "COVID recession." According to retirement expert Teresa Ghilarducci of The New School, "about 50 percent of workers over the age of 55 will be poor or near-poor adults when they reach 65." One of the reasons for this, says Ghilarducci, is that "Older workers are losing their jobs at a faster rate, relative to younger people and relative to where they had been before than they were in the Great Recession. ...When older workers lose their jobs, they lose access to savings. They lose their employer's contribution, and they face the temptation of drawing down their retirement assets."

Still, those Boomers with at least $100,000 in investable assets, including their retirement savings, are more optimistic, reports Charles Schwab, based on its "2020 Modern Retirement Survey." The survey of 2,000 Americans age 55 to 75 indicates that 84 percent believe their quality of life in retirement will be better than that of their parents. On average, the survey respondents have accumulated $920,400 in retirement savings, and 82 percent of them think this amount will take them "all the way" or "most of the way" to living out the retirement of their dreams. But Rob Williams, VP of financial planning and retirement income at Charles Schwab cautions that this amount "will only last about seven years at their expected spending rate." He says that Boomers "may have other sources of income like Social Security, but the only way retirees can make sure the math adds up is by putting pen to paper and having a plan in writing."

TIAA's recent "Financial Resiliency Survey" provides a broader look at the American public's view of the future. In July, TIAA surveyed 3,040 Americans age 25 to 70 with a household income of at least $40,000. Nearly 60 percent of adults said the pandemic caused financial stress, and now two-thirds of them want to save more money. One third of respondents had their employment affected, 26 percent took on more debt and 18 percent were forced to dip into an emergency fund. Despite this, 90 percent of workers said saving for retirement is a current financial goal -- but only 40 percent think they are on track with their retirement savings and 27 percent said they are far from on track. One key problem is that Americans generally don't look far enough ahead: 56 percent said they only consider the next 12 months when it comes to financial planning, and less than 3 in 10 individuals said they typically consider 5-plus years into the future. When asked what contributes most to financial resiliency, 59 percent of those age 60 to 70 and 53 percent of those age 50 to 59 said "having more set aside in retirement savings."

How does your thinking compare with the Boomers who responded to the above surveys? Are you looking ahead with cautious optimism as we prepare to enter next year? Here's hoping the lingering effects of 2020 are short-lived -- and 2021 brings a semblance of sanity and a financial rebound for all of us.

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Designing a Better Future

Musings Idea-48100_1280As a Boomer, can you actually design a better future?

That's an intriguing question at the heart of a recent project called "Co-designing with Older People." Alive Ventures founder, designer, and social entrepreneur John Zapolski created the project in collaboration with human-centered design innovator Ayse Birsel, with backing from non-profit The SCAN Foundation - which funds projects to improve the lives of older adults. Ayse Birsel, principal at Birsel + Seck Design Studio, is author of the book, Design the Life You Love: A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Meaningful Future.  The project was a year-long study engaging with 250+ seniors (65 and older) across the country in 15 workshops. It was done to gain insight into what older people want and to encourage designers and businesses to "co-design" with older people.

Some of the learnings that came out of the study are worthy of consideration. For example, the study found that rather than being defined by worries, older people are generally "optimistic, interesting, resilient, dynamic, curious and courageous." They do what they love and enjoy things they had no time for when they were younger. Particularly interesting is the fact that seniors "are craving new kinds of experiences: Experiences that are designed for them and by them, rather than someone else's ideas of what older people should be doing."

There was also a sobering part of the study: "Aging isn't inherently a problem. The challenge is that social constructs, institutions and services have failed to support all of us as we age. In fact, they've failed the people who are living the longest."

I thought some of the quotes from seniors who participated in the study were indicative of what we all want and the way we look at life. Here is just a sampling:

I want to connect, teach and share the art of living with people of all ages. I have a lifetime of experience to share.

I want to get things done with joy and feel good about how I spend my time, without feeling guilty about productivity.

I want to find work that I enjoy, that I can search and evaluate based on things that matter to me -- how much I want to travel for it, the type of work, the social environment, what I get in return -- connections, money, intellectual stimulation or a combination.

I find big tasks daunting. Tasks like downsizing and moving to a new smaller place, or writing my family history book. I'd like help with breaking these into smaller steps, manage my time and energy while feeling accomplished.

I am tired of feeling invisible. I want to be visible physically with color and great design and the courage to deploy them.

What I'm most proud of at this point in my life is my ability to never give up on the goal I wish to achieve...no matter how long it takes.

A 61-page report shares many insights, ideas and outcomes from the study. It makes for fascinating reading. You can download a PDF of the report by clicking the link below.

Download Co-Designing-with-Older-People

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The Four Pillars of the New Retirement - Pillar 4: Finances

Screen Shot 2020-09-22 at 1.51.44 PM
Last time, I discussed some of the findings about Purpose in the study, "The Four Pillars of the New Retirement," issued recently by Edward Jones in association with Age Wave and The Harris Poll. Purpose was one of four pillars covered in the study: Health, Family, Purpose and Finances.

"The Four Pillars of the New Retirement" was a major study comprised of a comprehensive examination of 100+ North American studies, articles and publications; in-depth interviews with subject matter experts and financial advisors; online forums and focus groups;  a survey of 9,000 adults across five generations (18+), including retirees and working-age individuals, in the U.S. and Canada fielded in May and June 2020; and exhaustive analysis by team members. As the COVID-19 pandemic spread, the study was paused and modified to include specific information about the effect of the virus on retirement.

Now for Pillar 4: Finances.

Nearly half (46 percent) of retirees said the primary purpose of money is to "provide security for the unexpected," while 45 percent said it is to "give me the freedom to live how I want." Despite a major concern about their finances in retirement, more than three-fourths of those planning to retire have not figured out how much money they will need in retirement. More than one-third (36 percent) of retirees find managing money in retirement even more confusing than saving for it. More than half (56 percent) said they wish they had budgeted more for unexpected expenses in retirement. Both retirees and non-retirees agree that the greatest financial worry they have in retirement is healthcare costs, including long-term care. (Current data suggests that the average couple will need $300,000 for healthcare and $140,000 for long-term care.)

On the positive side, retirees and pre-retirees alike see the value of financial planning. More than half of both audiences are interested in receiving retirement-related guidance from a financial professional about "an investment strategy for my retirement savings to withstand market volatility," as well as "determining how to best draw from investments in retirement."

This concludes my review of "The Four Pillars of the New Retirement." To gain access to a PDF of the complete report, simply click the link below.

Download FourPillarsReport

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