The "Doer" Dilemma

Question-mark-96288_1920 MusingsMost of the Boomers I know are "doers." They need to be doing something to keep themselves busy, motivated and healthy. The older doers get, the more they realize that some of the things they have been  doing for years are now a lot more challenging. Broadly speaking, aging may make working long hours more tiring. It may make driving in traffic more stressful. It may make strenuous physical activity more difficult.

These kinds of challenges may cause one to contemplate retirement. When faced with retirement, the doer has a real dilemma. It is likely to be pretty scary. What will the doer do when he or she no longer has the multi-year career that was engaging? For some Boomers, their career may have even defined them as individuals.

In her article on NextAvenue.org, retired therapist Connie Zweig wrestles with this dilemma. She writes,"Like many boomers, I had found meaning and even love through my work. So, one part of me wanted to continue to do what I had always done: push hard to be productive so that I could enjoy a feeling of well-being at the end of the day. But another part wanted to leap into the unknown, letting go of old roles until a new beginning emerged."

Later in her insightful article, Zweig asks the question "Who Are We Beyond Work?" She found that she needed to ask herself "tough inner questions" to discover the answer. She pondered such questions as:

  • "What is the role that no longer serves me? How is my identity tied to that role? Who am I if I am not that role? What has been sacrificed during my career to maintain that role?"
  • "What is my fantasy of the future? Am I drawn to serve others? Am I drawn to a spiritual or contemplative practice? What stops me from engaging in service or meditation?"

Zweig admits that her circumstances allowed her the freedom to consider different retirement paths, rather than be forced to continue to work because of financial need. Not everyone has the luxury of such a choice. Still, those Boomers who have the financial security to leave the workforce and do something else should be asking the kinds of questions Zweig asked herself. That may be the only way they will truly solve the doer dilemma.

HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.

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Why a "Second Act" can be a Second Chance

OnYourOwn Stopwatch-2062098_1920Whatever their careers, most Boomers have spent a major portion of their lives working to provide for their families. If they've been successful at earning a good living and wisely managing their money, Boomers have a stellar opportunity -- a second chance if you will -- to play in a "second act." Generally, a second act refers to reinventing or rewiring retirement and doing something you are passionate about -- hopefully unconstrained by the need to earn a high income.

Everyone's definition of a second act is different. For some, it may involve a new, more flexible relationship with an existing employer to phase out of a full-time job into part-time work. For others, it could be transitioning into an entirely new career that generates more modest income. Still others define a second act as a combination of  working part-time, volunteering part-time and playing part-time.

How you define your second act is very much up to you -- but a big challenge many Boomers face is how to get there. Mary Kane, Associate Editor of Kiplinger's Retirement Report, writes about the process in her excellent article, "6 Steps to Finding Your Second Act in Retirement." She advises, "You’ll need to do both soul-searching and research first to understand which of your skills are transferable and how they can be useful. You’ll want to prepare well in advance to shore up your finances, paying off any debts and becoming accustomed to a different standard of living—perhaps living with less income on a trial run for a few months. You may need to mix volunteering with paid work, or find part-time work that will provide health coverage, to ease your transition and the stress on your wallet. And you’ll need to create a new professional network in your community, well beyond the circle of former colleagues and contacts you spent decades establishing in your previous career."

There's no question this transition can sound a bit intimidating, so Kane identifies six key steps on the path to a second act:

  1. Begin Early
  2. Fix Your Finances
  3. Build a Bridge
  4. Do a Midternship
  5. Tackle the Internal Work
  6. Take It Slow

Kane describes each of these steps in her article and includes examples and input from retirement experts. It is offers very helpful guidance for starting a successful second act.

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Double Trouble for Boomers: Money and Health

Money-943761_1920 MusingsSome Boomers like to think they're invincible: They fully expect to be able to work into their 70s or beyond. The good news is that the percentage of workers over the age of 62 in the workforce has steadily increased. But consider this: While the national unemployment rate for workers age 55 and older is generally lower than the overall unemployment rate, the long-term unemployment rate (out of work 27 weeks or more) for older workers is generally higher than the overall long-term unemployment rate. That suggests once a Boomer is out of work, it is harder to get back into the workforce.

Cleo Parker's story is all too typical. As reported in The New York Times, Parker was about to turn 50 when her long-time marketing job was eliminated in 2006, a few years before the big recession. For the next ten years, she had to work a variety of contract and lower-paying jobs. She finally found a full-time job but that ended in 2018. Now 62, Parker finds she is overqualified for most of the jobs she interviews for, and the salary for those jobs is far less than what she earned before.

The financial pressure of this type of situation is obvious. Boomers who have had good, well-paying jobs for decades and then find themselves out of work are often faced with a precipitous drop in income in their later working years. Having all of the things associated with a middle class life -- house, car, sending your kids to college, etc. -- may have taken precedent over adequately saving for retirement. So now, the Boomer who is out of work or working at a low-paying job may be stuck with too much debt and expenses that exceed income. If expenses aren't reduced and savings are meager, the Boomer may have to draw Social Security benefits earlier than planned, which means lower monthly SS payments for the rest of that person's life. In addition, any retirement savings, such as 401(k) investments, typically cannot be drawn upon without penalty until age 70-1/2.

Involuntary job loss can be devastating -- but so can employment that is interrupted or abruptly ends because of health issues. Older workers are susceptible to more health problems than younger workers, if for no other reason than they are older. While there is some small comfort in having employer-paid health insurance or Medicare as of age 65, health problems can still be costly, both in terms of out-of-pocket medical expenses and loss of time on the job. Even worse, a serious health problem can lead to an unanticipated earlier retirement from the workforce.

So what can Boomers do about the double whammy of money and health? For one thing, we need to make a concerted effort to save as much as we can for retirement while we are still working. We should also try to delay taking Social Security payments at least until our "full retirement age," as defined by Social Security, or until age 70, when you can draw the maximum benefit. In terms of our health, as we age, it is very important for us to eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, and generally take good care of ourselves. Other than that... it's a crap shoot!

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Is It Smart to Age in Place?

OnYourOwn House-3686128_1920As Boomers age, they may consider relocating from their current home, especially if it is too large. The increasing popularity of active adult and retirement communities is a clear indication that Boomers are more than willing to relocate to improve their living situation.

But for those who do not want to leave their homes, the concept of "aging in place" is gaining traction. According to The Center for Aging in Place, "Aging in Place is a national movement to enable people to stay in their own homes as they grow older by making available the social support, health care, and home maintenance services they require to live happy, productive lives in the community."

Aging in place can have both a positive and negative side. On the positive side, wise Boomers are making a concerted effort to modify their existing homes so they are safer, more secure habitats. On the negative side, some Boomers adamantly refuse to make needed modifications if they do not want leave their homes, creating a situation that could easily result in tripping, falling, or severe personal injury.

If you've made a decision to age in place, you owe it to yourself to take a good, hard look at your physical home, your neighborhood, and your general environment. You should ask yourself honest questions about whether or not there are deficiencies or conditions that need to be remedied for you to be able to live comfortably as you age. This article on NextAvenue.org answers several important questions: https://www.nextavenue.org/answers-questions-aging-place/

AARP has a wealth of material about aging in place offered through the "AARP HomeFit Guide." You can find it here: https://www.aarp.org/livable-communities/info-2014/aarp-home-fit-guide-aging-in-place.html 

Below are a few links to some valuable resources concerning aging in place, courtesy of Marie at ElderImpact.org:

The Most Common In-Home Injuries for Seniors and How to Prevent Them

How to Reduce Hoarding and Clutter to Prevent Falls

How to Remodel for Accessibility

How to Make & Pay for Home Modifications to Enable Aging in Place

Top 7 Garage Safety Hazards that You Shouldn’t Be Ignoring

Making Aging in Place Easier with Digital Health Technology

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The Retirement "Boomerang"

OnaWhim Boomerang-1027826_1920As you might expect, the concept of retirement is not for everyone. Boomers today are much less likely to traditionally "retire" than past generations. In fact, almost 40 percent of workers age 65 or above who retired "boomeranged" back to work, according to a RAND Corporation study. The challenge is that older workers often want to change careers after fifty or so years doing the same thing -- so when they return to work, it could be to a new "second career."

Author Chris Farrell has a good way of looking at it -- as a "sabbatical." In an interview in Forbes, he says, "When we think about retirement as a sabbatical, people are going to retire, take a break and start thinking about what they want to do next. That hopefully will be incredibly liberating. It’s a wonderful idea that you take a year off, recharge and rethink."

Farrell advises those wanting to return to work focus on their skills instead of their job title. While you may have worked in a particular career all your life, in your second career, you may be better off evaluating your personal skill set and pursuing a completely different line of work. Reinventing yourself -- and taking some time to explore what you enjoy and what you are good at -- may be exhilarating. To the extent that you are financially secure, you can even pursue something because you love it, not because you intend it to produce income.

I can totally relate to this perspective. Both my wife and I reinvented ourselves after professional careers. We followed our passions and did something different for our second act. She was a sales professional and became a dog groomer because she loves working with dogs. She worked in her own mobile dog grooming business for seven years and generated income. Then she stopped grooming for money because it was too physically strenuous. Now she grooms when she wants just because she enjoys it, as an unpaid volunteer at an animal shelter. I ran a direct marketing agency, but I always had a love for writing. Now I'm a freelance writer and I work when I want. Some of the writing I do generates income, and some I do just because I enjoy it.

One of the things my wife and I had to learn during our boomerang back to work was that the value equation is different. In our previous professional careers, our perceived value was based on how much revenue we brought in. That monetary value was important to our self-image. It took a while to realize that value doesn't always have to be related to money. Now we are more comfortable with the notion that self-worth isn't based on financial and material assets alone. In fact, we both get a great deal of satisfaction doing things that do not directly result in generating income.

The retirement boomerang is a common condition for Boomers. Don't be surprised if it happens to you.

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Get Thee to a Financial Planner

Financial-3207895_1920 MusingsI often write about Boomer issues that relate to working past the traditional retirement age, including how to find inspiration for what to do in your second career. I rarely tackle retirement-related financial issues because that is neither my area of expertise nor my topical interest. But I feel compelled to give any reader of this blog a piece of personal, heartfelt advice: If you're approaching the second half of your life and you haven't yet engaged a financial planner, do yourself a favor and get one NOW.

My wife and I engaged a financial planner in our mid-thirties. It was one of the smartest moves we have ever made. With that person's counsel, we have been able to make wise financial decisions regarding budgeting, investments, insurance, purchasing and selling homes, paying for college, and retirement. In combination with a CPA and an estate attorney, the financial planner has also helped us with tax and estate planning.

It is never too late to get a financial planner. As CFP Casey Weade writes for Kiplinger, a financial planner becomes all the more important as we approach our retirement years: "For most people, problems, questions and opportunities are more likely to crop up as their goals change from accumulating money to protecting it. And that usually happens five to 10 years before retirement."

While professional Boomers may be tempted to handle financial planning themselves, Do-It-Yourselfers (DIYers) lack objectivity and broad knowledge of investments. Weade says, "An adviser can help retirees avoid ill-timed investment losses that could devastate their retirement plans, offer guaranteed income options to those who want reliable payments, and discuss the best 401(k) and IRA distribution choices. An adviser also can offer advice on Social Security income options that DIYers often don’t know about." As for DIY investing, Weade writes that "your investment strategy should match your overall financial plan and long-term goals. Too often, self-investing leads to over-concentrating on the tools being utilized rather than the ultimate goal you are trying to achieve."

Boomers are living a lot longer than our parents did, so making smart financial decisions that protect us in our later years is critically important. What are you waiting for? Get thee to a financial planner!

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Making Sense of the Retirement Transition

Musings Wood-3041024_1920More and more experts advise those closing in on retirement to view it as a transitional time. An article appearing on NextAvenue.org suggests that retirees should plan on a longer transition time than they expect:

"It could take months or it could take a few years for you to finally feel comfortable in your new skin. It’s completely natural and understandable for this transition to take a long time. After all, you were involved in the world of work for decades and those habits won’t melt away instantly. ... Instead of commuting to an office, commute to your workbench or to a class at the local community college. Embrace the change while diving into what makes you unique."

The article also encourages retirees to "take a moment to breathe":

"...take a week or two to relax before you jump into your new routines. By taking a mini-vacation first, you’ll be better prepared to approach your new life with a clear mind that’s well-rested and ready for the challenge. The way a honeymoon marks the transition from single life into marriage, this pre-retirement breather period marks another (equally) important transition in your life."

A key point in the article is the need to "build a strong mental foundation for change." This includes building a strong identity, a strong social network and a strong mission. "Mission" may not be a word you associate with retirement, but here's some excellent advice:

"One of the biggest fears people have about retirement is that they’ll lose the feeling of being useful. Figure out your mission, whether it’s helping look after grandkids or mentoring local teens on their career paths. Some find that learning a new language or hitting their list of must-see travel destinations around the world make wonderful missions, too!"

You have the ability to reinvent yourself as you enter life's second stage, but you don't have to rush into it. That may be hard, because our society is so focused on instant gratification. Still, if you take time to assess who you are and what you need to be happy, the transition should be a lot easier.

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Proving Age Discrimination in Employment is Too Hard

OntheClock Woman-1246587_1920A recent article in The New York Times got me fired up again about age discrimination in the American workplace, particularly when it comes to hiring and firing practices. I've written about this issue before, providing some links to useful online resources.

The Times article highlights the serious nature of the problem for workers over 50 years old. As the article points out, recent court decisions in age-related anti-discrimination cases have made things harder, not easier, for older workers. It's largely because of the way the federal ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act) works, or doesn't work. As usual, when Congress writes a law, it carries with it loopholes -- and there are plenty of them in ADEA. Proving an employer uses age discrimination to hire or fire someone age 50 or over is difficult, and the legal burden is on the individual to pursue a case that can be very costly. What's more, doing so basically blacklists that individual in the job market.

The Times article cites this sobering fact: "More than half of workers over 50 lose longtime jobs before they are ready to retire..." along with this even more sobering fact: "On average, a 54-year-old job hunter will be unemployed for nearly a year." The article also reveals the experiences of some older job-seekers who faced obvious age discrimination. Some of the cases are startling in terms of what older workers are told by prospective employers; one of them reportedly said, "We are not looking for old white guys." Thankfully, that particular employer, a restaurant chain, was sued and agreed to pay a $2.85 million settlement.

The good news is some organizations are starting to fight back against age discrimination, even if individuals cannot afford to do so. According to the Times article, the Communications Workers of America, a union, has filed a lawsuit accusing hundreds of major employers of "systematic age discrimination in hiring based on targeted online advertising." They are looking at the possibility of class-action lawsuits. Still, a recent court ruling demonstrates an uphill battle: The court found that "recruiting practices that have the effect of screening out older applicants — what is known in legal terms as having a “disparate impact” — did not violate the law."

You would think that, with low unemployment and "Help Wanted" signs proliferating that older workers would be welcomed by employers. Sadly, that is not the case.

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Financial Security in Retirement is Important, But...

Musings Man-505353_1920There are so many sources of information that talk about the financial aspects of retirement. Of course, nothing could be more important than being financial secure when you retire. But what about psychic security? One of the most challenging pieces of the retirement puzzle is finding your true self, especially if you have spent decades working in a single profession. Making the transition from a career into a whole different way of life -- one that may not be centered around full-time work -- can be disruptive and even painful for the ill-prepared.

That's why I like the assessment provided by Michael Rubin in his article for The Balance, "4 Non-Financial Keys for a Happy Retirement." Rubin discusses these four elements in detail:

  1. Work - Rubin makes the point that work in retirement can be a gratifying experience if it is voluntary. He writes "studies have shown that people who voluntarily continue to work, even just part-time, past the age of 65 are happier than their full retired peers."
  2. Relationships - Moving on from work also means moving on from work-related relationships. Maintaining relationships in retirement is essential to avoid social isolation. Rubin indicates "recent studies have suggested that loneliness can result in higher risk of developing Alzheimer's and other dementia-related diseases."
  3. Keeping Busy - Filling time when there is no full-time job to go to can be daunting, but busy retirees are generally happier. "One study showed that the happiest retirees engage in three to four regular activities and the retirees with the busiest schedules tended to be the happiest," writes Rubin.
  4. Staying Active and Healthy -  As Rubin notes, "in a recent study, having good health was outranked financial security as the most important ingredient for a happy retirement, but the two are more intertwined than you might think." One key point is that one's health in retirement directly relates to medical expenses, which can be significant for less healthy retirees.

Rubin's article puts retirement into perspective by emphasizing the non-financial aspects of a happy retirement. Food for thought.

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Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?


Acknowledging an Aging Population

OnaWhimA United Nations estimate projects that between now and 2050, there will be an increase in the age 60-plus population in every country in the world. By 2050, those age 60-plus in the U.S. are likely to be as much as 25 to 30 percent of the total population. In 2017, the U.S. birth rate dipped to a 30-year low. With people living longer, the percentage of older Americans is sure to accelerate.

These statistics, while long range, are evidence that the world's population is aging. This means that businesses and governments will be forced to acknowledge this reality and provide programs, goods and services designed for the older generation. We Boomers may miss out on the big changes of the coming demographic revolution, but we are beginning to see glimmers of hope and encouraging examples that our own society is acknowledging an aging population.

One glimmer of hope is in the American job market. While a great deal of ageism still openly exists, the high number of jobs available is forcing American employers to reconsider their hiring practices. For example, AARP and McDonald's just announced a collaboration in which McDonald's will post all of its U.S. job openings on the AARP Job Board, and it will pledge to value the contributions of older workers. Why? Because McDonald's is trying to fill some 250,000 summer jobs available.

Screen Shot 2019-05-17 at 11.09.20 AMAnother promising movement is in the food industry. Beyond Meat, which offers plant-based meat substitutes and positions itself as "the future of protein," recently filed an IPO. The company is offering hamburger and sausage plant alternatives that could help reduce meat consumption, something Boomers especially need to do as they age. In addition, one of the Beyond Meat founders has introduced a new non-dairy, plant-based milk called Perennial, which is "smartly crafted for body and brain over 50." Other non-dairy products that indirectly target seniors who want to or need to reduce dairy consumption include varieties of oat, almond and soy milk.

Will other employers follow the lead of McDonald's? Like Perennial, will other companies recognize the potential of creating products and services specifically for an aging population? Let's hope we will see a rapid acceleration of this kind of activity so today's Boomers can benefit from it.

Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?