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June 2015

May 2015

Working for the Government

OntheClockThe federal government is one employer that's interested in keeping boomers active and engaged. Chris Farrell writes for Next Avenue that there are at least two government agencies that actually reserve jobs for people who are 55 or older. These special programs are called the "Senior Environmental Employment Program" (Environmental Protection Agency) and the "Agriculture Conservation Experienced Services Program (Department of Agriculture). Full- and part-time positions are available.

In his article, Farrell indicates how to apply for these opportunities through organizations that have cooperative agreements with these agencies. He lists other positions appropriate for seniors as well. If you have an interest in working for the federal government, this article is a must-read.

Pets Add to the Joy of Rewirement

MusingsWhen my wife and I became empty nesters and relocated almost ten years ago, we moved with our two dogs. When they passed away, we acquired two more. Somehow, our home just seemed more complete with dogs (and they're a great motivator for getting out and walking every day). 

There's a lot to be said for companionship of the four-legged variety. As boomers/seniors become empty nesters, more of them realize a dog or cat can bring the place to life. Richard Rosso, a Houston-based certified financial planner, tells The New York Times, “As boomers become empty nesters, they look for other things to nurture. I’ve been in this business for 26 years, and during the last seven to 10 years I have noticed that the retirement dream for many clients is still drinking a piña colada on the beach, but now they see a Lab next to them.”

There is even a growing trend for senior living communities to embrace pet ownership; Erika Ribaudo, a senior adviser at senior living placement service A Place for Mom, tells The Times,  “Now, probably 40 percent of them [senior living communities] are pet friendly, and that number is growing. Science tells us that pets make people feel so much better, and more clients just don’t want to give up their beloved family member. Today, they don’t have to.”

In recent years, more studies have claimed that pets are good for your health -- which may be another reason seniors are owning pets. 

Writes J. Peder Zane for The New York Times, "Some studies find that pet ownership can help reduce blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol while increasing one-year survival rates after a heart attack... Other studies show that pets reduce loneliness and stress, promote interaction between people and encourage exercise."

"Creative Aging": An Inspirational Guidebook

BooksCreative Aging by Cheryl Vassiliadis and Joanna Romer is a dual-purpose guidebook: It is designed to both share the stories of boomers who have creatively aged as well as share helpful advice about aging. In reviewing the book for ForeWord Reviews magazine, I wrote: 

"Creative Aging covers a lot of ground. The authors discuss common issues related to aging, including health, spirituality, emotions, lifestyle choices, and facing death, but they do so with an emphasis on positive thinking and creative empowerment. ...Creative Aging is at its best when the authors explore creativity in its broadest sense. They talk about the fact that boomers take both creative and spiritual risks when they follow their dreams to do something different in retirement. Whether it is pursuing dance, learning a craft, sailing somewhere, taking a volunteer vacation, or starting a small business, boomers can age creatively."

This is a book that celebrates the second half of our lives, offering plenty of opportunities for rewiring. I highly recommend it. (You can order this book directly from Amazon below.)

Hobbies that Pay You Back (in Cash)

OnaWhimDo you have a hobby -- something you've loved doing in your spare time to take a break from the work world? Is it something you've pursued for years -- something you're passionate about?

Here's an interesting way to think about a hobby you may have: Look at it as a way to transition into retirement. And if you have pursued the right kind of hobby, it may even be able to generate a little bit of cash to help subsidize part-time work and/or Social Security checks.

Robert Berger writes in "On Retirement" for U.S. News and World Report about eight hobbies "that can generate some income both before and during retirement." The hobbies he lists are: arts and crafts, car restoration, coaching, coin collecting, sewing, traveling, woodworking, and writing.

Read Berger's article here.

Older Actors Featured in Summer Movies

MediaIn a recent article about summer action movies, it is nice to see The New York Times acknowledge the reality that this year's crop has a different appearance on the silver screen; namely the appearance of silver-haired actors. Senior stars have gained in popularity and you guessed it, one of the reasons is that boomers go to the movies.

About Meryl Streep (age 65), for example, Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott write that Streep "has only in the past 10 years realized her potential as a box-office force. Since 2006, she has starred in five movies that exceeded or came close to the $100 million mark in North American ticket sales. To paraphrase 'King Lear': Ripeness is cool."

Happily, Dargis and Scott believe we're seeing more actors over 50 not just as a result of nostalgia, but also because these older actors "bring gravity, craft and seasoned, relaxed professionalism to projects that otherwise might lack those qualities." Still, Dargis and Scott point out that film makers "seem more comfortable with retirees shooting people and crashing helicopters than making love." Ouch.

Nevertheless, let's be happy about the increasing prominence of those grand elder actors on the screen. At least we can relate to them. As Dargis and Scott conclude, "They are changing the face of movie stardom, one wrinkle at a time."

Starting Over and Giving Back

OntheHouseNot every senior has the wealth necessary to stop working for a living, rewire their life, and making a commitment to do social good. But many of us certainly share the dream of someone like Sherry Lansing who, after reaching the pinnacle of success in Hollywood, decided she would give back.

Harriet Edelson writes in The New York Times that Lansing, whose position as chairwoman of Paramount Pictures was the culmination of a 40-year career, left to do something entirely different: devote her energy to cancer research. One reason: Her mother died at the age of 64 of ovarian cancer. So Lansing started the Sherry Lansing Foundation, which funds and raises awareness for cancer research.

Such organizations as and the Greater Good Science Center focus on how each of us can bring meaning to life. That seems to be a major theme for many of us in our later years. Of course, the path you choose doesn't have to be as ambitious as starting your own foundation (admittedly, something that would be difficult for a majority of "retirees"). In my case, I have found a certain fulfillment in giving back by counseling small business owners in brand marketing, as well as becoming involved in an animal welfare organization in my community.

When you consider your next phase, consider the things you are passionate about. You just might find legitimate opportunities to channel those passions into noble endeavors (even if on a part-time basis). Don't be surprised if these experiences give you far more satisfaction than collecting a paycheck. 

Ask Questions Before You Start a Business

OnYourOwnHere's an interesting statistic: People age 55 to 64 start new businesses at a higher rate than those in their twenties and thirties, and this has been the case from 1996 through 2013. So says Dane Stangler, Vice President, Research and Policy, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.


If you're one of those prospective new business owners, you are likely looking forward to going out on your own and being your own boss. Exciting as it may be, starting a business is also a risky thing to do. The failure rate for new businesses is very high, even if older, more experienced business owners have a somewhat better chance of success.

One way to help reduce the risk is to ask important questions before you start. Small business information expert Alyssa Gregory of suggests the following:

  1. Have I set goals and do I have a plan for reaching them?
  2. Will I be able to follow my plan without breaking any laws or regulations?
  3. Have I fully considered the financial implications of starting a business?
  4. Is my support network in place?
  5. Do I have what it takes to make it as a business owner?

Read Alyssa's comments about these questions here.

What "Danny Collins" Says About Redemption

MediaI hope you've seen or will see the movie "Danny Collins." Besides being a showcase for Al Pacino, who gives a signature performance as an aging rock star, the movie has a poignancy that boomers can't help but appreciate.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 4.07.14 PMPacino's Danny seems to be a stereotyped drug-taking, skirt-chasing celebrity who still tours, continuing to sing the drivel that made him famous decades ago. Danny struggles with the lifestyle to the point of considering suicide. Everything changes, though, when Danny receives a birthday gift from his manager (also beautifully played by Christopher Plummer) -- it is a letter John Lennon wrote to Collins at the start of his career, but Danny never knew about it. The letter is a catalyst for a change of life, and that's the rest of the movie.

Rather than share the plot, suffice it to say that there are many forms of redemption that occur as the plot unfolds. Danny redeems himself by finally understanding at least in part who he is, where he is in his life, what he gave up to get there, and how to reconnect with estranged family. As an aside, it's also a refreshing trend to see elder actors like Pacino and Plummer get starring roles in a film whose target audience is most definitely in the same age range. "Danny Collins" left me with a lot to think about.      

Is Relocation the Right Choice?

OntheGoI've always been fascinated by retirees who move to another country, or buy an RV and travel around this country. There's a lot to admire about such adventurers who are clearly living their dream.

Still, uprooting yourself in the second half of your life is not an easy decision. When my wife and I decided to rewire in our mid-fifties, we wanted to make a fresh start and relocate from the Boston, Massachusetts area. We had lived there for nearly thirty years and we felt it was time for a change. I was tired of watching the snow pile up to the top of the mailbox in the winter and I knew our real estate taxes would become a real burden as we aged. We could have considered downsizing locally, but a new life chapter beckoned.

For us, it was adventurous enough to move to another state much less another country. We used our daughter's entry into college as a marker for when we would relocate. We did quite a bit of research beforehand, and every time we made a list of what we wanted in a place to live, Asheville, North Carolina rose to the top. We made numerous visits to Asheville before agreeing it was the right place for us. We gave up jobs, but we had a plan to start a business together that would leverage both our skills.

If relocation is something you want to consider, evaluate the pros and cons carefully. Make sure you're financially able to relocate. Visit your potential relocation spot often, particularly at different times of the year. Decide what kind of lifestyle you want. Research the area for everything that's important to you -- employment, recreation, climate, healthcare, and whatever else. Check out the many "best places to retire" lists that are published each year.

Relocating is a big decision. I'm happy to say it was the right choice for us. 

Employers Have a Lot to Learn

OntheClockThere's a big problem in the job market, and most employers don't like to talk about it. It's called age discrimination, but I like to think of it as "Out with the old, in with the young." The problem is so pervasive that there are those in the over-50 crowd who undoubtedly fear an early forced retirement. Jim Emerman of writes about this issue for Next Avenue, indicating that "employers have not yet embraced older adults with open arms."

Still, most research suggests that boomers are under-funded when it comes to retirement, so they'll have to work well into their 60s or even 70s. Maybe you're one of them. So how do you stay employed in the second half of life when employers are routinely cutting older staff first?

There is a little bit of a silver lining for silver-hairs. A few employers are notably senior-friendly, and others have started creative programs to help older workers transition into part-time positions. If your current employer isn't enlightened, you'll probably need to think about moving on at some point (and it may not be your choice). A fair number of professionals become "consultants" after losing or leaving a job. If you have a real interest in doing your own thing, this may be an option, but for many, "consultant" is just a code word for temporarily unemployed.

Three other possibilities people our age consider are starting their own business, retooling for an "encore" career, or working part-time. Questions then arise: Can you take the risk of being self-employed? Can you afford the time and money to pursue a second career? Does your financial situation permit you to work part-time?

It seems the majority of boomers need to or want to keep working. Here's an interesting article from AARP about people in their 70s who are still on the clock.