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October 2016

5 Tips for Boomer Couples Who Want to Start Their Own Business

OnYourOwnFor the over-50 set in particular, the economy has created a new breed of entrepreneurs: couples who want to start their own business. For many couples, working side by side seems like an ideal solution, a way to combine being your own boss with spending more time together. The first thing couples learn, though, is meshing their personal and business lives is a special challenge. My wife and I started a small service business in our late 50s and managed to make it work. Here are five tips based on our experience to help make your journey easier.

1.   Share a Passion

Your business is likely to be more successful if you share a passion. It could be anything: an interest in art, a love for animals, a concern for the environment, or something else. It’s important to then determine if that shared passion can be translated into a viable business idea: something people want to buy. The best way to do this is develop a business plan that proves what you want to do can be turned into a sustainable business.

2.   Fill Each Other’s Gaps

We learned that we each had particular strengths and weaknesses when it came to running a business. It would be easy for these qualities to become irritants, but instead we worked collaboratively to fill each other’s gaps. Everyone is good at some things but not so good at other things. If you can learn to compensate for each other’s weaknesses, accept each other’s strengths, and work toward a common goal, your business will benefit – and so will your personal relationship.

3.   Set Goals Together

When you set goals together, you automatically internalize them. Writing down goals and agreeing on them makes them real. You want to set a goal that makes you reach a little but is still achievable. We set goals for lots of things: the starting date of our business, the number of clients we wanted to acquire, our anticipated income each year, and even how many years we wanted to run our business. Our goals helped us visualize our success.

4.   Build Your Knowledge Base

In your business, you learn there are things you know and things you don’t know. When you encounter something that goes beyond your joint areas of expertise, you either have to quickly acquire the knowledge you need or get outside support. If you always have a thirst for knowledge, seek out answers, and view co-owning a business as a learning experience, you will be more likely to succeed.

5.   Maintain Your Perspective

Fully expect that your business will have its ups and downs. That’s why it’s important for both of you to maintain your perspective and keep yourselves grounded. You want the business you operate as a team to enhance rather than detract from your personal lives. It should fulfill a personal dream both of you have and take your relationship to a new dimension. Running a business will be challenging and sometimes seem overwhelming, but maintaining your perspective will help it be fun and rewarding.

LMMH book cover-jpgFor more tips, read the book Let’s Make Money, Honey: The Couple’s Guide to Starting a Service Business by Barry Silverstein and his wife, Sharon Wood (GuideWords Publishing, 2015). It's available in print and eBook formats. To get the paperback at the special discounted price of $10.95 (a $6 savings), go to and enter the code: GKYC7AGA.

Should You Live (and Work) Abroad?

OntheGoAre you one of those Boomers who, for whatever the reason, finds it to be an exciting idea to live and work outside the boundaries of the U.S.?

You are not alone. Living abroad has caught on with Boomers. The Social Security Administration reports that in excess of half a million people receive their Social Security benefits in foreign countries; obviously, this doesn't account for those Boomers who may have relocated to another country prior to receiving their benefits. These days, because Boomers are working in their 60s, 70s and even later, living abroad also means working abroad.

If this is something that interests you, it pays to be prepared. Kerry Hannon's article for AARP will help. In it, she offers seven great tips, among them, "go for a lengthy visit," "seek out virtual employment," and "learn the local etiquette for business relationships." Kerry offers examples and details in her excellent article as well.

Another good source of information is the U.S. Department of State's webpage concerning working overseas: This page offers links to a number of useful resources, including "The Big Guide to Living and Working Overseas" and the "International Career Employment Weekly."

For the adventurous Boomer, living and working abroad could certainly be an option for a uniquely different kind of retirement. But as Kerry Hannon points out in her article, it's essential to "do your research." She mentions two good sources, "World's Best Places to Retire" and "2016 Annual Retire Overseas Index," both of which sound like must-haves for the Boomer who's bound for foreign lands. This is not a decision to be made lightly.

What is a "Happy" Retirement?

MusingsWhen it comes to a "happy" retirement, not everyone will have the same perspective. One reason may be the simple fact that not everyone even agrees on what retirement is, or should be.

That's why I'm glad there are at least some retirement experts who are trying to figure out what it takes for most people to feel they have a happy retirement. Richard Eisenberg, the Money & Work Editor for the website, shares his views in an excellent blog post entitled, "9 Keys to a Happy Retirement." I have excerpted a few highlights below.

The first key is essential: "Figure out in advance what you want out of retirement," and it goes hand in hand with the second, which is to "talk frankly together" with your spouse or partner about what you both want out of retirement. Advance planning can help you set realistic expectations and achievable goals and avoid disappointment down the road.

Eisenberg includes some keys that, not surprisingly, have to do with money and health. Here's one you may not have considered, though: "Keep a schedule, but not like the one you had before you retired." The point here is to organize your time in a way you see fit, because, writes Eisenberg, "Having some kind of schedule prevents you from getting bored, depressed or lonely.

The article is well worth reading in its entirety... and as a bonus, at the end Eisenberg includes links to other articles, as well as eight recommended books, about happy retirement. 

Learning is Living

OnaWhimViewed positively, our later years can be a time for learning about things we never had the time to learn about. For most of us, "free time" was such a rarity in our younger years. Now, though, the luxury of time permits many Boomers to invest in learning for enjoyment. There are many ways to engage in learning, some in-person and some online. Several learning opportunities are likely to exist right in your own community.

Writing for, Nancy Collamer offers some excellent suggestions for taking "classes on the cheap." Among her ideas are taking a "MOOC" (Massively Open Online Course), typically offered at very low cost by some of the world's best known educational institutions. There are also a variety of online platforms mentioned by Collamer that offer a wide variety of online classes.

Another great option is a local community college. Many community colleges offer not just degree courses, but continuing education courses, workshops, job training, and certification programs. My local community college, for example, provides many free courses for small businesses through its Small Business Center in cooperation with SCORE.

Perhaps you're even motivated to return to school to complete an undergraduate degree or pursue an advanced one. Some colleges and universities offer reduced or free admission for seniors. You can find a state listing of such colleges here.

Finally, communities with large retirement populations often host senior learning centers. One such center, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), operates at numerous colleges and universities throughout the country. These institutes provide reasonably priced courses and workshops for seniors, as well as social events and opportunities for seniors to volunteer as instructors. Find the OLLI nearest you here.

Our retirement years can be a time for educational rewirement. After all, learning is living.

Writing a Last Letter: Sensible or Nonsensical?

MusingsA recent article in The New York Times by a geriatric physician discussed the idea of writing a "last letter" to loved ones. It is something Dr. Periyakoil recommends to patients, not just when they might be facing their imminent demise, but also when they are still healthy, "before it's too late." The primary reason, the doctor writes, is because writing the letter might alleviate end-of-life regret: "The most common emotion [my patients] express is regret: regret that they never took the time to mend broken friendships and relationships; regret that they never told their friends and family how much they care; regret that they are going to be remembered by their children as hypercritical mothers or exacting, authoritarian fathers."

Dr. Periyakoil was so committed to the last letter concept that she spearheaded the "Stanford Letter Project." This project of the Stanford University School of Medicine offers anyone three free tools, basically letter templates, to help write a "what matters most" letter, a "friends and family" letter, and an "advance directive" document.

After reading the article, I thought I'd read some of the accompanying comments. I was surprised to see several comments that were downright derogatory about the notion of writing a last letter. A few choice excerpts:

"...these sample letters seem kinda underwhelming and shallow to me."

"If people feel a need to do this, fine, but to encourage the practice is unnecessary, and kind of morbid."

"If you have something to say, tell me to my face. Otherwise, I don't want to hear it."

"The idea of summing up one's life in a template form letter, another digital to-do in the list, strikes me as pathetic and depressing."

"I think it would be cynical to write a letter of regret to try to absolve yourself of all your life's guilts at your death."

In fairness, there were also positive comments about the idea of a "last letter," but my purpose in quoting some of the negative comments is two-fold.

First, in my opinion, the real reason for writing such a letter is to be honest about one's feelings and, perhaps, to attempt to make things right before leaving this earth forever. Some of the naysayers seem to miss the point, either because they are insensitive to that need, or they are too hung up on the use of a "template," which is nothing more than a vehicle for those who need it.

Second, and again it's only my opinion, I think some of the comments reflect the sad fact that the very act of sitting down and writing a last letter is viewed as archaic. Also, at times I get the feeling that some people are not willing, or maybe not capable, of writing anything meaningful anymore. It seems to me that we have become something of a say-it-fast-and-short verbal culture that treats the written word all too casually. As a writer, of course, I am biased toward the importance of the written word.

Anyway, these are just my opinions... I'd welcome any thoughts you might have on the pros and cons of the "last letter."

Please read the thoughtful comment posted by Cheryl. See "Comments" below.