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May 2021

Retirement: It's Personal

Senior-4466290_1920There are essentially two basic sides to retirement: Financial and Personal. For the average Boomer, the Financial side is the engine of the Personal side. If we have been diligent about funding retirement accounts, generally have made wise investments and live well within our means, we should be able to comfortably "retire." But most Boomers quickly realize that there is no universal definition of retirement, because it's really up to each of us to define it.

One way to look at the Personal side of retirement is to ponder how to design your "ideal" retirement. Joe Kesler, author of the book "Smart Money with Purpose", has some excellent ideas about that. In an article he wrote for Humble Dollar that also appeared on Marketwatch, Kesler shared these six suggestions:

  1. Ramp up creativity and learning. Kesler writes that learning during retirement "reminded me of the thrill of going to college, but without the stress of final exams."
  2. Redesign work. Kesler says a fulfilling retirement should include a combination of leisure, service and work. Working at something you enjoy, whatever it may be, is liberating because "we no longer have to put up with the nonsense of the workplace—because we aren’t doing it for a paycheck."
  3. Redefine identity. Because many of us were defined by our work identity, it's important to "fill the identity void with our new interests," writes Kesler.
  4. Build deep friendships. Work friendships also need to be replaced. Kesler advises, "Look for friendships where you find yourself most passionate."
  5. Capture Kodak moments. Without an all-consuming career, Kesler says you can "Use the extra time offered by retirement to reconnect with family."
  6. Eliminate the toxins. Free yourself from things that perturb you, advises Kesler. "Don’t waste a lot of time in this new season of life with toxic relationships or annoying red tape."

I think Kesler does a darn good job of covering the key areas of the Personal side of retirement. We all know the Financial side can be challenging, but the Personal side can be downright vexing, particularly for those of us who are transitioning from long, fruitful careers. The very notion of reinventing ourselves (or "rewiring," as I call it) in our later years can be an unsettling proposition. That's why it's so important to plan ahead for retirement not just financially, but personally. Your happiness depends on it.

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"Are We There Yet?"

Liam-pozz-yjmJBkKn26k-unsplashI'm betting most Boomers remember "Are we there yet?" from their childhood car rides and during auto excursions with their own kids. It's a common question that signifies youthful impatience.

In the context of growing older, though, "Are we there yet?" has an entirely different connotation. Boomers are not necessarily impatient about getting to our later years; in fact, old age sneaks up on us rather quickly. We may even be openly or secretly apprehensive about the aging process. "Are we there yet?" is a more difficult question to answer for Boomers today because "there" is such a huge variable. We are each likely to have our own personal definition of when we really enter "old" age.

Boomers who are in good health, financially secure and satisfied with their lifestyle may not get there anytime soon; they may be thriving into their 80s and 90s. However, those who have health problems or must continue to work due to inadequate retirement funding may get there a lot sooner; they may prematurely age, finding life downright painful even in their 60s and 70s.

"Are we there yet?" also applies to the worldwide pandemic. It's the question we've all been asking as we anxiously await a return to our pre-pandemic lives. While we seem to be turning the corner in the United States (especially those Boomers who have been fully vaccinated), COVID-19 has redefined "normal." It has further exposed the disparity in society between haves and have-nots. For example, as I observed in a previous post, this pandemic has led some better-off Boomers to rethink work and retire earlier than previously planned. In contrast, less fortunate Boomers who lost their jobs because of COVID-19 may have seen their retirement plans crumble before their eyes.

Experts tell us that the current pandemic is very likely to be just the beginning of a string of virus strains that will put a strain on all of our lives. Like COVID-19, future viruses will probably affect the elderly more severely.

As we march down the road to our later years, we face not just viruses, but other risks that are exacerbated by our age. All the more reason for Boomers to take the steps necessary to anticipate the challenges of getting "there." That's why we need to care for ourselves holistically -- physically, mentally, emotionally and financially. So perhaps a better question than "Are we there yet?" would be "Are we prepared for when we get there?"

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A "New Map of Life" for Boomers

Screen Shot 2021-05-11 at 4.25.46 PMThe aging population in the United States -- and around the world -- is motivating several brain trusts to propose creative, innovative ways for humans to successfully live longer lives. For example, the Stanford Center on Longevity, with the support of the Annenberg Foundation, is creating a "New Map of Life," a concept they've trademarked, which the Center describes as follows:

Stanford Center on Longevity’s New Map of Life™ initiative aims to envision a society that supports people to live secure and high-quality lives for a century or more. This new initiative will research and define new models for education and lifelong learning, redesign how we work, advise new policies for health care, housing, the environment and financial security, and promote more intergenerational partnerships. It will also advance a new narrative, which redefines what it means to be “old” and values people at different stages of life. Media outlets, advertisers and the entertainment industry will play an important role in this effort by sharing stories and creating new imagery and content about longevity and aging.

This ambitious initiative consists of three main components: a Research Fellows Program, a Communications Campaign and a Global Agenda. The New Map of Life is guided by six principles, each represented by the letters N-E-W-M-A-P:

  1. New roles and opportunities must be created so that people experience purpose, belonging, and worth at all stages of life
  2. Education is a lifelong pursuit
  3. Working longer will occur in multigenerational contexts
  4. Money. Opportunities to earn and save must be available throughout life to ensure financial security
  5. Advances in the science of aging must be distributed broadly in the population
  6. Physical health and the prevention of disease is critical to achieving the promise of longevity.

The New Map of Life is an excellent example of the kind of broad strategic thinking necessary to address the impact of human longevity on our society. In 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the country's 90-and-older population tripled over the past three decades. Over the next thirty years, this population is projected to more than quadruple.

When it comes to living into the ninth and even tenth decade of life, Boomers are the cutting edge generation. A 65-year old woman today in the U.S. has an average life expectancy of close to 87 years. Given the above statistics, this is probably a conservative projection; good health could easily extend one's life well into the 90s or beyond. Boomers need to be physically, mentally and financially prepared for a second act that could potentially last decades beyond 65, formerly considered the traditional retirement age.

Image: Stanford Center on Longevity is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog

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Where Have All the Boomers Gone?

No-identity-1755089_1920The pandemic that laid waste to the American economy has led to an interesting paradox: Well-off Boomers started to disappear from the workforce not because they lost their jobs, but because they wanted to leave their jobs.

As I've mentioned in the past, the number of Boomers who retired in 2020 increased dramatically. In the third quarter of 2020, 3.2 million more Boomers retired than in the third quarter of 2019, according to the Pew Research Center. In Q3 2020, 28.6 million Boomers said they were now retired. A substantial number of Boomer retirees felt the detrimental impact of the pandemic. These unlucky working Boomers found that their employers were effectively using the economic downturn as a means of practicing ageism. Boomers were typically the first ones to get the axe when belts needed tightening as employers exhibited a preference for younger, less expensive staff.

Still, a different slice of the Boomer demographic has seen something of a silver lining in the pandemic. As reported by, according to Bloomberg, 2.7 million Americans age 55-plus have said that "Covid-19 fatigue" is causing them to consider leaving the workforce earlier than they had planned. This group -- mostly affluent white Americans -- is well-heeled enough to think about calling it quits. Returning to an office after more than a year of telecommuting may just be more than some of these Boomers can handle. They're following a "life is short" philosophy. In the story, one 58-year old "said he found himself spending more time about pursuing his other passions — including volunteering at the Salvation Army — and that staying home last year only reinforced his desire to leave."

Interestingly, Boomers may have really benefited financially during the pandemic recession because of a dramatic increase in the value of homes and stock shares. According to, "Assets for Americans between the ages of 55 and 69 reportedly spiked by $4.2 trillion last year, including a $2.2 trillion increase in corporate equities and mutual fund shares and a $250 billion uptick in the value of private businesses."

Boomers who have decided to exit the workforce permanently creates another problem: a labor shortage. Employers simply cannot fill open positions. Isn't it ironic that those employers who previously discriminated against Boomers because of their age may now actually be desperate to hire them.

Editor's Note: This post has generated several comments, which can be found in the "Comments" section below the post. I have also included two of them here:

Such an interesting article! My husband is 62 next month and one those boomers who is dreaming of retirement. After going through the pandemic and a booming construction business that has him drowning in work as a surveyor, he has had enough. I don’t know if it’s in the immediate future, but we’re working toward that goal. - Julie Gorges

As always, another provocative blog post from Happily Rewired. Of particular interest is the ironic twist in the last paragraph observing that previously youth age-biased employers “may now actually be desperate to hire” senior candidates. It is worth noting that the impact of the pandemic, aside from the economic effect on the general population, has also driven cultural transformation raising the value of older people. Fredrick "Rick" Manning,

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