Musings

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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Read about the brands you loved as a kid in the book, BOOMER BRANDS


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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Read about the brands you loved as a kid in the book, BOOMER BRANDS

 


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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Read about the brands you loved as a kid in the book, BOOMER BRANDS

 


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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Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?


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?


Deciding What to Do Next

Musings Screen Shot 2019-05-16 at 11.23.50 AMWhether you call it retirement, "rewiring," or your "second act," if you're over 65, you may be thinking, "What's next?" This is a particularly vexing question as it relates to a long career centered on a particular industry or discipline, but it is just as profound when you consider potential life choices. Your second act may not be just about what you do with your time -- it may also involve where you do it and with whom.

That's why I think it makes a lot of sense to start thinking about life's next stage even before you get there. My colleague Nancy Collamer, a "second act" coach, has some great advice to help you navigate new territory. She advises the following:

  1. Complete a self-assessment.
  2. Use a decision-making tool.
  3. Talk to people.
  4. Write things down. Take walks. Repeat.
  5. Try things out.

This is smart counsel, delivered in a logical sequence. The self-assessment will help you identify "what you want, what you do well and what you find meaningful." A decision-making tool will guide you in determining which of the options available you should pursue. Talking to advisors and friends comes next, because "they will challenge your assumptions, support your decisions and connect you with key resources or people that could prove invaluable when making your final analysis." Then you should put it in writing -- think about what you wrote down -- and refine it. According to Collamer, "it’s amazing how the act of writing brings a level of clarity to the decision making process that is impossible to achieve by keeping your thoughts in your head." Finally, just do it -- "you’ll never make up your mind about a career move until you start trying things out in small ways," writes Collamer.

Nancy Collamer offers additional guidance, as well as links to helpful resources in her article. Read it here: https://www.mylifestylecareer.com/how-to-choose-a-perfect-second-act-career/

Image: Stuart Miles, freedigitalphotos.net

Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?


The Fight Against Ageism

Musings Woman-208723_1920I've written a number of blog posts about ageism and its impact on Boomers. Ageism happens in both obvious and subtle ways. The older you get, the more you may notice that you feel either overlooked by society or even invisible in their eyes. You are not being paranoid. The messages and signals that surround you are incontrovertible.

  • Younger people may be dismissive.
  • Retail store clerks may call you "honey" or "dear."
  • People demonstrate impatience and frustration if you seem to have trouble hearing or understanding them.
  • Finding clothes to fit your older body is challenging.
  • Advertising on television is largely geared to the young, and those ads that include "gray hairs" are inevitably pitching drugs for serious ailments.
  • Your employer thinks nothing of letting you go because of your age, despite your years of service, experience and expertise.

According to an article in Business Insider, three million older workers can't find high-paying jobs because of ageism.

These kinds of indignities are suffered on a daily basis by those over the not-so-old age of 65. It's ageism, and it's discriminatory.

We need more people, organizations, and politicians fighting against ageism. I've mentioned an organization called Respectful Exits in the past. Respectful Exits works with employers to change the view of older employees by instituting a "Longevity Agenda." AARP offers a special section on its website called "Working at 50+" that has information for older workers.

You should definitely check out a new ageism clearinghouse started by Ashton Applewhite, an anti-ageism activist. It's called Old School and it is a free ageism resource center with tools, books, blogs, podcasts and more.

Boomers are some 74 million strong. The more we all speak out against ageism, the more our society will begin to respect us. Everyone gets older -- and ageism will happen to all of them someday if we don't stop it now!

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Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?


Is "Early Retirement" a Myth?

Musings Baby-boomer-442252_1920
Early retirement -- generally defined as retiring from the traditional workplace before the retirement age of 65 -- is an idyllic-sounding notion. For most Boomers, it is also next to impossible. Sure, you'll read about those senior executives or business owners who have managed to amass enough wealth in their forties, fifties or early sixties to contemplate leaving the workplace behind. It happens -- but rarely.

Still, is early retirement a myth? Well, not necessarily. Part of it depends on exactly how you define "retirement." It may not mean stopping work altogether, but instead changing your way or working, or even your perception of work. You could, in fact, retire early from one career and start an entirely new career. Or you could find a creative way to retire early from your current job and patch together a variety of stimulating opportunities that still provide a reasonable income. The fact is, retiring early may be a realistic goal for you -- but one that cannot be achieved without a really good handle on your financial situation.

Writing for The Balance, Rebecca Lake identifies "six signs" that are legitimate indicators you may very well be in a position to retire early. They are:

  1. You're Debt Free
  2. You've Estimated Your Retirement Needs
  3. You've Saved for Retirement in Multiple Pots
  4. You've Covered Your Insurance Gaps
  5. Your Children Don't Rely on You Financially
  6. You're in a Retirement Frame of Mind

Read Rebecca's article for some valuable insight into each of these signs. You may not see all of them in your own situation, but each is worthy of some careful thought before leaping into the potential abyss of retirement.

Fortunately, I saw enough of these signs to consider early retirement. My wife and I were both marketing professionals. I owned a direct marketing agency. We decided to retire from our careers in our late fifties. We combined early retirement with a relocation from the expensive Northeast to the less expensive South. At the same time our daughter went to college -- we saved for that during our working years.

When we relocated, we decided to start a small service business together, ran it for seven years, and then sold it. It kept us busy and generated an income that was supplemented by retirement savings. Starting to draw Social Security at full retirement age helped us financially, as did going onto Medicare at age 65. Now, I'm a part-time writer, and my wife volunteers and is a caretaker for her mother. We never viewed "retirement" in the traditional sense -- to us, it was more about going through phases of life. Some would certainly define what we did as retiring early, while others might say we just transitioned into doing something different.

Retiring early may or may not be for you -- but it's really about how each of us defines the concept of early retirement.

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Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?


The Looming Retirement Crisis

MusingsNowadays, it's much easier to imagine retirement than it is to actually retire. You've probably seen the sobering statistics about Boomers who have no choice but to continue to work for years beyond the traditional retirement age. Many Boomers have not saved enough to comfortably support themselves into their 80s or even 90s. Life expectancy is increasing, even as vehicles for retirement savings have either dried up or remained stagnant.

A recent survey by Lexington Law indicated that 24 percent of seniors said their biggest regret was not saving and investing sooner. The other most common regret is taking on too much credit card debt. A separate poll by the firm revealed two shocking statistics: 70 percent of respondents did not know the age at which Social Security benefits begin, and less than half know how much of their earnings they should be contributing to retirement savings.

In the past, pensions were a legitimate source of retirement savings. In 1998, for example, an estimated 60 percent of employees were covered by company pension plans. Today, pension plans barely exist. Instead, Boomers have had to self-fund retirement savings, and they do receive help from their employers through matching contributions to 401(k) plans. Thankfully, the majority of companies do offer some type of defined benefit retirement plan such as a 401(k), but it is the employee who shoulders the bulk of the financial responsibility.

Typically, the other main source of retirement income is attributed to Social Security. The money you put into Social Security over your employed years does come back to you in some form, of course. Most financial experts agree, however, that it is best to hold off on collecting as long as possible, certainly until your full retirement age (which varies based on your birth year), if not until age 70, when you collect the maximum amount. Some Boomers are sorely disappointed when they realize that Social Security payments are not nearly what they need to live on in retirement.

With no pensions, modest 401(k)s or other retirement savings plans, and Social Security that barely keeps up with living expenses, there is a looming retirement crisis in our country. Boomers who have not by now set aside sufficient retirement funds will be thrown head first into this crisis when they stop earning income. There is a glimmer of hope that the job market will continue to be favorable toward Boomers, at least on a part-time basis, but there is no long-term guarantee that jobs will be available to aging Americans. This may be one reason a fairly high percentage of Boomers start their own businesses or find freelance work rather than compete in the traditional job market.

The oldest Boomers are already approaching their mid-70s. How financially secure are they? The youngest Boomers will be 60 in just five years. Do they have a financial plan for retirement? These are challenging questions to ponder. 

Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?


The Failure of Knowledge Transfer in American Business

MusingsIf the headline of this post sounds ominous, it is meant to be just that. It's a sad fact that American business in general is failing at the transfer of knowledge from its departing employees. Writing for Next Avenue, Richard Eisenberg puts the situation into perspective: "4 million boomers a year leave the workforce and boomers comprise 31 percent of workers; 56 percent of retiring boomers are in leadership positions. That’s a lot of knowledge to go pfffft."

A survey of workers between the ages of 54 and 72, conducted by The Harris Poll for recruiting firm Express Employment Professionals, tells a dreary story. The majority of boomer workers (57 percent) "say they have shared half or less of the knowledge needed to perform their job responsibilities with those who will assume those responsibilities after they retire," even though 81 percent of boomer workers "are overwhelmingly willing to mentor the next generation." In addition, "only 44 percent say their company has an adequate successor in place for when they retire, and 30 percent feel their companies may lose key client relationships if they retire." While employers might greatly benefit from retaining boomer workers on a part-time basis, "only 20 percent of working boomers say their employer offers 'semi-retirement' options."

Bill Stoller, CEO of Express Employment Professionals, told Richard Eisenberg, “Such a poor transfer of knowledge was surprising to us. You’ve got to have a process in place to have someone follow in the footsteps of someone retiring. It doesn’t appear companies are thinking about that.” Paul Rupert, founder of Respectful Exits, added, “What is described as the systematic failure of companies to mine their pre-retirees for critical knowledge and intellectual property is part of a general failure to appreciate the value of who and what is walking out the door of today’s knowledge-based employers.”

Results from another survey conducted by Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies indicated that "only 4 percent of retirees said their employers encouraged employees to participate in succession planning, training and mentoring," according to Eisenberg.

Many American companies are literally throwing out valuable knowledge when boomer employees retire. In fairness, not all businesses are so short-sighted; a handful of them have knowledge transfer programs of some sort, such as phased retirement or mentoring. Still, the vast majority of firms simply don't have a mechanism for retiring employees to impart what they know to the employees who replace them.

Why? Is this part of the age discrimination that we all know impacts boomers? Would employers just like to have boomers exit as quickly and quietly as possible? Are they really so obtuse as to not realize that retiring boomers have a wealth of knowledge that would help facilitate a transition to a successor?

Whatever the reasons, it really makes no sense to discard intellectual capital that a company invested in over many years.

Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?