On a Whim

Higher Education at an Older Age

OnaWhimA common characteristic of Boomers is their desire to learn for enjoyment. Education seems to become all the more precious as we age; the popularity of adult education courses through such organizations as OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) is evidence of that fact.

Sometimes, though, higher education at an older age serves another more practical purpose: To learn new subjects and skills that are directly applicable to employment. There are obvious challenges in returning to college, but it is a route that is becoming far more common than you might think. The payback is in potentially making yourself a more attractive job candidate.

If you are considering going back to school for job-related purposes, you might want to check out this article:  "The Time is Now: Going Back to School at 50." Posted by Maryville College, which has helped pioneer online college courses, the article discusses reasons you might want to return to college, factors to take into consideration, and degrees and career paths that might be available to you. The article links to a "going back to school checklist" and also points to numerous additional resources. Check it out.

Creative Ways to Generate Part-Time Income

OnaWhimAs Boomers age, we may want to leave our full-time positions, but we are concerned about generating at least some income to supplement Social Security and retirement savings. On this blog, I've covered a number of ways Boomers can earn part-time income. Here is a handy list of seventeen part-time and creative possibilities, each of which is described in further detail in an article on the Entrepreneur website:

  1. Animal caretaker
  2. Tour guide
  3. Sharing economy "landlord"
  4. Market researcher and tester
  5. Temp
  6. Gardener
  7. Babysitter/caretaker
  8. Teacher/instructor
  9. Seller/consignor
  10. Tutor
  11. Online mock juror
  12. Independent consultant
  13. Home cook
  14. Mystery shopper
  15. Copy editor
  16. Movie or TV extra
  17. Transcriptionist

Read the entire article here: https://www.entrepreneur.com/slideshow/309408

Of Course You Can Start a Business

OnaWhimThere are many, many success stories of Boomers who have started a business.  My wife and I ran a small service business together after I left my professional career as an advertising executive. We used that business as a bridge from full-time work to part-time retirement. An unexpected bonus was that we were able to sell the business after seven years.

In an article on Business.com, Deborah Sweeney does a nice job of debunking three myths about starting a business when you're older:

  1. "I'm too old"
  2. "It's too risky to start a business"
  3. "I don't know where to find capital."

Regarding the first, Sweeney advises, "If you're passionate about a product or have a great vision for a service, don't let your age hold you back from getting started." As for the risk, she says you can start more slowly and cautiously before you launch a full-time venture. As for the third myth, imagine the trouble young entrepreneurs have finding capital -- it turns out that older start-up owners typically have better established credit and contacts.

Sweeney's article is encouraging -- as are the stories of Boomers who have made a successful go of it in their later years. Many Boomers, especially professionals, have a great deal to offer as independent business owners. Even if your business produces a modest income, it can be personally rewarding and at least supplement other sources of retirement income.

Is this your year to take the plunge? 

Work Alternatives for Boomers

OnaWhimIt is demoralizing being a Boomer with a legitimate skill set who is turned away from traditional employment. Too many Boomers are prematurely let go simply because they have become a financial liability to a company. Boomers, after all, typically must be paid higher salaries and their benefits are more expensive -- at least that is the rationale used to dump a Boomer. The Boomer's superior experience, demonstrated expertise, work record, and loyalty to the company suddenly become immaterial.

The Boomer in search of a new job is likely to face an uphill battle. Sure, there are plenty of "Help Wanted" signs on retail store and fast food chain windows, but that is a minimum-wage desperation move for many Boomers, not to mention a loss of dignity for some. Is it any wonder, then, that some Boomers give up on the traditional job market altogether?

That is one reason the "gig economy" is flourishing. Getting a gig is easier than getting a job. It requires a minimal commitment on the part of the listing company, who gets work for hire at a contract price without paying a salary, doling out benefits, or hassling with taxes and workman's compensation insurance. The level of commitment on the part of the "gigger" is equally low, although quality work executed on time is required to secure repeat engagements. Gigs may also be even more desirable in 2018 because of the new tax reform bill, which essentially rewards self-employed individuals.

Despite potential pitfalls, gigs seem to be a pretty good way for Boomers to generate part-time income. Gigs can be particularly attractive because you can work independently and set your own schedule. You may not make a ton of money, but gigs can provide solid supplemental income to retirement savings and Social Security payments.

Getting started with gigs is relatively easy. Here are two articles published by The Balance that will jump start your efforts:

Freelance Jobs You Can Work from Home

15 Side Jobs to Make Some Extra Money

Happy gigging!

Avoiding the Cash Crunch in Retirement

OnaWhimWhether you opt for part-time or full-time retirement, you'll realize very quickly that the lower your retirement income, the more you'll have to adjust your lifestyle. Americans are notorious for spending as much as, if not more than, they earn, which is why a majority of older Americans have simply not saved enough for retirement.

If you are not quite ready to retire but you're concerned about the adjustments it might mean to your lifestyle, one strategy you can follow is establishing a budget that constrains your expenses as if you're retired before you retire. The idea is to treat retirement as a kind of "test run," since your budget for expenses will ultimately have to mesh with retirement income that is likely to be quite a bit less than what you earn as a full-time employee. Living within a retirement budget before you actually retire could also give you some idea of what kinds of compromises you may have to make -- or what amount of income in addition to Social Security payments and retirement plan payouts you may have to earn if you want to maintain a certain lifestyle. One thing will probably be true for most retirees: your retirement budget will need to reflect the reality of reduced income.

Trey Smith offers a nice explanation of this strategy in an article he wrote for NextAvenue.org. For example, Smith discusses the need to isolate work-related expenses, which will be eliminated in retirement, and view all other expenses as personal expenses that can be adjusted. He also discusses expense areas that need special attention, such as car payments, housing costs, and travel. By carefully analyzing expenses and learning to live within a retirement-style budget while you're employed, Smith, says, "you’ll have a better understanding of whether you’ll need to make adjustments because you’ve seen what it’s like to live the retirement life."

Read the interesting reader comment below.

Can You Market Your Passion?

OnaWhimOnce we've reached Boomer status, many of us already realize what we're passionate about. The challenge in this second phase of life is being able to market your passion. Wouldn't it be great if you could actually turn your passion into part-time retirement income instead of working at a random, unrewarding job?

Nancy Collamer's recent article for NextAvenue.org, "How to Turn Your Passions Into Retirement Income," spotlights some Boomers who have done just that. One of them, a food lover, now works as a part-time guide for a food tour company. Another retiree who loves dogs gets dog walking jobs online. A third Boomer who has a passion for painting is selling his artwork online. Nancy suggests four possible ways to turn your passion into retirement income:

  1. Find a related part-time job
  2. Apply for contract work or "gigs"
  3. Sell your creations online
  4. Teach what you know online.

I can tell you from personal experience that marketing your passion works. During my professional career in advertising, I always loved to read business books. Now I've retired from advertising, but I still read business books -- and I also get paid for writing reviews of them. I have combined my love of reading and an ability to write into part-time retirement income.

What is your passion? Is it something you can market? You might be surprised to find out that you really can turn your passion into retirement income.

A Real Solution to Workplace Age Discrimination

OnaWhimAge discrimination in the workplace is a threat to Boomers in the United States, as I mentioned in my previous post. But in South Korea, age discrimination is so culturally ingrained that companies routinely force workers over 60 into retirement.

An enterprising Korean, Chung Eunsung, has come up with a terrific solution to rampant ageism: He started EverYoung, a technology company that practices a different kind of blatant discrimination: The company hires only workers who are 55 years of age and older, many of whom are former engineers and mathematicians. EverYoung's oldest employee is 83.

Chung told Tech Wire Asia, “I believe by employing seniors, we help to improve their quality of life and welfare. Korea is aging and the phenomenon is accelerating, so we believe their participation in our economy would, in fact, revitalize it, as well as breathe some life into the aging society.” The company requires its employees to take a 10-minute break every hour, and the work is performed in 4-hour shifts. Benefits include a stocked pantry, sofas and books in a break area, and use of a blood pressure machine.

Kim Seong-Kyu, a manager at EverYoung, said the company's older employees, unlike younger employees, are detail-oriented and they work diligently without being distracted. The employees monitor blog content, among other things. "They are full of passion," Kim said. "The time they have, and their interest in this work, are primarily why they come to work."

Just imagine if one or more American companies were able to follow such a model. It could revolutionize the way American business operates, solve senior unemployment, and change attitudes toward aging, all in one fell swoop. I'd love to see an American entrepreneur have the guts and wisdom to create an EverYoung look-alike in this country. Of course, the irony is that such a company here would probably be sued for discriminating against younger employees! Still, we can dream, can't we?

Resources for Seniors

OnaWhimHave you noticed that the number of online resources available for seniors has blossomed lately? It comes as no surprise -- Boomers are aging, they'll need all kinds of services, and information is free-flowing from service organizations and marketers who want to reach seniors. I've already mentioned one of the best resources from PBS, Next Avenue. (http://www.nextavenue.org/) Be sure to subscribe to their free email newsletter.

One of the newer resources is the website Senior Care Helper (http://seniorcarehelper.org/). Its mission is to be a resource for seniors and their caregivers. Especially for Happily Rewired readers, Susan Williams of Senior Care Helper was kind enough to share several links to valuable information for seniors about health, finances, aging in place, moving, and more. Check them out below.

Senior Health Resources

Boomer's Roadmap to Aging in Place

Moving Tips for Seniors

Financial Resources for Seniors

Planning for the Future for Seniors with Special Needs

The Fully Accessible Guide to Home Loans for People with Disabilities

Veterans Benefits for Seniors

Legal Planning for Alzheimer's and Dementia

Think Creatively about Supplementing Your Income

OnaWhimSome Boomers on the way to retirement want to earn supplemental income, but they aren't sure just how to do it. One way is to think creatively about how to leverage your experience and passions and turn them into income opportunities. For instance, I live in an area known for its arts and crafts community. An acquaintance of mine retired from the software business and always had an interest in woodcraft. He took some classes, practiced for awhile, and now sells wooden pens, pendants, and ornaments at local shows. Another retiree did the same thing with handcrafted jewelry.

Nancy Collamer, a wise coach who specializes in retirement careers, offers some creative ideas in an article published in the March 5th edition of Woman's World. She says the experience you gained in a previous work setting can be applied to a new role. "You may have been an office manager," says Nancy, "but what you really loved doing was organizing the company picnic every year. Maybe now you can work part-time as an event planner!"

Other ideas: Become a tour guide in your own city, rent out your driveway for parking if you live near an event venue, or even rent out yourself as a baby or pet sitter. And if you like to drive, there are services such as Uber and Lyft just for you. "Uber, for example, is making a concerted effort to hire people over 50 because they're seen as more reliable," says Collamer.

Collamer also suggests checking out websites that help you learn about and find new jobs, such as Fabjob.com ( a site that you can use as an idea starter to explore new career directions) and Flexjobs.com (a site that lists a wide variety of flexible, part-time positions).

Be sure to sign up for Nancy's excellent email "Second-Act Newsletter" at her website, MyLifestyleCareer.com.

Have You Discovered OLLI?

OnaWhimOne of the blessings of being retired is the time now available to you for educational pursuits of your own choosing. Most retirees no longer need to take courses to fulfill degree requirements; instead, they can take courses purely for enjoyment. If you're fortunate enough to live near an "OLLI," there is a whole world of educational opportunity available.

OLLI, or the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, is a program of the Bernard Osher Foundation, which provides post-secondary scholarship funding to colleges and universities. Currently, there are OLLIs operating on the campuses of 119 institutions of higher education around the country. You can find a list of these institutions here

The programs and courses offered by each OLLI vary based on the volunteers who participate. This is because the basic structure of an OLLI is for volunteers to teach the classes and work at various functions for the institute, while seniors who attend classes pay a generally reasonable membership fee and "tuition" to take a few courses per semester.

If you're thinking that these courses are traditional or boring, you couldn't be more wrong. Often, OLLI courses are an eclectic mix of subject material -- everything from issues of the day, to classic movies, to architecture unique to the area. It all depends on what volunteer instructors think up, and on what OLLI members suggest.

Getting involved in an OLLI in your area offers other benefits as well. In addition to courses, many OLLIs host meetings, presentations, workshops, and cultural and social events. OLLIs also provide volunteer activities. The colleges and universities with OLLIs on their campuses often allow senior students to take advantage of other campus perks, such as using the library and dining halls. OLLIs are a great way to connect with other seniors in your community, especially if you are new to the area.

Looking for a way to stay involved, informed, and invigorating? Maybe OLLI is for you.