On a Whim

Closing the Generation Gap to Combat Ageism

1765_093ecb42e2f795cOne of the persistent realities of ageism is the obvious schism between old and young. Aging boomers are sometimes confronted with reactions from younger generations that are insulting (sometimes unwittingly) if not rude. A common example is when a younger associate at a retail store calls an older customer "dear" or "honey." On the other side, older people might scoff at what they perceive to be the "laziness" of younger generations.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an important way to combat ageism is by closing the generation gap or, in their language, to utilize "intergenerational practice." This concept consists of  engaging old and young generations in "mutually beneficial activities that promote greater understanding and respect."

Here are the "seven levels of intergenerational contact" offered by the organization as starting points. These levels increase in intensity, but any can be an appropriate place to start closing the generation gap, promoting better understanding between older and  younger generations, and contribute to the reduction of ageism.

  1. Learn about the age group
    Participants discuss "age" in relation to another generation, explore aspects of the lives of that age group and express their views, perceptions and assumptions
  2. Seeing the other age group but at a distance
    Younger and older people learn about the other age group and connect positively, with no face-to-face contact
  3. Meeting each other
    Younger and older people meet for the first time but not as part of a structured intergenerational activity
  4. Annual or periodic activities
    Annual or regular meetings organized as part of established events in a local community or an organizational celebration, such as "World Children's Day"
  5. Demonstration projects
    Regular meetings and shared activities to promote the formation of relationships, with dialogue, sharing and learning among different age groups
  6. Regular intergenerational programs
    Programs that have been demonstrated to be successful or valuable from the perspective of the participants, integrated into their general activities and maintained as part of working practices and approaches
  7. Intergenerational community settings
    The values of intergenerational interaction are introduced into the planning, development and functioning of communities.

WHO has published a free comprehensive "Connecting Generations" guide that offers a wealth of information about intergenerational practice. You can get it here.

Image from Agewithoutlimits.org

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Out of Work... and Loving It

Pexels-thuongnguyen-14772095Here's a side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic unrelated to hospitalizations and deaths that is just as statistically significant: Baby Boomers have been leaving the job market with no plans to return.

Between the end of the 2008 recession and the start of the pandemic, the U.S. labor force increased by almost 10 million people, and workers 55 and older made up nearly 98 percent of that growth. Boomers were clearly bullish on the job market.

That was then and this is now. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers age 65 and older were 26 percent of the labor participation rate in February 2020, but that had dropped to 22.7 percent in July 2021. In November 2022, it was 23.5 percent.

A recent article in The New York Times suggests that of the 3.5 million currently missing from the labor force, "roughly two million, have simply retired." The article goes on to state:

"Among Americans ages 18 to 64, the labor force participation rate — the share of people working or actively looking for work — has largely rebounded to early 2020 levels. Among those 65 and up, on the other hand, participation lags well below its prepandemic level, the equivalent of a decline of about 900,000 people. That has helped to keep overall participation steadily lower than it was in 2020.

...the pandemic seems to have nudged people who might otherwise have labored through a few more years over the cusp and into retirement."

So what are all of these newly "retired" Boomers doing? Some are working part-time for employers. Some have started their own businesses. Others are volunteering. Others may be drawing on Social Security and retirement savings, kicking back and enjoying a work-free life. Or -- some combination thereof.

 It is likely COVID-19 played a role in changing the perspective of Boomers, some of whom may have seen the pandemic as a wakeup call that life is even more fleeting than they thought -- so why spend it working? It could also be that some Boomers were fed up with the relentless ageism they encountered in the workplace. Those Boomers who could afford not to work at full-time jobs apparently decided to leave the workforce.

Whatever their motivation, the mass exit of Boomers from the U.S. labor market is a dramatic reversal of a long-time trend -- and it's a reality that has not gone unnoticed.

Photo by Thuong.Nguyen.97, pexels.com 

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5 People Who Made A Difference After Age 50

History is packed with stories of individuals who made society a better place after they turned 50. Many of those individuals continue to strive to better their communities - and the world - each and every day.

Courtesy of MedicareInsurance.com,  here are five outstanding people who made a difference after age 50.

5. Jimmy Carter

JimmyCarterPortrait2President Jimmy Carter has spent the majority of his life working to make a difference in the world. However, he’s best known for his public service outside of office. Especially the work he’s done with Habitat for Humanity.

In 1986, at the age of 62, President Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, established the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project. What started with President and Rosalynn Carter working with Habitat for Humanity volunteers to renovate a run-down apartment building has grown into an annual program that’s helped thousands of families in fourteen countries.

At age 98, President Carter still volunteers his time to the JRCWP to help Habitat volunteers build safe shelters for families in need.

4. Nelson Mandela

Nelson_Mandela-2008_(edit)_(cropped)Nelson Mandela spent the vast majority of his life working to end the vile apartheid movement in South Africa. It was as he entered his 70s that he would do his greatest work.

In 1991, Mandela became a key part of the Convention for a Democratic South America, helping broker the negotiations that would end the dark era of apartheid in South Africa. After being elected President in 1994, he ushered in a long-awaited reconciliation between the Black and white populations of South Africa.

Even after leaving office, President Mandela continued to champion for human rights around the world. Through his Nelson Mandela Foundation, he also continued to work to improve living conditions in his native South Africa.

3. Mel Brooks

MelBrooksApr10Mel Brooks is the comic genius behind such legendary films as Young Frankenstein, The Producers, and Blazing Saddles. What you may not know is that he has long championed the visions of younger artists as a producer. The kicker is that, ever the late bloomer, Brooks didn’t earn his reputation as a “producer on the cutting edge” until he was well in his 50s!

Brooks would start his "Brooksfilms" imprint in 1980 at the age of 56. This gave him a platform to bolster the works of auteurs whose art may have never been seen by a wider audience if not for him. In essence, Brooks showed audiences that “Old Hollywood” could still have their finger on the pulse of what was considered cutting edge.

2. Katherine Johnson

Katherine_Johnson_1983After the release of the hit film Hidden Figures, the work of NASA engineer Katherine Johnson reached a wider audience than ever. Even in the wake of the 2016 film, however, this groundbreaking scientist astill has yet to receive the recognition and accolades that she truly deserves.

Johnson’s success in her field showed women of color that their achievements had no ceiling. Her numerous achievements in her field have inspired young women everywhere to enter the once-considered “off limits” fields of science and technology.

1. Maya Angelou

Maya_Angelou_(47327455761)The late, great Maya Angelou overcame a tormented past to blaze trails for people of color in the fields of writing and art. Her poetry and prose, designed to help her confront the worst parts of her life, heavily influenced numerous hip-hop artists and writers of color.

Angelou’s work and never-ending advocacy for peace and healing made her an often-called-upon speaker to advocate for those who wished to further work in civil rights and reformations in the justice system. As a result, her words have played a huge role in the never-ending battle to reform human rights in the United States.

Hopefully, this goes to show you that you’re never too old to be the change you want to see in the world. That change starts with you.

This post was provided by MedicareInsurance.com. A quality Medicare plan can keep you healthy in mind and body, and MedicareInsurance.com can help you find one in your area. You can reach one of their licensed agents at (800) 950-0608 to discover your options.

Photo credits:
Jimmy Carter: DOD, Department of the Navy. Naval Photographic Center, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Nelson Mandela: Johannesburg, South Africa, 2008. CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Mel Brooks: Angela George, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Katherine Johnson: NASA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Maya Angelou: John Mathew Smith & www.celebrity-photos.com from Laurel  Maryland, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Are You Doing the Math?

Calculation-g7af13b738_1920Boomers may have learned mathematics in school, but as we age, some of us may be forgetting the basics. Here are several retirement statistics from Annuity.org you may find unsettling if not downright startling:

  • 48% of workers believe they don't make enough money to adequately save for retirement
  • 43% of workers guess how much they need to retire, rather than base it on current expenses
  • 33% of women have no retirement strategy
  • 22% of all Americans have less than $5,000 saved for retirement; 15% have no retirement savings at all
  • Only 56% of workers were enrolled in a workplace retirement plan in 2021
  • 73% of non-retirees are worried they won't receive any Social Security benefits by the time they retire.

These statistics suggest that some Boomers are financially unprepared for retirement. As we have progressed in life, other pressing financial needs (buying a home, paying for a child's higher education, supporting other family members, etc.) may have taken priority over funding our retirement. With so many Boomers reaching retirement age, however, we are being faced with a difficult challenge: Will we outlive our money?

It's a legitimate concern with life expectancy for most Boomers beyond the traditional 65-year old retirement age. Our parents may have been fortunate enough to work for companies, schools systems or governments that provided valuable retirement income via pensions, but pensions today are virtually non-existent. Company 401k and personal IRAs have replaced pensions as the only non-Social Security retirement income available to most people.

As a result, today the burden of saving for retirement has shifted entirely to individuals. We can legitimately assume that Social Security alone will not be adequate to fund a comfortable lifestyle during our golden years. This is one major reason that 55% of workers plan to work in retirement. Some Boomers are likely to work in one way or another well into their later years.

In a post on the Life After Work Zone blog, Brian Feutz cites additional key statistics from the Federal Reserve about assets, income and debt among retirement households. Feutz also shares some fundamental tips, including:

  • Save aggressively and spend wisely
  • Keep your debt to a minimum and keep paying it off
  • Maximize your savings and income everywhere you can.

Inevitably, many Boomers will see their working income decline or disappear in later years. If they don't have adequate retirement savings, their future could be in jeopardy. They'll need to draw on those retirement savings, in combination with Social Security payments, to live comfortably. At the same time, they'll have to manage expenses to live within their means. 

A financial adviser can certainly help us with investments, but ultimately, it's up to all of us to take personal responsibility for tracking income and expenses -- budgeting so that we don't outlive our assets. It basically comes down to making sure we're doing the math.

Image: Pixabay.com

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Discover How World War II Helped Launch "Boomer Brands"

How to "Reframe Aging"

Picture-frame-755804Bias against older people, or ageism, is a societal ill. It is prevalent in the workplace and in everyday life. Some of it is the result of implicit bias -- a phenomenon that obscures self-awareness. According to the non-profit Project Implicit, "People don’t always say what’s on their minds. One reason is that they are unwilling. ...The difference between being unwilling and unable is the difference between purposely hiding something from someone and unknowingly hiding something from yourself."

Whether ageism is implicit or explicit, people over age 55 experience it in both subtle and obvious ways. What can we do about that? One strategy is to engage in a process known as "reframing." The Reframing Aging Initiative offers a wealth of information and resources to facilitate the process. Funders of the first phase of the initiative included AARP, Endowment for Health and The Retirement Research Foundation. Here is a brief description of the initiative's mission:

"The Reframing Aging Initiative is a long-term social change endeavor designed to improve the public’s understanding of what aging means and the many ways that older people contribute to our society. This greater understanding will counter ageism and guide our nation’s approach to ensuring supportive policies and programs for us all as we move through the life course."

One of the initiative's communications tools, "You Say, They Think," is an eye-opening glimpse at some misunderstandings and ignorance about aging. For example, when an aging expert says, "Ageism must be treated as a serious social issue so that older people can participate fully as workers and citizens," some listeners may think, "Ageism? Is that a real thing?" The responsibility of the aging expert is to respond appropriately, following guidelines such as these:

- Use the value Justice to prime people to think about our cultural commitment to equality for everyone.
- Define “implicit bias.” Research shows that simply explaining what it is and how it works can be effective in reducing people’s bias against older people.
- Offer an explanatory example, like workplace discrimination, to show how ageism works and how it affects us all.
- Share specific Solutions to expand people’s thinking about what can be done.

I offer this example from the Reframing Aging initiative not in an attempt to turn all of us into aging experts, but rather to illustrate the importance of addressing ageism when each of us personally faces age discrimination.

The social justice movements we witnessed and may have participated in growing up -- whether it was civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, etc. -- identified and exposed inequities that existed for a long time. While we as a society have not solved all of these inequities, such movements succeeded in raising the level of consciousness and bringing important issues to the forefront. Perhaps we, too, need a movement to identify and expose ageism. I like to think that each of us can play a role in making that happen.

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Discover How World War II Helped Launch "Boomer Brands"


A Few Major Takeaways from the "2021 Century Summit"

Screen Shot 2022-01-13 at 2.01.02 PMIn early December, I attended sessions from the online "2021 Century Summit," which was convened by the Longevity Project in collaboration with the Stanford Center on Longevity. One of the topics covered was "The New Map of Life," which I discussed in a previous post. Now I want to share some major takeaways from the Century Summit that I think will have a major bearing on how we Boomers face the future.

Dealing with longevity
One key issue raised numerous times was increasing longevity. According to one speaker, when you consider the average 65-year old couple, one of them has a 50 percent chance of living to age 93. While 50 percent of people say they want to live to 100, 60 percent say they are more fearful of outliving their assets than they are of death. Living longer has a significant impact on how nations around the world deal with aging populations, and it will undoubtedly affect social safety nets and programs for the elderly in the future. On an individual basis, as many Boomers anticipate living longer, their major concerns will revolve around health and financial security. Boomers will be challenged to not just get to retirement but to live through retirement.

Flexible work life
Close to 70 percent of older people say they want to continue to work. Some Boomers will have to work almost indefinitely because of financial needs. Even those who believe they are financially secure may want to continue working to lead purposeful lives. The result is a whole new definition of work life. Many Boomers want to weave together work, education, volunteering and leisure into a more flexible work life. They will have to find ways to restructure their lives to live differently from before. One positive development is that employers are currently so anxious to find workers that they could be willing to hire older workers on a flexible part-time basis. An increasing number of employers also recognize that inclusive and diverse workplaces are better, and that older workers are statistically proven to stay longer and take less time off than younger workers. Another positive development is that Americans over age 55 are driving the establishment of small businesses.

Aging at home
Over 80 percent of older Americans own a home and a significant number of them intend to stay in their current homes and "age in place." The reality, however, may demand thinking differently. Boomers who have lived in the same house for decades may find existing stairs too difficult to navigate, empty rooms inefficient and an accumulation of material possessions unnecessary. That could make downsizing attractive. Some new ways of accommodating an aging population are in development and more are coming in the future. One speaker discussed the growing demand for non-age segregated communities that promote intergenerational living. For example, some retirement communities are set up on or near college campuses and others are adjacent to daycare centers. Expect this trend to continue.

The above are just a handful of observations from this eye-opening summit. The link below provides access to recordings of all of the sessions held at the 2021 Century Summit.


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Discover How World War II Helped Launch "Boomer Brands"

"I Know I Should, But..."

Brett-jordan-vFGKWON91Bc-unsplashThere is an interesting human trait in many of us, and it seems to grow more pronounced as we age. It's the idea of Intention vs. Action, which I like to think of as "I know I should, but..." A few examples related to Boomers may be appropriate to illustrate the concept.

Recently, financial services firm Edward Jones updated its landmark study, "The Four Pillars of the New Retirement." In reporting the results, the firm stated the following (with my parenthetical editorial comments in italics):

...the impacts of the pandemic resulted in nearly 50 million Americans halting or reducing contributions to retirement savings. An additional 38 million withdrew money from retirement savings. Yet at the same time, retirement savings boosted for others as 59 million Americans began contributing more to their retirement savings. (It appears that the pandemic actually closed the gap between intention and action for those who knew they should contribute more to retirement but didn't do it until an extraordinary event made them realize they should.)

The study illuminated the gap between intention and action as a majority of Americans ages 50+ (71%) believe having a will in place is the most important action to take before someone dies, yet only 49% actually have a will. Further, only 19% of adults 50+ have all three essential end-of-life documents in place: a will, health care directive/living will and designated power of attorney. (Hundreds of thousands of deaths from a virus make you think about your mortality. Still, it is fascinating and a bit disconcerting that a large majority of Boomers know they need a will, yet less than half of them actually have one.)

I think it is safe to say this same Intention vs. Action mentality is pervasive in our daily lives. Maybe some of these statements will resonate with you:

  • "I know I should eat healthier, but it's a pain in the neck to change my diet right now."
  • "I know I should exercise more, but I'm just too busy (or too tired, or whatever)."
  • "I know I should get rid of all that junk in the basement (or attic, or wherever), but I'll get around to it some day."

I'm sure you can think of many other examples. The idea is that our intentions may be noble, but our execution leaves something to be desired. You could characterize this as procrastination or perhaps negative inertia. It's probably the same feeling you have when you ponder that chore we all dread -- doing your taxes by April 15. Personally, I'm reminded of a silly little round piece of wood I saw in a joke shop years ago with words stamped on it that read, "Round Tuit."

At the risk of sounding preachy, Boomers need to reckon with the fact that we are in the second half of our lives -- a time when action on any number of things becomes more important than it was when we were younger. I truly believe all of us have good intentions. The real question is whether we have the will to convert our good intentions into actions... before we run out of time.

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Image by Brett Jordan on Unsplash



New Book Shows How World War II Helped Launch "Boomer Brands"

Demanding the Treatment We Deserve


I've often written about age discrimination in the workplace, but there is another area in which ageism can literally be a life or death situation: Health care.

A disturbing article on NextAvenue.org highlights the problem. Janine Vanderburg, founder and director of a nonprofit initiative called Changing the Narrative, tells NextAvenue, "We know we live in an age of unconscious bias, and people who work in health care aren't immune to that." Vanderburg notes that a study in the Journal of Internal Medicine found nearly a third of older adults said they frequently experience age discrimination from doctors or hospitals. For example, doctors and nurses can be patronizing or insensitive, and hospital staff will sometimes order unnecessary tests just because patients are older.

Recently, my wife experienced first-hand what could easily be perceived as health care ageism. Her 98-year old mother, who is on oxygen, was gasping for air and was brought to a hospital emergency room, where my wife waited with her. After a quick assessment that the condition was not life threatening, hospital staff completed an entire battery of tests -- EKG, blood work, chest x-ray and COVID-19 test -- and then left the elderly woman laying on a stretcher in the hallway for hours. They even had to repeat the EKG and take more blood because of technical problems. Staff walked by her as if she was invisible. My wife had to ask for a pillow and a blanket because her mom was so uncomfortable. Maybe this same shoddy treatment would have been given to anyone in the emergency room (which of course is inexcusable), but one has to wonder if ageism played some role in it. The diagnosis was pneumonia, which the chest x-ray alone could have revealed.

Yale University professor Becca R. Levy, who conducted research on the impact of ageism on health care costs, tells NextAvenue, "During the pandemic, there were certainly issues that exacerbated ageism in health care, particularly in the long-term care setting — with the high number of deaths in the first months of the pandemic that were due, in part, to the inadequate protective equipment and inadequate protections given to the workers and the residents."

Unfortunately, health care ageism rears its ugly head so frequently that older patients may end up feeling inadequate or they blame themselves. According to Professor Levy, "Part of the reason it's so insidious is that people don't even realize that they're experiencing it and they tend to blame it on themselves instead of discrimination or the larger systemic problem of not getting the best possible health care for older people."

So why am I telling you all this? Very simply, because you and I are aging too. It won't be that long before we face ageism from our doctors, hospitals or other health care providers -- if we haven't already. Instead of accepting it, says Vanderberg, "we need to advocate for ourselves." While we don't have to be jerks about it, that means demanding the treatment we deserve from health care professionals. 

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Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay

New Book Shows How World War II Helped Launch "Boomer Brands"

Boomers on FIRE

Mohamed-nohassi-UKX_DwNKXSA-unsplashThe title may sound like a bunch of older Americans in the Western part of the country fleeing current forest fires -- but this blog post is about a different kind of F-I-R-E: "Financial Independence, Retire Early." The FIRE movement gained traction with the under-50 set as a way to retire as early as possible by accumulating enough savings to fund a potential 50-year retirement. But the pandemic has cooled the interest in FIRE in one way and created a new class of adherents in another way.

One of the tenets often viewed as a cornerstone of retirement planning and part of the FIRE movement is the "4 percent rule." Here is a simple explanation of the rule from investment management firm Charles Schwab:

You add up all of your investments, and withdraw 4% of that total during your first year of retirement. In subsequent years, you adjust the dollar amount you withdraw to account for inflation. By following this formula, you should have a very high probability of not outliving your money during a 30-year retirement according to the rule.

This rule seems quite adequate for a 30-year retirement but much riskier for a 50-year retirement. According to mutual funds giant Vanguard, applying the 4 percent rule results in an 18 percent chance of running out of money at the end of thirty years, but there's a 64 percent of running out of money in fifty years. The fact is Boomers on FIRE could be more successful in sustaining their financial independence in retirement than younger generations on FIRE. Basically, if the 4 percent rule holds, the youngest Boomer at age 57 will probably not outlive her money in fifty years, but a 35-year old Millennial very well might.

A recent article in The New York Times suggests that, before the pandemic, Millennial FIRE enthusiasts aimed for frugality in an effort to retire as young as possible, but the pandemic is changing that thinking: "Now, most newcomers to the movement are less motivated by quitting and more interested in having choices — without sacrificing too many of life’s pleasures in the meantime. This objective also makes the movement more accessible; early retirement is just not possible for most Americans."

It turns out that the pandemic may have recalibrated the expectations of those younger workers who were on FIRE. Thirty-eight year old Jamila Souffrant of the website/podcast "Journey to Launch" told The New York Times, "“I think a lot more people would have stepped back from work during the pandemic if they had the means to do so, especially if they had kids stuck at home or didn’t feel safe at their jobs. Financial independence is a privileged endeavor, and it’s not realistic for most people — they’ve got mouths to feed, and they might not even be making a living wage."

Boomers, on the other hand, have generally seen their retirement funds balloon thanks to the recent bullish stock market. As I wrote in my last post, retirees are for the most part optimistic and resilient, even when they retire early. Millions of Boomers have left the workforce during the pandemic, maybe because they are confident their financial independence is solid and their money will outlive them. That's a whole lot of Boomers on FIRE.

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

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Read about 156 best and worst brands of the 50s and 60s! 

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.

Image by pasja1000 from Pixabay

HappilyRewired.com is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog

Read about 156 best and worst brands of the 50s and 60s!