On a Whim

Your "Second Act"

OnaWhim Hands-1345059_1920One of the more popular phrases around the retirement circuit is "second act." It's a euphemistic way of acknowledging that an individual, typically a Boomer, is leaving a profession, career or long-standing job to embark on a new path. That new path may be entering an entirely different career, starting a business, volunteering for an organization or some combination thereof. Sometimes, a second act happens by choice, but it often occurs when an individual loses his or her job and the curtain involuntarily comes down. Sadly, ageism plays a leading role in such instances.

The pandemic has hit Boomers particularly hard. According to Bloomberg, some two million workers age 55 and older have left the workforce since March 2020. While about 2.7 million jobs have been created for workers under the age of 55 since August 2020, only 28,000 jobs were created for workers over 55 during the same period.

That's one of the reasons second acts are increasingly common right now among Boomers. Many times it is your second act that imbues you with a new passion, invigorating you with vitality that may have been waning in your first act. For over two years, Andy Levine has been cataloging second acts through his podcast, "Second Act Stories." By analyzing the stories of his guests, Levine has identified five "themes of successful second act entrepreneurs" that are worthy of mention:

  1. "Find what feeds you"
  2. "A successful second act is rarely a straight line"
  3. "There are planners and there are leapers"
  4. "The rise of the reluctant-preneur"
  5. "You're never too old to make a change."

I highly recommend you read Levine's article about these themes at NextAvenue.org, but for purposes of this post, I'd like to concentrate on the first and last of his themes.

The first theme, "Find what feeds you," gets to the heart of what drives a second act. Not surprisingly, writes Levine, those second acts that achieve the most success "involve finding meaning and purpose." What's striking about a second act is it may involve a radical departure from a person's previous path. Often, a second act is built around a childhood passion or hobby. For example, one former software executive I know was creative and liked working with his hands. After he spent his first career on the corporate side, he learned to become a wood sculptor for his second act.

The last theme, "You're never too old to make a change," is perhaps the most obvious theme, but it is an important one. This theme reinforces the reality that age is nothing more than a state of mind. There are countless stories of people in their 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s beginning a second act.

You'll be well on your way to a satisfying second act if you embrace your passion and disregard your age.

Image: Image by John Hain from Pixabay

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Why You Should Treat Retirement Like a Small Business

Notebook-1850613_1920 OnaWhimMany Boomers are "retired," but those in the know don't think of it that way. Instead, they treat retirement as if it is a small business they run. Doing so is something Boomers either learn from running a business previously or from meeting with a financial adviser. Either way, it makes a lot of sense to treat retirement like a business. Here are some of the ways it will make a difference:

  • Manage income and expenses in retirement, just like a small business.
    Retirement income may be fixed (such as a monthly Social Security benefit) or variable (such as a Required Minimum Distribution from an IRA, or interest from investments). It is important to know how much income you receive on a monthly and annual basis and from which sources so you can support your lifestyle. Expenses should be itemized and managed monthly or quarterly so you know when bills are due and where you are spending your money. This will also be helpful in managing cash flow.

  • Do a projected budget each year.
    Owners of well-managed small businesses project their income and expenses annually (or sometimes more often) in the form of an operating budget. This is just as valuable an exercise for retirees. Projecting income and expenses for the next year based on current and previous years is a valuable lesson in fiscal responsibility. It allows you to compare income and expenses from one year to the next, look back historically at how income and expenses have changed, make necessary adjustments to the current year and make reasonable estimates of how much money is coming in and flowing out for the year.

  • Analyze expenses carefully.
    Wise business owners assess each and every expense category to determine where they can operate more efficiently. In retirement, you can do the same thing. Make your own list of expense categories and examine each one individually as part of your overall budget. Your mandatory expenses (rent, utilities, etc.) should be separated from discretionary expenses. If you use the above-mentioned budgeting process, you can start to hone in on expense categories that can be reduced or perhaps even eliminated. 

  • Build in contingencies.
    Experienced business owners realize that there could be unanticipated losses of income or unexpected expenses. The conservative way to plan for this is to build contingencies into a budget. In retirement, that means ensuring that you have adequate savings, an emergency fund or other financial vehicles such as equity lines available so you'll be prepared for something out of the ordinary. One of the largest expense areas in retirement tends to be health costs, so be sure to allocate contingency money for unanticipated medical needs.

These are just a few examples of ways in which you can treat retirement like a small business. If you've done any kind of personal budgeting, you're already off to a good start. Most of what I've described here can easily be done with spreadsheet software. It just takes a bit of time and financial discipline. If you are unfamiliar with basic accounting, there are plenty of sources available via a simple internet search. Numerous personal finance apps could be of assistance, and your financial adviser could also provide valuable guidance.

The end of the year is an ideal time to think ahead and set up a simple system so you can treat your retirement like a small business in 2021. 

Image by Pexels 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! 


Which Path Forward?

OnaWhim
Website-1166592_1920We are coming to the end of a year like no other. I suspect that most of us will be more than happy to see 2020 go. Of course, we face the question we often contemplate as a new year begins: Which path forward? It's a question that could be particularly challenging for Boomers right now.

On the positive side, it is looking like an effective COVID-19 vaccine will become available in 2021. If this is true, we may be in a position to look forward to eventually returning to a "normal" life -- at the very least, seeing people we love, enjoying social events and traveling if we so choose. It will be remarkably refreshing if many of the things we used to take for granted will be safe for us to do again. Still, even with a vaccine, we'll have to be wise about how we navigate life. The virus won't magically disappear. Wearing masks and maintaining some degree of social distancing, even if modified, will remain essential. That will be the new normal.

Many Boomers will likely be taking stock next year. We'll have to consider how the pandemic has affected our livelihood, our retirement, our financial condition, our physical health and our mental health. Everything needs to be re-evaluated, as with the financial meltdown of 2008-2009. Some of us may have to make tough decisions about working or not working, retiring or not retiring. Writing for NextAvenue.org, retirement expert Kerry Hannon reminds us to be cautious about taking early retirement. Drawing Social Security payments too early is one potential downside. Hannon cites Alicia H. Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, who writes, "Benefits claimed at 70 are 77% higher than those claimed at 62."

Hannon has some solid advice for anyone considering early retirement:

  • Prepare a budget
  • Carefully consider the pros and cons of any early retirement package you may be offered
  • Determine all of your sources of retirement income
  • Plan withdrawals from savings and investments
  • Be sure to take health insurance into account
  • Talk to a financial adviser.

She offers helpful information about all of these areas in her article.

I've always believed the toughest challenges can open up new and sometimes unexpected opportunities. For example, even at their lowest point and with numerous previous failures, some of the most successful entrepreneurs have persevered and prevailed. We can too, regardless of which path we choose to go forward.

Image by QYOU from Pixabay

HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.

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


A Great Time to "Intergenerate"

OnaWhim Hand-1549132_1920One of the lessons of COVID-19 is that connections with other people matter. Thankfully, despite isolation and social distancing, we have other ways to connect and communicate. While it is natural to gravitate to our peers, this is also a great time to connect with younger generations. One organization, Encore.org, is all about intergeneration connections. Through their "Gen2Gen" initiative, Encore.org is encouraging oldsters like us to find ways to interact with youngsters.

Encore's "10 Organizations Connecting Generations During the Pandemic" lists opportunities to make connections from your own home in ways that could be meaningful to both you and others. You can answer young people's career questions, you can be a young person's email pen pal, or you can engage in online mentoring. It's up to you how much time you'd like to invest and the means of communication you'd be interested in utilizing.

As Encore, reports, Boomers and older Americans aren't the only ones feeling the stress of pandemic isolation -- younger generations feel it too. A win-win situation could be intergenerational communication, says Encore: "While the pandemic continues to spread throughout the U.S., innovators — from all parts of the country and of all ages — are ushering in new ways to connect the generations, easing social isolation for both generations. They’re connecting strangers for caring calls, bringing together pen pals from different generations, and providing homework help to young people whose parents could use a break."

Encore.org is a great resource for remote intergenerational activities, but chances are there are opportunities in your local community to make connections with younger generations that don't involve face-to-face contact. It could be a refreshing, revitalizing experience at a time when we all need a lift.

HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.

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Taking Advantage of Your Most Valuable Asset

OnaWhimThis is an unsettling time for everyone, and homeowners are no exception. The good news is that if you own a home, it is likely to be your most valuable asset -- probably of greater value than any other material possession. You may have used the equity in your home to borrow money. You may have refinanced over the years to reduce your monthly mortgage payment. Or you may have been able to pay off your mortgage by now, meaning the equity you have in your home is all yours. 

But today, the place you call home may very well be an empty nest. The kids have grown up and you have excess space you are no longer putting to good use. It's a dilemma for a significant number of Boomers. Do you stay put -- in more house than you really need? Do you put your beloved home on the market and downsize into more modest living quarters? Or is there some other way to take advantage of your most valuable asset?

Here's a smart alternative -- Boomer homeowner Art Barry calls it the "downsize side hustle." He and his wife Sharon considered downsizing, but none of the typical options were attractive to them. So they decided to downsize with a twist. Instead of selling their home and moving into smaller quarters, they stayed in their home and did some clever remodeling, converting an unused bedroom and bathroom into a rental unit with a separate private entrance. The idea turned their most valuable asset into an income-producing property. Art says, "If you have a home and have too much unused space, you can probably come up with a way to turn it into real money. We had positive cash flow with our first month of leasing."

What does it take to create an opportunity to make part of your home into a rental property -- and what's it like to be a "micro-landlord"? In his well-written book, The Downsize Side Hustle, Art covers his experience in detail. He goes through how he and Sharon did it, pros and cons of using contractors and tradespeople, furnishing, utilities, marketing and advertising, tenant screening, landlord and tenant responsibilities, leases and regulatory issues. While Art and Sharon decided they wanted to rent only to longer-term tenants, this same concept could apply to short-term rentals designed for vacationers.

Obviously, not every home can be modified to the extent that it can become a rental property, but maybe Art Barry's experience will inspire you to think creatively. A "downsize side hustle" is an intriguing idea that enables you to stay in your home while generating some income. In this tough economic environment, it may be a smart strategy to consider. 

HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.

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


Advice for Recovery

OnaWhim Directory-466935_1920As difficult as it is to believe right now, we must all have hope that the United States and the world will eventually recover from this global pandemic. We will, however, likely be living under very different conditions in the near future -- what many are referring to as the "new normal." One can foresee, for example, an increased emphasis on social distancing, mask-wearing in public and the inevitable demise of the familiar handshake.

How will our lives as Boomers be different? Older Boomers who collect Social Security and are already on Medicare were probably relieved to have those safety nets in place during the pandemic. Still, their retirement savings have no doubt been battered. It could take years to rebuild the value of those investments.

Older and younger Boomers alike have been affected. If you were employed previously, you may have been laid off from your job. Post-pandemic, you may lose your job permanently. If you owned a small business or were part of the gig economy, you may have seen your income dry up or even had to shutter your business.

The hard truth is many of us had finally recovered financially from the 2008-2009 recession. We were probably on pretty solid ground until the coronavirus crisis hit. Suddenly, it obliterated our security.

So how do you find a way to pick up the pieces now? I don't claim to have any easy answers. I won't flood you with platitudes that you may find elsewhere.

But I do believe that given our collective experience, Boomers are generally better at facing and overcoming life's challenges. Why? Because age provides perspective... and we are generally a very resilient bunch. We have lived through downturns and upheavals and survived. Many of us have learned important lessons as we age: Being able to live below our means, valuing the little things in life, expressing gratitude for family and friends. Even in the midst of the global meltdown, I'm grateful for what I have.

So we will cope. We will stay positive. We will find a silver lining in this crisis. We will not allow it to steal our vitality and our exuberance for life. We will recover and prevail.

The road to recovery may be long. Some things in our country will need to fundamentally change for the better. But we have only to look at the selflessness of front-line workers and the countless acts of kindness displayed during this pandemic to recognize that the human spirit is alive and well. That will carry us forward.

HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.

Image: Pixabay.com

Check out the new book featuring 156 best and worst brands of the 50s and 60s!


This Was "Hi Tech" in the 50s and 60s

OnaWhim
The innovations of the current Digital Age are remarkable, but we sometimes forget that we enjoyed technological marvels in the 50s and 60s. I thought it might be fun to look back and consider the innovations we thought of as "hi tech" when we were growing up.

Technology was very much a part of the lives of Boomer kids – it was just different kinds of technology. The most enticing technological advancement was television (and eventually color television). However, there were other thrilling innovations, such as the 45 rpm records that created a market for “single” hits, and transistor radios, which made it possible for kids to carry around radio stations that played their favorite rock ‘n’ roll tunes.

Other technologies would become important to our young lives. For example, the push button (“Touch-Tone”) telephone replaced the rotary dial in 1963, heralding a new era of easier teen talk. The Polaroid Land camera amazed Boomer kids by producing instantly developed photographs. The microwave helped mom create almost-instant meals.

Magnetic tape came into its own, affecting Boomers in two ways: On the video side, television shows could be recorded on tape instead of film; by 1963, “instant replay” became a feature of sports events. On the audio side, the 8-track tape made it possible for teens to play their favorite albums in their cars (even if the tape jammed every now and then). That was followed by the equally unreliable cassette tape.

Technology was changing in the world around Boomer kids as well. In 1959, the first commercial plain paper copier introduced by Xerox revolutionized the duplication process. Also in 1959, two patents were granted for tiny electronic circuits known as “microchips,” the core of just about every technology device we use today. Jet airliners began to fly domestically and internationally in the 50s.  The 1957 launch of the first U.S. satellite ended in failure, but it would foreshadow future space successes, including astronauts landing on the moon in 1969.

Commercial computers appeared in the 50s, but the first personal computer did not come along until 1975 – and even then, it was in the form of a kit. The early 60s saw the introduction of the IBM Selectric typewriter, the invention of the laser, and the first use of a factory robot. The first computer mouse was invented in 1964 and the earliest version of video games appeared in 1966.

The Boomer era brought with it technological changes of great significance, even if the Information Age was still in its infancy. Here are just two hi tech examples -- one "winner" and one "loser" of the Boomer era.

Winner: Touch-Tone Telephone

13i-TouchToneTelephoneBoomer kids (and their moms) sure liked talking on the telephone. Not to be sexist, but it was largely adolescent and teenage girls who burned up the telephone lines, spending hours chatting with their friends. A prized birthday gift for a Boomer kid was getting his or her own phone (a land line phone with a physical cord was the only option back then). Of course, conversations with a boyfriend or girlfriend often had to be conducted in the privacy of a closet! Telephone technology kept up with our communication needs. In 1959, the Bell System’s “Princess,” brilliantly targeting women, featured a low-profile design, a light-up dial that functioned as a night light, and a remarkable range of colors. It was the perfect accessory for any bedroom. In 1963, a revolutionary technology known as “dual-tone multi-frequency” was introduced by Bell under the name, “Touch-Tone.” How exciting it was to push those buttons and here the different tones! It took twenty years for Touch-Tone technology to replace rotary or pulse dialing, but push-button phones eventually became a worldwide standard.

Image: Touch-Tone Keypad, Bill Bradford, Flickr.com, CC BY 2.0

Loser: View-Master

13h-ViewMasterDebuting in 1939, the “View-Master” was a stereoscope device that used cardboard reels with pairs of photographic images that appeared to be three-dimensional when viewed. It became popular with Boomer kids in the 50s after View-Master acquired a competitor and gained licensing rights to Walt Disney Studios. Throughout the 50s and 60s, newer, more streamlined versions of the View-Master were introduced, including the first plastic model in 1962, along with an ever-increasing line of reels. When GAF bought the company in 1966, the reels appealed to Boomer kids by relying on tie-ins with cartoon characters and television shows. However, the decades-old technology was aging; it could never really compete with color television and the movies. GAF tried to keep View-Master vibrant by introducing “talking” models and projectors in the 1970s and 1980s. In an effort to maintain brand relevance, Mattel, the current owner of View-Master, teamed with Google to produce a “View-Master Virtual Reality Viewer.” A movie based on View-Master is also being considered. Really?!

Image: View-Master, Deiby Chico, Flickr.com, CC BY 2.0

This post is an excerpt from the new book, Boomer Brand Winners & Losers by Barry Silverstein. Copyright 2020, Barry Silverstein. Publisher: GuideWords Publishing. Available in print, eBook and audiobook formats at all online booksellers.

HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.

Check out the new book featuring 156 best and worst brands of the 50s and 60s!


"Modern Elder": A New Way to Think About Aging

OnaWhim Screen Shot 2019-11-05 at 11.57.02 AMChip Conley came up with the term "modern elder" when he became known as the "elder" at a company where virtually all of the other employees were half his age. Conley has grown that simple phrase into a movement; he started the "Modern Elder Academy" in Mexico (a resort for midlife reflection) and wrote a book titled, Wisdom@Work: The Making of a Modern Elder. He also recently started distributing "a daily reminder of wisdom and its value" via Wisdom Well.

In an interview with Richard Eisenberg for NextAvenue.org, Conley says about his movement:

     "It’s pro-aging and speaks to the idea that maybe elders will make a comeback, but in a new form. It’s about creating a world with intergenerational collaboration, where older people in the workforce can be partners with younger people and both have something to bring to the table.

     "A growing number of people are using the term ‘middlescence.’ It generally happens in your fifties. It’s a time when you move from accumulating to editing. Less ego, more soul. Less interesting, more interested. Less achieving and attaining, more creating a legacy and attuning.

     "It’s what the Modern Elder Academy has been doing in many ways. It’s so clear there’s a need for this. There’s such a gap between the societal and personal narrative of aging."

I don't know if "modern elder" is the right phrase, but I consider the "mission statement" behind it as a new way to think about aging. I really like what Conley has to say in the above quote. He speaks eloquently about the need to break down ageism barriers in the workplace ("creating a world with intergenerational collaboration"). He also does a fine job of defining some of the primary aspirations of a maturing, well-grounded Boomer: "...move from accumulating to editing. ...more soul. ...more creating a legacy and attuning."

It is obvious to me why Conley was selected as a "2019 Influencer in Aging" by NextAvenue. It this kind of inspired, expansive thinking about aging that we need more of in our society.

Image: Chip Conley, Modern Elder Academy

HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.

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


The Retirement "Boomerang"

OnaWhim Boomerang-1027826_1920As you might expect, the concept of retirement is not for everyone. Boomers today are much less likely to traditionally "retire" than past generations. In fact, almost 40 percent of workers age 65 or above who retired "boomeranged" back to work, according to a RAND Corporation study. The challenge is that older workers often want to change careers after fifty or so years doing the same thing -- so when they return to work, it could be to a new "second career."

Author Chris Farrell has a good way of looking at it -- as a "sabbatical." In an interview in Forbes, he says, "When we think about retirement as a sabbatical, people are going to retire, take a break and start thinking about what they want to do next. That hopefully will be incredibly liberating. It’s a wonderful idea that you take a year off, recharge and rethink."

Farrell advises those wanting to return to work focus on their skills instead of their job title. While you may have worked in a particular career all your life, in your second career, you may be better off evaluating your personal skill set and pursuing a completely different line of work. Reinventing yourself -- and taking some time to explore what you enjoy and what you are good at -- may be exhilarating. To the extent that you are financially secure, you can even pursue something because you love it, not because you intend it to produce income.

I can totally relate to this perspective. Both my wife and I reinvented ourselves after professional careers. We followed our passions and did something different for our second act. She was a sales professional and became a dog groomer because she loves working with dogs. She worked in her own mobile dog grooming business for seven years and generated income. Then she stopped grooming for money because it was too physically strenuous. Now she grooms when she wants just because she enjoys it, as an unpaid volunteer at an animal shelter. I ran a direct marketing agency, but I always had a love for writing. Now I'm a freelance writer and I work when I want. Some of the writing I do generates income, and some I do just because I enjoy it.

One of the things my wife and I had to learn during our boomerang back to work was that the value equation is different. In our previous professional careers, our perceived value was based on how much revenue we brought in. That monetary value was important to our self-image. It took a while to realize that value doesn't always have to be related to money. Now we are more comfortable with the notion that self-worth isn't based on financial and material assets alone. In fact, we both get a great deal of satisfaction doing things that do not directly result in generating income.

The retirement boomerang is a common condition for Boomers. Don't be surprised if it happens to you.

Image: Pixabay.com

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


Acknowledging an Aging Population

OnaWhimA United Nations estimate projects that between now and 2050, there will be an increase in the age 60-plus population in every country in the world. By 2050, those age 60-plus in the U.S. are likely to be as much as 25 to 30 percent of the total population. In 2017, the U.S. birth rate dipped to a 30-year low. With people living longer, the percentage of older Americans is sure to accelerate.

These statistics, while long range, are evidence that the world's population is aging. This means that businesses and governments will be forced to acknowledge this reality and provide programs, goods and services designed for the older generation. We Boomers may miss out on the big changes of the coming demographic revolution, but we are beginning to see glimmers of hope and encouraging examples that our own society is acknowledging an aging population.

One glimmer of hope is in the American job market. While a great deal of ageism still openly exists, the high number of jobs available is forcing American employers to reconsider their hiring practices. For example, AARP and McDonald's just announced a collaboration in which McDonald's will post all of its U.S. job openings on the AARP Job Board, and it will pledge to value the contributions of older workers. Why? Because McDonald's is trying to fill some 250,000 summer jobs available.

Screen Shot 2019-05-17 at 11.09.20 AMAnother promising movement is in the food industry. Beyond Meat, which offers plant-based meat substitutes and positions itself as "the future of protein," recently filed an IPO. The company is offering hamburger and sausage plant alternatives that could help reduce meat consumption, something Boomers especially need to do as they age. In addition, one of the Beyond Meat founders has introduced a new non-dairy, plant-based milk called Perennial, which is "smartly crafted for body and brain over 50." Other non-dairy products that indirectly target seniors who want to or need to reduce dairy consumption include varieties of oat, almond and soy milk.

Will other employers follow the lead of McDonald's? Like Perennial, will other companies recognize the potential of creating products and services specifically for an aging population? Let's hope we will see a rapid acceleration of this kind of activity so today's Boomers can benefit from it.

Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?