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!

Image: Pixabay

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Working Because We Have To

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If you're over the age of 65 and still working, you are in good company. As reported by Bloomberg, in February 2019, the participation rate of 65-plus workers in the labor force has reached 20 percent for the first time in 57 years. Paradoxically, the Boomers who are most likely to be working are more educated, better off, and healthier, while less educated, working-class Boomers are struggling to remain employed. Those individuals with less than a college education participate in the labor force at a rate of about 10 percent.

Working after the traditional retirement age is becoming the norm for more and more Boomers. While a good percentage of Boomers want to work, many have to work for economic reasons. It is estimated that even the maximum Social Security monthly payment, which a Boomer can draw beginning at age 70, will only replace at most half of one's pre-retirement income. It's a generally accepted fact that, after Boomers stop working altogether, they need about 80 percent of their pre-retirement income to live, according to the Bloomberg report. As I've written in the past, the retirement savings accumulated by most Boomers puts them in a precarious position, especially given the reality that Boomers are living much longer than previous generations. Because of the 2008 recession, Boomers may have lost a significant portion of their retirement portfolio and it has taken years for their savings to recover.

Thankfully, work options do exist for Boomers, even if they are vulnerable in their current positions. A robust economy means far more jobs are available, although a large percentage is, admittedly, in lower paying positions. Still, full-time, part-time, and self-employment opportunities are available. "Gigs," or contract jobs, are also plentiful, and many of them enable Boomers to work from home on a flexible schedule if desired.

As Boomers are well aware, life is all about compromise. If you have to work and you're over 65, you can probably get a job. You just might have to lower your expectations.

Image: Pixabay

Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?


Is "Early Retirement" a Myth?

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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.

Image: Pixabay

Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?


Why Variety is the Spice of Retirement

OnaWhimOne of the reasons I call this blog "Happily Rewired" instead of "Happily Retired" is because of my firm belief that, for many Boomers, retirement is a time of "rewirement." You see it in Boomers who leave their careers to do something entirely different. For some, it means remaining employed, but making a career shift into a brand new line of work. For others, rewirement involves starting a business of their own. Still others leave the traditional work world behind in favor of volunteering. And then there are those adventurous types who sell their homes, buy an RV, and roam around the country.

What do you really want to do for the rest of your life? The answer to that question may have strings attached. You may, for example, need to continue to earn an income for several years to come. But more and more Boomers who are at least moderately financially secure are rewiring instead of retiring. They're doing that by stretching their personal boundaries, trying new things, and perhaps by living a life of variety. The rewired Boomer may pursue a patchwork of opportunities that combines part-time work (earned income), volunteering (psychic reward), educational courses (enrichment), and leisure activities (personal enjoyment). At the same time, the rewired Boomer is ever more conscious of diet, exercise, and living a healthy life.

Writing for The Balance, Dana Anspach details seven things Boomers could potentially do in retirement:

  1. Learn something new
  2. Volunteer
  3. Teach
  4. Connect with family
  5. Travel
  6. Work, but on your terms
  7. Rekindle an old hobby

Check out the article for more about each.

It's easy to see how the rewired Boomer could combine several of the things on this list to stay active, engaged and live a full life.

Variety is said to be the spice of life. Is variety also the spice of retirement? Maybe you should find out for yourself.

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?


The Power of Mentoring

OntheHouseI've long believed in the power of mentoring. I remember mentors who helped me as I advanced in my career, some of whom were my bosses. I think back to when I ran a direct marketing agency and decided to bring on a partner with more experience than me. He, too, became a key mentor in my professional development.

When I retired from marketing, I wanted to mentor others in the same way. For ten years, I was a volunteer marketing counselor to small business owners, mostly one-person operations, through a local college's small business center.  While I had expertise in marketing, I had to keep up with current marketing practices, so mentoring forced me to stay on top of things and continue to learn. This is a part of mentoring that some people overlook -- mentoring can be as much a learning experience as a teaching experience. For me, mentoring was extremely gratifying, especially when I received the occasional thank you note from a person I helped. I got pretty pumped up when I saw how some local entrepreneurs were applying my advice to grow their businesses.

I have a feeling there is huge mentoring potential in retired and soon-to-be retired Boomers, and so does Marc Freedman, the founder of Encore.org. In his new book, How to Live Forever, Freedman discusses the value of an older generation mentoring younger generations. In an interview with Jane Brody of The New York Times, Freedman said, “Older people are uniquely suited for a mentoring role. The critical skills for nurturing relationships — emotional regulation and empathy — blossom as we age.” 

As for what it takes to be a mentor, Freedman commented that any Boomer could be good at it by following a few basic ground rules. “You don’t have to be a charismatic superhero," Freedman said. "You don’t need an advanced degree. It’s more about the relationship than imparting sage advice. The key is not being interesting. The real key is being interested — being present and paying attention.”

For Boomers who have special expertise in a particular discipline, as I did, mentoring through a small business center or through SCORE, the nation's largest network of business counselors, is the way to go. But there are many other types of mentoring opportunities that don't require a professional background, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, one of the country's largest youth mentoring organizations.

It turns out that mentoring, like volunteering, really does improve your quality of life in your later years. In her article, Brody cites research from a four-decade study that suggests "middle-aged and older people who invested in the well-being of the next generation were three times as likely to be happy as those who didn’t make such an effort. They also lived longer."

Mentoring worked for me, and it seems to work for many other Boomers. Maybe it can work for you.

Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?


An Interview with Boomer Author Julie Gorges

Books Book Cover I'm Your Daughter JulieA new memoir, I'm Your Daughter, Julie, explores the emotional experience of a baby boomer caring for her mother, who has been diagnosed with Lewy Body dementia. In reading this excellent, engaging book, I began to understand the enormous challenge of caring for elderly parents, and I also learned a great deal about the harsh realities of dementia.

Julie Gorges, the author of the book, was kind enough to answer my questions about her writing career, her new book, and her advice for boomers who face a dementia diagnosis.

You've had a wide variety of writing experience -- as a newspaper reporter, short story writer, and author of non-fiction and fiction books. How would you characterize the difference between writing non-fiction and fiction? Do you find one form of writing more appealing than another?

That’s a good question. Writing fiction and non-fiction are more alike than one may think. Penning a novel with a fascinating plot, compelling characters, and lyrical prose is a creative endeavor. But the process often involves using true personal experiences or factual events as a springboard into an author’s imagination. Non-fiction is based purely on accurate facts. But techniques used in fiction are often used to make articles and non-fiction books more compelling and dramatic.

Do I like one form of writing more than another? When I first started writing, I focused primarily on fiction. But as the years went by, I became increasingly drawn to non-fiction. Stories I wrote about people as a newspaper reporter were fascinating and inspiring. Plus, I discovered that writing non-fiction has the power to educate, motivate, solve problems, heal, offer hope, and even change lives. Writing about real life is a great way to share the wisdom you’ve gained over the years to help others.

While I’m writing non-fiction right now, I haven’t ruled out writing another novel someday. What I do know is that I will write until the day I die. I’m in love, captivated, and addicted to words. Words are powerful, sometimes even magical, evoke our imaginations, and create wondrous worlds to explore. I started down the path of becoming a writer 30 years ago and still love the endless possibilities that this career offers.

Why did you write your first novel for teenage girls? How difficult was it to adopt the persona of a teenage girl and write in the first person?

I started my first novel while in my early 20s when my teen years were still fresh on my mind. So, it was easy to channel my experiences and feelings into my novel. Thankfully, I kept diaries as a teen-ager and much of the story comes directly from journals – with some fabrication, embellishments, and imagination thrown in, of course.

The teen years are fascinating to write about since it’s a time of discovery, a time when decisions can change your life forever, and a time of intense emotions. That’s why we all remember our teen years so well. It’s a time of unforgettable firsts – your first love, your first betrayal, your first profound mistake, or your first heroic act – all happening within a short amount of time.

Since the main character had many facets of my personality, it was easy for me to adopt her persona and writing in first person seemed to come naturally. By the way, finishing and publishing my first novel came years later, which speaks to the tenacity and perseverance that this career demands.

Your new book, I'm Your Daughter, Julie: Caring for a Parent with Dementia, is a very personal story about caring for your mom, who had Lewy Body Dementia. What made you decide to write this memoir?

Although many people encouraged me to share my story, I couldn’t immediately immerse myself in the painful memories of watching Mom slowly lose her mind, deteriorate physically before my eyes, and take her last breath. Nevertheless, eventually, I felt compelled to write the book out of a desire to help others learn from my successes and mistakes as a caregiver. For example, when my Mom developed bedsores while in a rehabilitation center that contributed to her death, I knew it was important to warn other caregivers and family members so they might be able to prevent such a catastrophe. By sharing my intimate journey, I hoped to make the process of bit easier and provide comfort to those losing a loved one to dementia so they wouldn’t feel alone.

I also wanted to write the kind of book that I would have found beneficial during those difficult years. I tried to read a few books while caregiving, but they were so thick and overwhelming. Time was limited and I didn’t need to know all the science behind what causes Alzheimer’s or Lewy Body dementia or try to decipher essential information from fluff often used as filler to meet a publisher’s page requirement. In a short amount of time, I needed to know how to communicate with my Mom when she was being unreasonable, how to help her get dressed when she became immobile, and how to keep from going crazy. That’s why my concise book is under 100 pages and to the point.  

In addition, not all books of this nature take you to the end of this journey and beyond. The mourning process for a caregiver is somewhat different and I wanted to share ways that family caregivers can move forward after their loved ones die.

What advice do you have for boomers who are facing a dementia diagnosis, either for a loved one or for themselves?

Knowledge is power. Become informed. You’ll be better prepared to handle the wide variety of challenges that lie ahead if you know what to expect. Try and learn everything you can about the disease from your doctors, websites, books, and support groups. There are many things you can do to make life more dignified and enjoyable during this time. Once you become informed, you may need to help educate other family members and friends.

Also, keep in mind, there are several types of dementia. Try to get an accurate diagnosis so you can find the right treatment plan that can include medications and lifestyle changes to help with symptoms. Having an accurate diagnosis will also help you make informed medical decisions and make plans for the future.

Finally, face this disease one day at a time. If you are caring for a loved one with dementia, caregiving is a meaningful, worthwhile, and important undertaking. That being said, make sure you take care of your own needs, accept help when offered, and be aware of caregiving options to help you during later stages.

About Julie
Author Photo 2018-1Julie A. Gorges is an award-winning journalist, author, and freelance writer. She is also a blogger at Baby Boomer Bliss, recently recognized as one of the top baby boomer blogs on the web. Her latest book, I’m Your Daughter, Julie is available on Amazon. If you’d like to learn more about Julie, please visit her author’s website.


How Boomers Impact the Job Market

MusingsStatistically, Boomers are about to lose their position as the generation with the highest U.S. population, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2019, Millennials are expected to reach 73 million in number while Boomers will top out at 72 million.

Still, the number of Boomers in the job market is significant. According to an article in Forbes, workers age 55-plus accounted for around 23 percent of the labor market in 2018, up from about 18 percent in 2008, ten years earlier. In terms of the labor force participation rate, younger workers have either remained flat or declined from 1998 to 2018, while the 55-64 and 65-plus age groups have steadily increased.

Aparna Mathur, who authored the article, sees a number of reasons for this phenomenon. For one thing, many older workers need to work longer for financial reasons. For another, older workers are healthier and living longer, so they have the ability to remain in the work force longer than previous generations. Just as important, older workers want to remain in the workforce because work is rewarding for them.

The interesting side effect is that the current economy boasts a very low unemployment rate, which means it is more challenging for companies to find skilled workers. Guess what -- Boomers are skilled workers! Boomers can also offer employers flexibility in that they are willing and often want to work part-time, which turns out to be more cost-effective for the hiring companies.

So let's hope we are nearing a point at which the continuing desire of Boomers to work, and their resiliency in the labor market, intersects with the employment needs of companies. Only then will our society conquer age discrimination and realize the value that Boomers continue to bring to the table.

Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?