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Life Literacy In The New Normal. How Do You Rank Yourself?

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My new book, How Do I Get There From Here?  is due out in August from the American Management Association (AMACOM, publisher).  In it I cite Financial Literacy and the importance of being able to work with a great financial advisor, as key competencies in the New Normal.

I recently attended a Financial Literacy Day conference arranged and sponsored by the excellent Cumberland Advisors. During this well-crafted, expertly delivered one day workshop, I found myself looking around the room wondering not only about the all-important issue of Financial Literacy, but also about Life Literacy in the New Normal.

Here are some examples of the need for New Normal Life Literacy in my own network:

Sally, 56, didn’t just lose her job. She lost her employer (the one she had spent years working for) because it failed to keep ahead of the market and industry. It went out of business.

Linda and Bill, both 60, have known for a long time that they weren’t saving enough for retirement.  They avoided the topic regularly. Recently one of their friends filed for bankruptcy at 58, and they experienced this as a wakeup call for themselves.   Suddenly they admitted they were in the New Normal and needed to get a realistic plan together but didn’t know where to start.

Tom, 72, didn’t just find himself alone. He found himself suddenly divorced; a statistic in a growing trend of later in life divorces.

Judi, 75 and long divorced, had a big communications job with a major New York company.  When she finally retired in Florida, she thought she would never work again. Money was no problem. Three years after retiring she went to work as a hotel concierge 3 days a week.  Why?  She hadn’t known in advance that social diversity would be so important to her quality of later life. She also hadn’t known in advance that she wanted a job she could leave behind at the end of the day.   She loved her community of residential peers, but as she said “I’ve got to get out of the house and into someplace with interesting people who work and talk about other things. I don’t want to work full time, but now I can also see through my new work what a trap retirement would have been for me.”

Max and Rose, 83 and retired, just received a letter from Max’s former employee letting them know that the company will no longer sponsor health care coverage for retirees. They were given 6 weeks to find their own coverage.

Lilly, 84 and a widow, is still healthy and vital. She is daily tennis player and theater devotee.  Her financial advisor has begun to warn her that although she and her late husband did a great job of saving for retirement, they had expected to die at 86 and only saved to that age. She shows no signs of slowing down, doesn’t want to, and is wrestling with the reality that she’s going to run out of money. Suppose she lives to 95?  Where is the other 9 years of money going to come from? What work-for-pay opportunities are available to a talented 84-year-old woman who hasn’t worked for pay in 20 years?

We lived in the Old Normal for many years. We were highly life literate. Characterized primarily by slow, continuous, predictable change, we became adept at the use of several Old Normal Tools.  One we seem to like the most is:  Treating every situation as a problem that can be solved and permanently moved beyond.

Welcome to the New Normal. It isn’t going away any time soon. It’s characterized primarily by game changing, seemingly sudden, discontinuous change.  Life literacy is needed now more than ever, yet many of us are not life literate in the New Normal.  In my opinion we are all going to have to become adept at the use of New Normal tools. One we seem resistant to (but is nonetheless of critical importance) is: Stopping dead in our tracks to examine and reflect. We need to ask and answer for ourselves the important questions: What’s really happening here?  How does it affect me/us?  What’s an intelligent way forward from here in this New Normal?

This, of course, places traditional planning (financial, legal, retirement, health, career, political, life, relational) in a whole different light. Making sure we will have enough money for retirement won’t be the place to start. Instead, we’ll have to create incremental plans first so we can work with our financial and other advisors more wisely.

Which leads us to self-ranking in a moment of quiet and pure self-honesty. Let’s be clear. I’m not asking you to rank how happy you are with the New Normal, nor how excited or afraid you might feel about it.

How literate are you about yourself, your life and your plans in the New Normal? I’m asking you to rank your own willingness to develop New Normal Tools and your current, demonstrated abilities to work with them (1/low to 10/high).

Please let me know how you ranked yourself, what your approach to the New Normal is, and what I should be writing about that would be additionally helpful.   Thanks.

If you don’t subscribe to my blogs and other notifications yet, please register to do so HERE .  I’ll let you know more about the new book as it approaches its release date.

2 responses to “Life Literacy In The New Normal. How Do You Rank Yourself?”

  1. Jari Searns says:

    Hi George! Yet another fascinating, if a tad scary, blog! You ask great questions my friend and you are forcing your readers to examine aspects of increasing age and the problems that are surfacing with a VERY bright light that is often hard to look at and uncomfortable to examine.

    One thing that I’m finding to be a rather critical problem develops every time a new situation turns up…for example today two of our three Grandchildren are temporarily at home as their parents and Grandchild #3 are off to Richmond to a volleyball tournament. So we stopped by their house to invite the two remaining at home to have lunch and/or dinner with us and we couldn’t get a final answer…well, “Yes, of course they would both love to; but neither had spoken with their friends yet and thy just didn’t know yet “what was going on”.

    Well we left the offer open, but I’m betting we don’t end up at lunch or dinner because they will speak with their friends and come up with a n umber of things they’d like to do with those friends. Now, I really don’t feel all that hurt ’cause I can remember that at their ages being with my friends was a whole lot more fun and having lunch or dinner with my relatives (even my Grandparents); however, my Husband is very hurt and just doesn’t quite understand. I’m seeing his world get smaller and smaller and his need to talk about “the old days when he was growing up” more and more common…I gave myself a 4 on your question ’cause I don’t know quite how to help him or me when I have similar problems. When I tell him what I think, he tells me I’m wrong and that he loved being with his Grandparents…I think I’m too confused to really help, but I am recognizing more and more the importance of facing these kinds of issues and dealing with them together or we’re going to develop really big and perhaps unsolvable problems…so back to the drawing board…more thinking required!

    • George Schofield says:

      Hi Jari

      One of the most difficult aspects of growing older is releasing the
      habit of one way or another being in total control. Is driving
      weather-safe? Are people sitting where I want them at dinner? Do I
      know where my wife is at all times? Is being alone comforting or
      not? Do I like what my children are doing with my business? Does
      travel to crowded places tend to make me nervous. The harder we hang
      onto our need for total control the more painful it is for everyone.
      It isn’t really a question of understanding others. It’s a question
      of accepting their right to their own control. Those in need of
      total control find it difficult to accept influence not as control
      but a condition of a high quality of later life. But it is nevertheless.

      George.

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