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IS THE NEW NORMAL OVER? 

….it depends on how you define The New Normal and what your discontinuous future holds in store for you.

“The road that we’ve been on for such a long time, the so-called ‘new normal,’ is coming to an end, because it’s being eaten up by its own contradictions,” said Mohamed El-Erian, during an interview on Bloomberg TV.  Mr. El-Erian is the chief economic advisor of Allianz SE.  He was describing global political economy attempts to wrestle itself (at least somewhat) from the hands of central banks.

That may work for Mr. El-Erian and economics, but how about for those of us 50 plus who are planning (or not) and living professional and personal lives amidst the current uncertainties?

How about for those of us who are professional advisors (financial, legal, health, career, education) to people After 50?

Joe and Ellen, both 67, are adept at living in the Old Normal. Joe works in sales for a small, specialty pharmaceutical firm. Ellen, a nurse, stopped working when their children were toddlers and never got around to going back to work because she was always so busy. Now they have grown children, Joe’s long term employment, a house, preferences for their retirement, and about 1/3 of what they will need for retirement already saved (plus Social Security).

Of the several Old Normal life tools, their favorite is problem solving:

  1. define the problem
  2. create solution action steps
  3. execute the action steps
  4. get to the solution
  5. move beyond it forever

Among Joe’s and Ellen’s professional advisors is their Financial Advisor, Phil, age 52.   Over the past 15 years, Joe and Phil have done a good job of managing their money.    Ellen has been advised but didn’t get very involved. Phil, a hardworking and trustworthy professional, also loves problem solving:

  1. How old are you now?
  2. At what age do you want to retire?
  3. How long can we expect you to live?
  4. How much money will you need each year after work ends and before the end of your life?
  5. After Social Security and current savings/equities, how much remains to be saved per year until you retire so that you have the retirement money you need?
  6. Which investment products/programs best meet your need for safety, growth, and return?

Framed this way, it all seems manageable and quantifiable, although the dollar amount remaining to be saved for age 75 retirement is daunting. If they just execute on the investment plan everything will be fine.

What Joe, Ellen, and Phil don’t know is:

  1. Joe will be diagnosed with an aggressive, terminal cancer in 4 years and be gone in 7 months, leaving substantial hospital bills after health insurance pays the majority of the costs.
  2. Joe’s and Ellen’s divorced daughter and her children will come to live with Ellen for a transition time. The daughter will be working on earning a college degree that will qualify her for better employment.
  3. Phil will have a major job educating Ellen about where her money is and how to work with him to manage it well. Ellen will need to be financially literate.
  4. Ellen will have to go back to work but will require substantial retraining first, even to do home health care for the elderly.
  5. Joe’s shares in his employer/company will be worth far less than expected due to litigation over pricing and efficacy issues.
  6. Ellen and three widowed, long-time friends will buy a home together and form an intentional community for support and expense sharing.
  7. Ellen will live to be 102. She will outlive her daughter.

What makes this much more New Normal than Old Normal?  The Answer: Little in life can be defined as a problem with a solution that actually results in a permanent resolution. Instead, Ellen, Phil, Joe’s and Ellen’s daughter, and the other members of Ellen’s intentional living community will have to:

  1. Regularly stop and substantially rethink their situations and the next smart steps.
  2. Remember that each day and week will require proactive effort on their parts.   Anything akin to being on retirement cruise control won’t work.
  3. Make ongoing course corrections and small to large decisions without knowing what the future holds.
  4. Adjust their thinking to include a big emerging reality: the increased likelihood that they are going to live longer, requiring up to date professional skills, extended work-for-pay that might or might not be configured as a job, and the ability to finance and enjoy a longer life.

How much of the New Normal is emerging in your life? How is it showing up? What are ways you have found to adjust to it?

HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH LIFE PLANNING? 8 QUESTIONS TO FIND OUT

Two Personal Consulting clients of mine – let’s call them Rene and Phil – are both in their late fifties. They are working with me to do their joint 18-month immediate life plan and their 18 to 48-month mid-range life plan. In their 30 years of marriage they have never had so many exciting aspirations or such concern for the uncertainties of our current era.

Rene is by nature a planner. Across the years she has planned and tightly scheduled and organized everything from having babies to getting the house painted to finishing her law degree to grocery shopping. Their now-grown kids jokingly say in her presence “Punctuality is next to godliness.”  She hates surprises and has never wanted one for her birthday or any other occasion.

A very successful salesman, Phil is by nature a highly spontaneous individual. Across the years he has suddenly come home with a Corvette, a puppy, a signed contract for the installation of a swimming pool in their back yard, two kittens, and the opportunity for a promotion at his company that would require a cross country move.  Their now-grown kids lovingly say in his presence “We never, ever know what Dad will do next!” Phil is a bit of a claustrophobe and resists all attempts to schedule and organize him to the point he has no options left. He thinks a great day is one that includes one or more happy surprises.

Through the years Rene and Phil have found ways to appreciate and balance each other’s strong preferences rather than turning them into subjects to fight about. It hasn’t always been easy, but they have stuck to it and with humor and affection, they usually know how to arrive at a joint decision. This recently broke down when it came to life planning, so they came to me for some professional assistance.

When they arrived at my office the first time, they were suffering from a very common life planning malady: they were trying to build one, immense, rather rigid 40-year life plan. They both thought that, if life didn’t evolve according to their plan, they would have failed. Talk about pressure!

I rapidly helped them move into a much more sound and phased planning approach for today’s discontinuous world:

1. A fairly controllable, specific 18-month planning horizon focused on targeting, simplifying and eliminating the fifty kinds of clutter they had accumulated over time

2. A mid-range 18 to 48-month planning horizon focused on exploring options/preferences and making the best decisions they could based on the then-available information

3. A 48 month planning horizon which was really a list of imagined intentions and preferences – and ways to make them happen – since they couldn’t sit in my office and reasonably make final decisions for 10 or 18 or 30 years out into the future.

They had some sacrifices to make in working with each other and with me. They had to give up the notion that there is a singular “right” way to do perfect life planning.    Rene struggled with this. They had to let go of the idea that if the plan were “good enough” the outcomes would be guaranteed. This made Phil especially anxious because Mr. Spontaneous was suddenly so nervous about their (and the nation’s) future that he desperately wanted guaranties. The biggest sacrifice of all for them was letting go of the notion that there could be such a plan, ensuring the predicted outcome.  The completion of this plan would signal that they could pretty much coast through their future years without regularly monitoring their environment for new information. And this would trigger an updating of the plan and the need for them to adapt yet again.  The second biggest sacrifice was jettisoning their cherished illusion that a permanent arrival point, a “there” to get to, is a possibility in today’s world.

The planning conversation had begun with the rigid and fight-prone language of long term life plan, right, wrong and absolutes. Together we turned it into the more manageable and sane bites of short range, mid-term, and long range plans and intentions. We also moved the success metric from “perfect and almost guaranteed” plan to the exploration of “How much is enough?”.

In the end, we developed together some “how much is enough” type of questions that, if answered “Yes!”, would be the tipping point for them to move from planning to action. These included:

  1. Do we feel comfortable enough to suspend research for now on each of our three planning horizon plans?
  2. Are we prepared to do enough smart scanning of our environment regularly that we can see when and how to update the plan and adapt ourselves?
  3. Are we clear enough on what initial action would look like for each life plan segment?
  4. Have we surrounded ourselves with enough of the right professional consultants – life planning, financial, health care, legal, and career/vocational?
  5. Have we communicated clearly enough with our loved ones and friends that they know how to help us?
  6. Are we having enough regular, clear conversations together about our plans to know when we are on the same page, when we’re not, and how to work our way through any difficulties?
  7. Are we willing enough in these times of discontinuous change, to work with both change we have chosen and change that is imposed on us?
  8. Do we continue to have enough faith in ourselves and in each other to live a great life one planning phase at a time?

Rene, Phil, and I completed the 3 planning horizon life plans and built clear action plans for each, especially the Up To 18 Month segment. They will be back to see me when they run into a major problem and for periodic reality checks. They don’t need to see me all the time. They will need to see me enough, and they are the only ones who can determine what and when that is.

I’m looking forward to getting an update from them eventually.

How are you proceeding with your own life planning? How do you know what enough looks like for any life planning component?

 

Quality of Life? Start the New Year with this easy survey!

There she stood just inside our front door with her hands on her hips. “You keep writing about other people’s After 50 stories.”, she said, “Mine is different and it deserves telling, too”.  Pushing past me she settled into a chair in our living room, said, “OK. Help me.”

“OK. I’ll play.”, I said sitting down opposite Coleen. “Who are you?”  Her answer: “I’m Coleen White.  I recently met you and your wife, Linda, at one of our fundraising parties for childrens’ charities.  I’m 67, recently divorced, a retired nurse, not very connected to my grandchildren, far from wealthy but ok, not religious, still like men and romance, smart, funny, and a bit bored.  I like where I’m living. I’m finding it difficult to get my thoughts organized enough around my Quality of Life.”

“What does Quality of Life mean to you?” I asked.  Her answer: “Your writing provoked my interest in Becoming After 50.  Most people don’t seem to get that After 50 is a prime time for personal becoming.  I get it.  I was married to a physician for years.  When he left he liberated both of us – I can see now – from a terrible inertia.  I’m a new kind of free. I like it. Quality of Life is suddenly the key for me.  I don’t want just more of the same.  I don’t need to solve problems from my past.  I don’t need therapy.  I want Quality of Life to be an everyday thing, not some place I visit on special trips and vacations. I need a way to evaluate and prioritize. I want to create myself and my future. So here I am.”

I sat back in my chair.  “Quality of Life”, I said, “is a very personal thing.  It changes periodically, being made up of moving components.  If it were easily measured it would be called Quantity of Life but that’s not what you’re talking about is it?”  “No”, she said, “I’m talking about Quality of Life that I can create and adjust as my life progresses.  I want clarity.  I’ll need to be adaptable, too.”

“Would it help if I gave you a Quality of Life Survey as a starting place?”, I asked.  “Are you kidding?  Of course!”, she replied.

So I gave her the following survey.

survey1

survey2

As she left I reminded Coleen that not every component can or should be a 10 all the time.   “Don’t worry.  I’ll remember”, she said, “and I’ll be back soon.  Finally, a framework I can work with for my Quality of Life.  World, get out of my way!”

Coleen went on to do the work of exploring her answers to the questionnaire and building a very successful action plan as a result.

The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to give the questionnaire to you as a New Years gift. So I am doing just that.

What are you most interested in exploring about yourself and your life today?

 

 

SOME OF THE MANY FACES OF RETIREMENT

There was a time when you said the word “Retirement” and everyone knew what it meant.

There was a consensual definition and set of expectations that looked like this: You had worked for years, probably at the same company, reasonably assured that you could move “up the ladder” as the people above you retired or transferred and made room for you. It was a stable company in which the organizational structure, job titles/descriptions, and experience/skills tended to have long shelf lives. Retirement was something to look forward to; a new and discrete stage of life. The time came at 65 when, after years of service, you were entitled to a parting gift, a recognition party, a pension check (large or small), and the final reward of entering your golden years of endless leisure. Some younger person stepped into your job and overnight you were free of responsibility for the first time in your adult life. You could be and do anything you wanted. It sounded like the ideal situation, although it often didn’t play out that way in practice in the lives of retirees.

Fast forward to Retirement today:

Bill and Doris Green both worked for the same company straight out of college beginning in 1975. When the kids came along, Doris left to be a stay at home mom. Bill changed employers twice, both times for significant promotions in manufacturing management. Pensions and defined benefit plans had, of course, gone away. In their place the Greens made it a priority to put money into 401Ks and employer matching plans as well as building a significant equity in their home over time. When he was 54, with two kids in college, Bill’s company was sold, his job was declared “redundant”, and he was laid off. Despite his best efforts, Bill was unable to land another comparable position in the decreasing pool of such jobs. They lived on their savings. Eventually Doris went to work in retail and Bill went back to school for retraining in technologies. It was a tough time. Their kids are now out of college. Both Doris and Bill are employed. Tearfully, they sold their house at the top of the market and now rent an apartment, which to their great surprise, has proven to be a happy change. They have rebuilt some of their savings but certainly not enough to stop working. As they look toward “Retirement” it looks increasingly like eventual part time work for both of them, indefinitely combined with local interests and activities. Their biggest retirement worry is outliving their money. Retirement isn’t a new and discrete phase of life in their future. It’s an integrated and logical extension of the decisions they are making and the life they are living now.

Barbara Kushner thought she and her husband had it all together financially and personally. They had just retired to Arizona from Ohio. She was looking forward to music and golf – a life of volunteering and good works. Then her husband, Tom, died suddenly. Barbara had never paid attention to the financial side of their lives. Tom took care of all of that. When he died she was suddenly propelled into a relationship with a financial advisor she didn’t know, a set of financial concepts and languages she didn’t understand, and a combination of decisions she wasn’t prepared to make yet couldn’t delay. It turned out that Tom had made two unwise investments that had recently eliminated a large portion of their net worth. She certainly isn’t going to lose the house nor is she going to be destitute. However, she will have to downscale her life style in order to live within her means. For Barbara, retirement looks like learning a whole body of financial knowledge she should have learned earlier, working part time, and gathering her friends and family around her to help her make the necessary transitions.

Carol Folsom and Rick Smedley met in law school years ago. Married early, they both pursued high powered, well paid professional careers. When their daughter came along, they readily adapted to sharing responsibility for her combined with a full time nanny. Their daughter grown and gone, they are both at the top of their careers and beginning to execute on their retirement plan. Carol and Rick had worked intensely hard for years, largely buffered by their professions from the business roller coaster beyond their doors. They are going to keep their condo in Chicago but have also purchased a condo in Florida. They plan winters in Florida and summers at home. Money is not an issue. Having been active and financially able philanthropists for years, they are moving a portion of their money to a Community Foundation in Florida, which will automatically make them members of an elite community of donors and non-profit board members. Rick is buying a boat. Carol is joining a tennis club. They are both planning on taking Lifelong Learning classes. Retirement for Rick and Carol looks like the ability to step into communities and interests that will provide them with new stimulation and friendships.

Ted Dawson failed retirement. Twice. Divorced and unsettled at 60; he jumped on the opportunity to retire, thinking it would be a fresh and wonderful relaunch for him. With his kids’ support, he visited 15 of the cities featured in 99 Best Places To Retire, chose the best one for him, bought a house and moved. This all happened quickly after the announcement was made that he was retiring from dentistry. During the first year in his new home and city, Ted volunteered widely. He worked at developing non-profit board expertise. He threw small dinner parties for other retirees in his neighborhood. Eventually he realized that part time volunteering wasn’t enough in his case and that he needed to find a full time job. For two years he became the Executive Director of a local non-profit. When he had taken the organization as far as he could take it, he retired again. Six months later, he felt as if he was floundering again, clearly wanting something he could own. The solution turned out to come with an opportunity to buy into a local dental practice and work 3 days a week, effectively job sharing with another dentist who wanted ownership and part time practice too. For Ted retirement looks like a combination of ownership, part time practice, volunteering, and uncommitted time.

There was a time when the word “retirement” was a bit like the word “apple”. Say either word and immediately almost everyone had a common image of it in their minds.

Now the word “retirement” is more akin to the word “shoe”. There are hundreds of images and we all need to find/create the right fit for ourselves.

What do you imagine the right retirement fit will look like for you?

The After 50 Goal Shift – From Validation to OK Anyway

Aging, let it be acknowledged, seldom arrives in our lives all at once. Instead, it appears in large and small changes in our environment. I was recently on a crowded metropolitan bus and a very polite teenager stood up and offered her seat. At first I looked around to see where her gestures were directed and was flabbergasted to realize…she was offering her seat to ME.

Gray hair. Loss of longtime friends. Fine print getting smaller (Surely it can’t be our eyes!). Consonants or vowels becoming more elusive in fast paced vocal music.  Widespread challenges to our iconic values and beliefs (like permanent employment, home ownership, the relevance and place of a college education, our alliances with one political party or another). Our precious little grandchildren turning into people as tall (or taller) than we are, with strong opinions and positions of their own. Loss of muscle tone and skin suppleness. The winnowing of what’s important to us and how we continue to reassure ourselves of our potency and efficacy.  Openness (or the opposite) to new experiences.   The tectonic shifts in what we aspire to and what these aspirations mean to us.

All of this is offset, at least in part, by some magical combination of having little left to prove, greater patience with ourselves and others, a much shorter list of things we think of as life and death issues, the reward of longtime friends to whom we don’t have to explain a thing, and new friends who bring fresh ideas and interests to the mix of our lives.

If we’re paying attention this can be an amazingly rich period of life regardless of the national elections and turmoil.

Which brings me to our increasingly tricky relationship with goals After 50.

Earlier in our lives goals were a part of a complex approach to our personal development, and focusing primarily on our goals could be a kind of roller coaster. Still, If things didn’t work out we had lots of recuperative years left to move on and conquer something else. Goals were often irretrievably intertwined with our validation.

Example: Being a salesperson with significant, monthly territory sales goals. If you made your numbers you were on top of the world, but you were only as good as this month’s numbers. Next month you had to prove yourself all over again.

Example: Being a parent whose sense of successful parenting depended upon kids’ grades, athletic prowess, and college admissions. If your kid did well in your eyes, you had achieved your parental goal. If your kid did not do well there was something wrong with both of you. And you couldn’t be really OK until your kid was.

Example: Taking off 25 pounds and fitting into that dress or suit for your high school or college reunion. You were often only as good, at least for that evening, as your weight loss achievement.

Note in each example the direct correlation between your goal achievement and your sense of your own OKness.

Linda and I have friends (a married couple) who are serial entrepreneurs. They worked together in each business across the decades. Two years ago, for the first time, they disagreed. Her goal was to retire. His goal was to start a brand new entrepreneurial business. Eventually the wife capitulated. It was a struggle. He was only going to be as OK as his new venture was successful. How did they get through?  For the first time in their lives together it was OK to have goals BUT NOT to hook their personal OKness to goal achievement. Their OKness had to be hooked to something else or, like the salesperson example above, they could only be as OK as their latest performance and results. Not the ideal condition for high quality of later life.

We also have long time friends who set up an elaborate set of travel goals. They had just retired and were so happy together. Their sense of self-esteem was closely coupled to the goals of being able to check each of the continents off their bucket list until none remained. Quite suddenly the husband died of lung cancer. Was it great that they had goals? Yes. Was it great that, as a widow, the wife’s OKness was uniformly tied to her husband and their shared bucket list of goals? No. She had to do the painful work of creating new goals for herself and not tying her ultimate OKness to them.

This all comes up for me now because I’ve just realized one of my biggest goals. I have signed a contract with a national publisher to publish my new book. Manuscript is due 12/15/16. Publication date is around July 1, 2017.  What’s different for me – and somehow paradoxical – is that I can and do have goals but no longer have the luxury of letting them define my OKness. It’s not easy to give up the success/failure paradigm. I’d have to be pretty much OK whichever way the publication hammer falls.  This is a huge shift in my relationship to goals.

What are your goals now?

What do you do to create your consistent OKness that isn’t tied to goal achievement?

 

I Do Therefore I Am With My Apologies to “The Reader”

Even for us it has been an extremely busy summer: My wife Linda’s work. My work. One to four granddaughters living with us over the course of six weeks. The new book in publisher review. Travel. Staying current with what’s being written in my field.   Sogetsu Ikebana. TV appearances. Attending to my own becoming which, as a human development expert, is as much a part of my daily integrity as physical workouts would be for an Exercise Physiologist. The normal demands of home ownership and being in society. Coursework. My ongoing writings, including these blogs. Watching, slack jawed, national political campaigns unfold. Guests and dinners. Beginning the all-new new book project.

Yesterday morning my friend Eric and his bike appeared as scheduled at 6:30 am in our driveway. He rides every day and can leave me in the dust, but slows down for companionship rides with me once or twice a week. Rick knows I can always ride our 16-20 miles, punctuated by a stop at Coffee World at around the 14 mile mark. He also knows that I can’t (and don’t want to) go as fast as he can.

Which brings me to the crème colored leather chair in our family room that looks out onto the lake. Stick with me here. I promise to pull all of this together.

After returning home from the bike ride with Eric, I showered, dressed and sat down in the chair intending to bounce right back up and get to work. Instead I spent the day sitting there. Admittedly I took client calls, did my email and eventually cooked dinner for Linda and me, but for the most part I read. No music. No tv. Just our wonderfully silent house and that pile of reading I had been looking forward to.

As I sat there reflecting, all of this brought two experiences to my mind.

First was an encounter with the man I still think of as “The Reader”.  We met him only once, several years ago, at a local party. I’ve long since forgotten his name or what he looks like, but he made quite an impression on me. He was in his late 60’s and had been retired for a few years. When I asked him how he spent his time he said his life was a circuit between his best reading chair and his favorite used book store. He’d buy a few books, go home and read them, and then go buy more books so he could go home and read some more. For variety he would sit and read outdoors instead of inside. He was serious and his wife verified it. I was quietly flabbergasted. How could a grown man not exercise his gifts in some contributory way?  I can see now that I owe The Reader a quiet apology. His lifestyle wouldn’t work for me, but he was and is free to choose for himself.

Second was a Nextel ad campaign selling cell phone services. Plastered on city buses and billboards with bright yellow backgrounds and black print were the words: “I do.  Therefore I am.” I was not so quietly outraged. Did they actually mean to suggest that existence depended upon being in motion? Had we lost our right to NOT do and still be?  Existentially it stunk and I wasn’t happy about it. It was easier to suck me in then than it is now. And I still think the campaign was designed by young savants with little life understanding or interest beyond new and motion.

Which brings me back to the crème colored chair; my repository as it were for the day. It was only one day and it isn’t a pattern, but I do think being able to sit there for a day and mostly read is a step forward for me. It’s a pleasurable After 50 gift I could not have unwrapped or appreciated much earlier in my life. And I’m looking forward to another such day eventually. Just knowing I can do it is comforting and I may, like many of us, have to get better at it when I am much, much older.

What are you discovering about your own After 50 gifts that you couldn’t have appreciated or enjoyed much earlier in your life?

 

Ode to Joy

 

I keep thinking about a conversation I had with my friend Kathy.  We’ve been friends, metaphorically speaking, since Jefferson was President.  There isn’t much we don’t know about each other.  Every few weeks we get on the phone and catch up about our kids, her mother (the only survivor among our parents), our work and our lives.  During our last call, after proudly listing all the things I am involved with, Kathy said, “But what about fun and joy?”

Ten years ago this question would have stumped me.  I believed then in “work/life balance” and other binary viewpoints which supposed that the two things were separate and even mutually exclusive.  Work apparently was where you performed and earned money.  Life apparently was where you experienced joys and freedoms.

I no longer think that way.  Of course, I have the luxury of being self-employed. The way my life is constructed now, work and play are integrated into one other.  The proportions change, but I ensure that both make an appearance every day.  It’s come to the point that I frequently don’t know what day it is because it doesn’t matter.  Kids’ school vacations and weekends and work/life balance and vacations aren’t relevant to me anymore.

So, back to Kathy’s question, “What about fun and joy?”  She’s still in a job that isn’t a great fit for her, looks forward to weekends and freedom, is responsible for her very difficult/out of control/elderly mother, and, consequently, worries about her own aging.  Integrating fun and joy for her is much more of a struggle than it is for me.  I think that’s true for most people, too.

Not that I’m perfect at that integration myself.  It’s still alarmingly easy for me to worry about what might be as opposed to find the joy that’s in front of me in any given moment.  The best I can do is live up to the haiku master Matsuo Bashō’s poem:

I am one
Who eats his breakfast,
Gazing at the morning-glories

So, let me ask you: Where are your fun and joy coming from?

What have you created that allows (and even requires) fun and joy to be integrated into your days rather than stopping or finishing what you are doing to look for them? Please leave your answers in Comments.

 

The Real Future of Work – Part 2

This post is a follow up to my first blog on The Real Future of Work – Part 1, which you can read HERE if you’re interested.

I was intrigued by management consultant Ron Ashkenas’s article, Navigating The Emotional Side of a Career Transition, in the Harvard Business Review.  Ashkenas had worked for the same firm for 37 years, starting just after graduate school, and decided to try a new path.  He found himself struggling in ways he didn’t predict. He was facing three hurdles:

  • Sense of guilt
  • Adjusting his personal identity and sense of self
  • Letting go of old patterns and habits.

I think Mr. Ashkenas has hit the nail on the head when he talked about obstacles and solutions. I’d like to add the following to the conversation.

We will increasingly need to be the CEOs of our own professional lives. We can’t passively allow our employers to decide our careers; our professional success is not their main interest (our performance is), but it should be ours.

Accustomed as we may be to our one-professional-thing-identities (as in dentist, plumber, mechanic, attorney) we may not be able to make an adequateliving doing only one thing under one label in the future.  And we may not want to.  We still ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, reinforcing that the best answers are one-word answers.  That doesn’t work any morewhen you’re asking a kid. How many 12 or 22 year olds know what single work they will pursue for the rest of their lives?  We need a smarter question to ask ourselves as adults. What choices of work situations will give us the best and most remunerative experience in the next 3-5 years?  Beyond that we probably can’t predict with any accuracy.

Mr. Ashkenas’s experience will not be universally applicable.  Many of us have not had one job/employer/career.  We have had several. For lots of us, this variety can be a source of confidence.  We made major changes before and we can again.  On the other hand for lots of us, multiple job or career changes can make transitions worse because we blame ourselves for failing to find our one true calling to which we could devote our entire work lives.  I believe it’s a trap to believe that each of us had only a single career that should last a lifetime.  Maybe we have several which are concurrent or sequential.

Letting go of old patterns and habits will have to be bigger than shaking off the patterns and habits of a single, long-term profession or job.  The letting go must also include the willingness to NOT pursue a single replacement for what we’re letting go. We already know that many people older than 50 are statistically the last hired AND, given the hollowing out of the middle management tier, they are unlikely to be hired into a job of comparable status, responsibility and compensation than the one they left.  Seeking only a new job to replace the old one cuts them off from a substantial pool of emerging work possibilities.  And this presumes they have kept their skills and expertise not only current but leading edge.   And it presumes little if any age discrimination.

Welcome to the new world of work for pay.

I’m happy that unemployment rates are down and that the economy is doing well.  That said, now is the time to think not only about the next economic downturn but also how you can start now to build sustainable, small income streams so that being unemployed or searching for a scarce or non-existent job aren’t your only two options.

Click HERE to read Ashkenazi’s article.

 

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