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

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.

What’s Different About Financial Advising In The New Normal?

I recently interviewed an experienced financial planner to discuss how financial planning and the advice people need has changed in The New Normal.

George: What was your work like when you first came into the Financial Services industry?

Financial Planner: It used to be so much simpler in the Old Normal when the norm for my clients was to predictably retire at 65. We all knew what retirement was supposed to look like. Retirement planning and investing were much less complex because of several factors.  Entrepreneurism was not as prevalent. It seemed that most employees worked for large companies with pensions, retirement and healthcare benefits which are now almost obsolete.  The gig economy and freelancing didn’t exist as it does today. Most people only had one long term job and source of income. Investing back then was mostly accomplished through buying stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Tax shelters were popular and would allow for generous write-offs against income. Insurance provided additional protection.  At a specified retirement age, corporate employees could count on lifetime income payments from their employers and from Social Security.  Future income was more secure and much of it could be known in advance, which made financial and investment planning much easier.

George: What was your process then?

“The old process” wasn’t a formula that investors could mathematically grasp and was often not the objective. We had some software that could calculate inflation-adjusted future income needs above and beyond the expected entitlements, so targeting a dollar amount and growing enough savings to generate that income was based on assuming a rate of savings and a rate of return.  Most investors were just looking for ‘growth’ or ‘more money when I retire’.  When the stock market was strong, discount brokerage firms became popular to ‘do it yourself’, and even speculative day trading was a bold way for investors to try to aggressively making money without a clear plan. Financial planners are more valuable now than the vintage stockbrokers because more planning and managing is involved, and clients don’t generally have the time or inclination to make constant decisions given the complexity of today’s markets.

George: What’s so different now?

Financial Planner: Where should I start? Welcome to the New Normal. For openers, not everyone will be able or want to retire. And their population segment is growing dramatically. Retirement is not homogenous and now has many faces and stories, as brought home to me by your recent blog. Not only is there a retirement savings deficit, most people after 50 don’t have enough years left to simply save their way out of the hole. Where our money comes from isn’t homogenous now either. It’s not just about jobs. I read a statistic that 50 million Americans are generating a billion dollars through freelancing, both full time and part time. Institutions are providing a much smaller portion of what retirees can count on. Most retirement savings are based on our own contributions and are more susceptible to falling short. So many sophisticated investment vehicles have been developed using complex technology that clients can now be very specific in their objectives and find a customizable way to work toward goals.  Diversification is far broader because of so many securities and opportunities created in different industries and commodities that were previously only available to large institutions or not available at all to an average investor.  The types of relationships that investors can have with advisors, compensation arrangements, and the tools that we can provide have all evolved and multiplied. The financial services industry has become less focused on transactions and more focused on professional management and planning services that were once only accessible to very high net worth individuals.

George: Do you have any recommendations for your fellow financial advisors?

Financial Advisor: In the New Normal we advisors need insight into the minds, lives, and futures of a new breed of empty-nesters, the realities of the generations coming up behind them, and what they are all actually facing in the coming decades. It’s like clients first need an adaptable, phased life plan that informs our financial planning instead of the other way around the way it used to be. I love the concept that “Retirement” isn’t about a single transition or phase of life any more. It’s about accepting and adapting to a lifetime of transitions. Financial advisors need to be reminded that people over 50 in real life don’t fit into stagnant profiles or static investments.

Our professional world has already shifted because our clients’ realities and futures are so different. These people are amazingly diverse. With the popularity of fee-based investment programs, we financial advisors need to develop a full set of ongoing financial planning skills instead of relying on a circumstantial or transactional type business. We may need to find a very qualified life planner with whom we can form a team. Our ability to add additional value lies in being part of a larger planning effort. Once the team is in place, the life plan, the financial plan, and the financial status will have to be reviewed annually together, not just a review of financial performance.

George: Thanks for talking with me.

Financial Advisor: It was a pleasure. Come back any time. And when your new book about all of this comes out in August, I’ll be in line to buy one.

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?

You’re A Failure If You Aren’t Doing What You Absolutely Love. Or Are You?

Author Brianna West recently wrote in Medium Daily Digest “We’re doing people an incredible disservice by telling them they should seek, and pursue, what they love. People usually can’t differentiate between what they really love and what they love “the idea of”.

In doing so, she reminded me of the diversity of purposes for work among my clients and the courage it takes to pursue the right fit whether it’s what they love or not.

Doing, of course, can be a huge, sort of collective verb. It can mean anything from professional activity to avocational experiences to caring for others to stealing time for yourself and doing absolutely nothing with it if that’s your intention. Having to love what you do as a condition of validation can be such a burden!

For purposes of this blog, I’m going to confine myself to Professional Activity as the designated form of doing. And I’m going to tell three short stories.

Bella is 59 and involuntarily retired 6 years ago when her job was eliminated. Her husband, Bob, died last year and when he did she lost the medical insurance benefits that went with his employment. She qualified for Cobra, but it was nearly beyond her means. Her solution: take a lower paying, ¾ time job that would be accompanied by health care benefits until she qualifies at 65 for Medicare. She had already had a high pressure retail career. She didn’t want that again. In the years since her involuntary retirement Bella had grown used to having discretionary time and was loathe to return to having none. She had interests but was leery of passions because every earlier time in her life she had pursued them they ended up owning her instead of the other way around. Instead, she wanted to sell what she wanted to offer: experience, maturity, reliability, good critical thinking skills, and the ability to get along with all kinds of people.

As Bella and I created her vocational search action plan together, we were both clear that she wanted “Right Fit Employment” that would meet her needs but NOT look or feel like her next, all consuming career. This meant her story would be different, her networking would be different, and her resume(s) would have to be tailored to the opportunities she discovered. In the end she discovered 3 job opportunities that met all of her needs and she knew she could have a fine time at any of them. She chose the best one, free of the burden of failing or having made a bad choice if she didn’t absolutely LOVE her work. She – and her new employer – had made a fine, best-fit-work job.

Kevin, 47, was the “survivor” of several different high tech jobs. His wife, Lisa, was too. Between them they had amassed a fair amount of savings. They were both hard working professionals with absolutely no expectation of permanent employment. And they thought they needed to take a year off regularly, maybe not the same year for both of them. In our work together to create a dual vocational plan, we discovered that they both wanted “shorter term” jobs of 2 years max followed by a year off followed by another couple of years of work. They weren’t worried about not being able to re-enter the workplace and they also weren’t worried about whether or not they totally loved their work. Their network was full of younger people not confined by the old employment rules. Instead they were, frankly, motivated by money and the opportunity to participate in something that could be built and sold. Their passion was focused on the end, transition state of the game, not the 2 years it would take to get there. In fact, they were incredulous about the notion that they should LOVE their work. Being good at it plus the financial end state were what motivated them. And they really liked the idea that they would have different years off so that whoever wasn’t working could be home with the kids, maintaining their home, and being supportive of the working one.

In the end we developed a model of “right fit” employment that rotated, allowing each of them to work and then take time off from work. And they weren’t driven by the total love of their work. This was true for their friends and colleagues, too, one of the possible freedoms of high tech and entrepreneurial lives.

Rhia, 60, is a family law attorney. She thought making Partner in a big firm would be the epitome of success and she could coast from there. She would love her life. That was 18 years ago. What she knows now is that loving her work isn’t the primary metric.   Instead the primary metrics are 1. Building/being in control of her own calendar and work load, 2. Having her clients write her performance review through referrals rather than the Managing Partner doing it, and 3. Finding some greater work/life balance than she was experiencing.

When we did the vocational work together, we were not particularly surprised to discover that she had lost her need to love or dislike her work, as if those were the only two categories. Instead she wanted “best fit” work that matched her primary metrics. She was tired of other attorneys asking her if she was burned out.  She no longer needed  to love or hate it. Instead she wanted it to be a match for her now.

In the end Rhia chose to leave the partnership and join a national online law firm.    Kind of like a private practice with colleagues and referral systems. It has turned out to be a great solution for her.

If you LOVE your work that’s great. We are all happy for you. If you like it but don’t want to measure that part of your life by the LOVE Standard, you won’t be alone. You have lots of options.

What role does LOVE serve in your professional life and how is it a benefit or a burden?     If it isn’t love, what are the best metrics for you now in your work life?

 

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?

 

My Big Book News

Writing a book, as you may know, requires multiple skills. At the conceptual level, whether it’s nonfiction or fiction, you must have the core ideas and the ability to articulate the content. You have to make it interesting, coherent, and allow the reader to connect the dots. It’s all too easy to lose track or become overwhelmed with so many things in motion.

Sort of like having your first baby, it’s can be charming in concept and utterly different in practice.

I’m having a baby. Fortunately it’s not my first. I have some idea of what I have gotten myself into, although books can be as different from one another as each of our kids can be.

It’s a book about what we have to understand to craft After 50 lives in a world of increasingly short term planning – a world without fixed pathways, reliable signposts, stable rules, or fallback guaranties. I’ve just signed a publishing contract with AMACOM, the publishing division of the American Management Association. The book proposal, outline, introduction, and several completed chapters came first. Many of the interviews were completed early with a small number remaining to be done.  I didn’t, of course, do this alone. I had the support of my virtual team of editor, subject matter interviewees, social media professionals, and trusted colleagues. Their jobs were to 1. Read the manuscript and give me those blinding glimpses of the obvious that elude writers from time to time and 2. Make sure I am not hanging my current OKness on this book or forgetting all of my biography that preceded it.

Now the fully completed manuscript is due in mid-December for an anticipated July 1 publication date. I think of this as upping my game and expanding my sphere of possibilities. It’s very exciting.

Several of my friends are choosing to shrink their worlds overall. Several others are expanding their possibilities. Yet others are downsizing their possessions, and growing both their spheres of interest and their professional/volunteer engagement simultaneously. There are also some with zero awareness of even the questions surrounding these decisions and actions.

All of these approaches are highly personal and not subject to second guessing by me.   That said, my own experience of the new book contract leads me to wonder about the choices my blog readers are making.

What kind of life planning are you doing?

How far out can you reasonably plan?

When can you know you are on track or off?

Please let me know and thanks.

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