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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.

THE LIE OF WORK/LIFE BALANCE

We were waiting for the luncheon speaker begin.   He sat to my right, a small, energetic man in a sports jacket and an open-collared light blue shirt. As strangers will, he asked me what I did.  My answer was that I am writing and speaking about what it takes for a good 50 year old to become a fabulous 80 year old here in the New Normal when education, work, retirement, family, health, and financial condition are being simultaneously struck by the lightning of discontinuous change   Somehow, I hit a chord because Tim’s response was very thoughtful. Here it is:

“I might have figured it out earlier if I had been self-employed, but I can’t know that for sure. All those years I had a job with a big engineering company I thought of myself as selling a part of my life in exchange for income and benefits. There was work. There was my life; my real life with my family. I thought about work/life balance all the time.  Sometimes I was pretty resentful.

Now that I am 77 and have failed retirement twice, I can see that it wasn’t a competition between my work and my life. It was all my life. The competition was between my control of my time and anyone else’s control of my time, especially my employers. It’s often about control, isn’t it? Even when I’m clever enough to call it something else, there are the dark, beady eyes of control staring back at me.”

Tim blew himself out of his employer when he was 58. Senior Management wanted to go one way. He thought their decisions were ill informed and said so. The company paid him to go quietly away, a small separation package that would keep him afloat financially for 90 days.

“Was my wife, Judy, ever surprised when she found me standing in the kitchen at 2 pm. She was even more surprised, and concerned, when I said I wasn’t going back. Ever.

A small subcontractor of my previous employer immediately hired me to be a project manager. I stayed for 7 years and retired the first time at 65.  What was different about my new employment situation? Low on rules, high on individual and team responsibility. The owner and I knew, respected, and trusted each other. I liked my work. I never thought about work/life balance through those years. Judy liked to see me happy and never complained about longer hours.  She did warn me that I should begin to develop more interests and that she had no intention of becoming my retirement entertainment committee. Then I retired.

I lasted 7 retired months; 2 months of the joy of no responsibilities, 5 months of Judy and me coming to agreement that excessive leisure (which looked good in my dreamscape) was a terrible fit for me on a daily basis.  Having socked away my 90-day salary settlement and adding to it over those 7 years, I was able to buy a retail food franchise upon retirement. Working my rear end off for 3 years I made a huge success of it and sold it for much more than I had expected.  In the beginning, it was rough. I hadn’t realized how much important work and how many crucial decisions – retirement planning, health care coverage, vacation policies, professional development, financial stability, strong vendor relationships, financial institution support, human resources – I had unthinkingly outsourced to my employers. I never thought of work/life balance during those early entrepreneurial years. Why? It wasn’t about balance at all. It was about the fact that I had control over my time, long hours and all. And I loved the challenge.

After selling the retail food franchise business, Judy and I took 9 months to travel. We flew and sailed and drove and went by train all over the place.  For the first 7 months, we were deliriously happy. Then I began to complain.   My work/life balance was out of kilter.  I had too much life and not enough self-employment.  Balance was important. So were challenge and deep engagement. We returned home simultaneously triumphant and disturbed.  After intense and happy research, we started an online camping equipment business. Judy loves to camp. I don’t, but I love equipment generally and her enthusiasm.

Here we are, 3 years later with a significant online camping equipment business. Judy is our face person and also our big generator of ideas. I am the back of the house, negotiating with vendors and making sure that we didn’t have to invest in inventory, warehousing, or shipping facilities. I learned a lot from watching Amazon. Instead, our business model involves paying suppliers well and they drop ship directly to our customers. Judy works closely with the vendors to develop new products. I work closely with customer feedback and finance to make sure we’re delivering real, consistent value. Neither of us thinks about work/life balance. We chose this way of life – knowing what to anticipate and not much about the many, many surprises in store for us.

At 77 and 76, we see ourselves as entering into a new phase with new conversations. We love what we are doing, especially doing so much of it together. Yet, there will be a time when – just to be realistic and pragmatic – we will have a tough decision to make. Do we want to keep going, knowing that when something happens to one of us the other will be left to do all the cleanup and liquidation/selling of the business OR do we want to do that together soon so that neither of us has to face that burden alone?

We haven’t decided which of these alternatives we’re going to choose but we’re definitely hot and heavy into discussing it. Either way, we left the lie of work/life balance far behind us as soon as we admitted the real struggle we were having wasn’t about work/life balance at all. It was about having control of our own lives and living like grownups with our own decisions.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think what we’ve done is necessarily for everyone. We do think, however, that it would be much less stressful for most people in long term jobs to accept the realities of their choices rather than carrying on about work life balance.

We have cell phones and texts and email and scanning that invade our time just like most other people have whether they are freelancing, self-employed entrepreneurs, or long term employees. The world of work is still about jobs but not just about jobs. The workplace revolution is well underway. We think the solution is to find or create the right match for ourselves, not to struggle for elusive control in any situation in which it’s unlikely at best.”

 

What are your own thoughts about work/life balance in our New Normal?   How is it working for you and what have you chosen to do about it?

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.

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?

 

Inspiration Might Be Sitting On Your Left

I’ve just come back to the office from a deeply inspiring lunch meeting. For all our important work with “Seniors” and the services many of them need, I think we tend to carelessly lump then together, regularly falling into the trap of no longer seeing them as individuals and very, very bright people with full biographies. The fact is lots of “Seniors” are still trucking along admirably with significant humor, vigor, and insightful thinking. Chronological age is clearly not the primary determinant of much of anything.

I am fortunate enough to belong to an almost 70-year-old professional media and journalism-oriented organization. It is made up of retired print and broadcast executives and professionals, along with the rest of us still working in several forms of journalism and media.

These older men and women were heavy hitters with long careers in exciting times for their industry, complete with opportunities that are now unlikely if not impossible.   It’s always a revelation to occasionally experience myself as one of the youngest people in a room full of really articulate, experienced, passionate people. How often do my peers and I get that chance for inspiration?

Essentially, the organization is a luncheon club where we come together at a common table with microphones available to review and discuss a wide variety of topics from journalism and media perspectives. We discuss current issues of local, national, and international importance (political positions and religion are not permitted). This isn’t a bunch of geezers telling war stories and reminiscing. This is a group of thoughtful, experienced minds coming together for highly informed discussions. About 45 of us gather each time, both men and women. The membership is larger than that, so the attendance is slightly different at each meeting.

What did I find inspiring today, you ask? I’m glad you inquired.

A woman in her late 70s (an unrepentant thespian) played her instrument-studded washboard and sang everything from Jazz to Rap as warmup entertainment. She remarked on her pig tails and wrinkles, and then announced that all it took was moderate musical prowess and, blessedly – no longer having much sense of shame – an increased capacity for joy. She knew how to seize a point and get it across, grabbing our attention without doing or being anyone we would usually expect. And all the while her significant dignity shone through. How many of us can do that well, I ask you?

The gentleman on my left, 93, remarked about having written a piece with his daughter announcing his wife’s recent death for posting on his Facebook page.

Two men in their early eighties got into a heated debate about where journalism ends and media begins. Journalism and media, although we often mash them together, are not synonymous as we all know.

Today there was a general discussion about the November 13 letter to New York Times readers from the Publisher and the Senior Editor reflecting on issues with their campaign and election coverage. Full article HERE .

A famous elections polling analyst/scientist and journalist, easily in his late 70s, talked about the intelligent limits of polling and how they can miss what’s really going on.

I’m not some voyeur at these lunches. When it was my turn, I talked about my notion that we had all been prisoners of the images and language of local/regional/identity politics and, therefore, unwilling and unable to think and behave otherwise. It’s my opinion that we, as a nation, HAVE AN EXCESS OF LANGUAGES AND IMAGES THAT SEPARATE US AND are missing the ALTERNATIVE language and images to understand commonly shared pain and hope, without which we have little opportunity to actually create an inclusive dialogue. I’d like us to do a journalistic investigation of this without having to have another September 11 to pull us all together again.

The lady to my right, in her middle 70’s, is so alert and attentive that her eyes sparkle. She worked with Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow, among others, and clearly understood the historic nuances in all of the remarks.

It’s my experience that many of us suffer from absence of intelligent intergenerational engagement and the inspiration that can accompany it.   My grandchildren regularly teach me important information I might otherwise miss entirely. When I say intergenerational engagement, I’m not talking about 3 or 4 generations showing up for a big holiday meal and watching sports on television rather than actually interacting. I’m talking about seizing the opportunity to look to my right and my left and observe the wisdom and perspective each generation brings from the lives they have led, regardless of age.

I’m inspired and this came from accomplished professionals senior to me.

What do you do for inspiration in your own life, especially multigenerational inspiration?

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?

 

When Passive Income Isn’t So Passive

The data is in, and it isn’t pretty. The vast majority of people over 50 don’t have sufficient retirement savings.  On top of that, they don’t have enough time left to save their way out of trouble.

Building enduring income streams is clearly a smart answer, as finance reporter Abby Hayes wrote in a recent piece called “4 Ways to Create a Passive Income in Retirement.”  The trouble is that what she considers passive is anything but. She suggests investing in rental property, dividend stocks and peer-to-peer lending, and also starting a side business.  All sound ideas, but all require work . . . and in some cases, as much work as a part-time job. Here’s why.

  1. Rental property. If you rent a house you will actively have to work with suppliers and repair people, not to mention rental agents and tenants. Sure, you can hire a management company to find and vet tenants, collect the rent and stay on top of repairs and other issues, but you still have to manage the managers. There’s an extra schedule to file on your income tax, too, plus additional insurance to research and buy, and upkeep to do that can eat into your revenue stream.  And if you have trouble with renters, you can be looking at stiff lawyer’s fees. It can take months or longer to get rid of a deadbeat tenant, so that’s no income for however many months they’re in arrears, along with thousands of dollars to evict.
  2. Dividend stocks.  Great idea, especially in this low-interest-rate environment. But deciding which equities (or funds) to invest in requires research, discipline and monitoring. Accounting work, too, at tax time.
  3. Create a side business. What startup in any field is passive? If you have a weekend/evening business in retail, for example, passive isn’t even a possibility. Drive an Uber? The definition of active. Want to be a successful blogger? You will still need to put in many hours every week—plus work with editors, designers and other professionals before you can even think of generating any revenue from it.
  4. Peer-to-peer lending.  If you join a lending network as an investor, you’ll still need to do the homework to decide whose loan to fund, and periodic tracking to make sure it’s working out.

The only kind of passive income streams I’m aware of involve giving your money or assets to someone else to manage for you. Except for periodic performance reviews, that’s my idea of singularly passive.  The rest, I’m afraid, requires a lot of work.

If you are older than 50 without enough set by to “retire” or support yourself for the rest of your life, no action now isn’t an option.  Certainly you can continue to save, but unless you’re saving many thousands each month you won’t have enough time to accrue what you’ll need.  Now is the time to examine the various income stream possibilities that will be best fits for you now and down the road.  You can even begin a business or rental property investment now, keep it small, and build it over time.

Not acting is what got many of us into the retirement savings hole.  Inaction now can only make matters worse.

What passive income streams have you started, or are considering starting? Let me know by leaving a comment.

Read Hayes’ full article HERE 

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