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Articles For & About Boomers

Meet the New Face of Retirement

By Carolee Duckworth

Once upon a time, not so long ago or far away, retirement was the end of working for most people. Walter fit this pattern. When Walter retired from his demanding job in a North Carolina carbon plant --- a job where he had been on call day and night as the mechanical wizard who could fix anything that broke --- his life changed from full throttle to full stop. Now what would he do? Within a few weeks of his final day at the plant, he had caught up on all the small repairs and fix ups around the house, and was at a loss about what to do with himself for the rest of his life. Fortunately his brother answered this life question for him by appearing at the door one day and saying "Let's go fishing." And so it was that Walter immersed himself in fishing as his next full-time pursuit, stocking his own freezer to overflowing with fresh fish, and then stocking the freezers of everyone else he knew.

According to the old paradigm of retirement, work ended at or around age 65 for most individuals, and from that point on they were expected to withdraw from the world of work and "enjoy" a life of leisure. They came to be mainly defined in the past tense, and relegated to a life of reduced expectations in terms of social, professional and vocational contribution--- what they had been and what they had done... not what they were going to be and do next.

This old paradigm of retirement now has shifted dramatically. As the massive generation of 77 million Baby Boomers crosses the age divide into what once would have been their retirement years, they are redefining what it means to retire. According to William Frey, a demographer and visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, "[Boomers] will want to stay engaged in their work and be physically social." Ken Dychtwald, author of "Going from Success to Significance in Work and Life," agrees, adding that "we are going to see adult education, re-careering and personal reinvention become a standard part of the later years."

There are many ways the “face” of retirement has been transformed. Among the top five are these:

1. Dramatically increased life expectancy

Retiring Boomers have ahead of them 20 or 30 or more years of life (from the National Center for Health Statistics). That's too long for a vacation.

2. Retirement savings impacted by the economy

This, along with employers' decreased long-term commitment to their employees, impels many Boomers to plan to continue working and earning. Four out of every five (totaling over 60 million individuals) expect to work at least part-time after retirement, and 40% (upwards of 30 million) declare “I will work until I drop" (from a recent survey of Boomers conducted by Merrill Lynch).

3. Urge to stay connected & creative, engaged & relevant, active & challenged

Many Boomers plan to continue to learn and study and to seek out involvement and opportunities to contribute well past the traditional age when past generations were expected to retire and “step aside.” They otherwise fully intend to retain their roles as players, not just spectators. Beyond any financial considerations, two-thirds (67%) of Boomers report that they plan to work after retirement in order to stay mentally active, and 57% in order to stay physically active (as per the Merrill Lynch study).

4. A determination to live in stimulating locales

If they do plan to move after retirement, Boomers are as likely to consider relocating to a major city, or even to another country, as they are to contemplate a shift to a retirement community where all their needs are met. Over 90% plan to continue to live in their own homes (from the MetLife Mature Marketing Institute study).

5. Work and involvement options made possible by the Internet

Retiring Boomers have opportunities to remain engaged that would have been unheard of and unattainable to past generations when they retired, brought within reach by the connectivity, opportunity and globalization of the Internet. They now are able to work, create, invent and relate in an “any time, any place, any person, any pace” environment where white hair doesn't show, and physical strength and stamina are not requirements for them to make an active and significant contribution.

All of these changes are positive ones, perhaps even those that are driven by economic necessity. And even within these pervasive changes --- this “new” face of retirement --- there is an added layer of critically essential individual change. The notion of doing nothing for the rest of our lives may not be attractive to us, nor in some cases even possible. But what we hope to do next --- what will lend purpose and meaning to our lives for the two or three decades ahead --- will likely require that we “shift gears” by working through a process of redirection, re-exploration and renewal that culminates in a future that engages us fully and towards which we can and will apply ourselves with vitality, enthusiasm and enjoyment.

To put an individual face on the more generalized “new” face of retirement, Ruth is an embodiment of these shifts and changes. She writes: “I am at 81 busy writing my memoirs, painting pictures and now moving to help care for my great granddaughter. I am busy, having a great time. I also still work (as a therapist) and write articles and do lots of things that I can't remember right now… I am looking for a publisher. Do you have any ideas on that topic?”

Summarizing in a few words… The “old” face of retirement was one that looked backwards. The “new” face of retirement looks ahead to a future—a next phase life and work that well may be the best personal and professional opus yet.





SAYING ‘BYE BYE’ TO RETIREMENT

by Marie Langworthy

I’m on a mission to retire the term “retirement.” I’ll admit it – there are certain sociological and egotistic reasons why, when I left my life-long career three years ago, I found it increasingly difficult to admit that I had joined the ranks of “the redundant,” as members of the UK so tellingly describe that stage of Limbo in which an increasing number of retiring Boomers seem to be finding themselves these days!

Actually, “redundant” was how I felt! Suddenly I was (or felt that I was) so unimportant, so unnecessary, so useless, so potentially poor! Why was I finding myself frequently apologizing, and yes, not a little ashamed to admit that I was … retired!

And although I can’t attest that all Boomers who have decided to accept “the golden handshake” for one reason or another -- and at an increasingly younger age -- share my sentiments, I’m willing to bet that many more will admit having experienced ambiguities similar to my own.

First, there was the panic – the buyer’s remorse, as it were -- the reality that I was no longer important or essential to an organization. What had I done? Did I make a mistake? I still had so much talent, expertise, energy to contribute. What had I irrevocably given up? Then there was the secret resentment that my replacement (who, of course, could never fill my shoes) now had assumed my title, my power, my glory, my salary!

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YOUR NEW RETIREMENT:  IT’S ALL ABOUT BALANCE!

By Carolee Duckworth

Consider yourself warned.  No matter how much retirement pre-planning you did, you will initially lose your balance to some degree. No matter how thoroughly you’re sure you’ve prepared for this new passage of retirement, you will find yourself temporarily teetering and tottering on this precarious high wire of new-found freedom and personal exploration.

Why?  Because … unanticipated, and uncontrollable winds and weights lay in wait to sabotage your otherwise flawless, but delicate balancing act! And those ‘retirement’ balancing feats which you assured yourself would be a breeze, are more complicated than you had imagined. Just wait until you come head to head with those unexpected forces as you maneuver your way along that potentially wobbly balance beam called ‘the new retirement!’

First, there’s the Work vs. Leisure conundrum. You’re an expert at the ‘work’ part – after all, you’ve been walking that precipice for decades. And it is precisely because you were so adept at it – hailed a master balancer when it came to job-related success – that you just assumed you’d gracefully scale that leisure sequence, too. Alas, not so. 

At first you may frantically find yourself flailing around trying to find ‘meaningful work’ to fill your vacant hours.  You’re absolutely panicky at the thought that you have freely forfeited working in an important professional position, a lucrative trade, a profitable skill, thereby also losing the not-so-modest, predictable paycheck which your chosen life’s work generated.

When finally, in a saner moment, you do come to your senses to realize that there is a new, possibly richer, more enjoyable and productive life after retirement, then you’re poised to fall off that balance beam again, plagued by the winds of guilt which threaten to convince you that “you should be performing meaningful work for money” or “you’re wasting all this time on frivolous, trivial pursuits.”

Next, you’re now forced to face the ultimate Time vs. Money irony. When you were working full time, you were drawing a substantial salary, often lamenting the fact that you had no time to travel, to shop, to pursue your favorite pastime, sport or hobby – in a word, “no time to spend my hard-earned money!” Now you have an abundance of leisure – the time to engage in all the above pursuits, but … “will I run out of money while travelling, shopping, golfing, sailing, beading, etc?” How do I balance the ‘time vs. money/money vs. time’ equation? Very delicately, I’m afraid, unless you have married well, won the lottery, or are numbered among one of the latest technology entrepreneur billionaires.

Then comes the Social vs. Private Time conundrum. You had automatically expected that the friendships you forged on the job would continue as usual. First of all, you like those people you worked with. Secondly, you want to keep tabs on all that local office/job site gossip. Thirdly, until now you never realized that this group of former colleagues comprised the nucleus of your social life.

But suddenly the paradigm has changed.  You don’t automatically spend time with former colleagues on a daily basis. So, to maintain those friendships you so desperately think are essential to your emotional and social well-being, you fill your calendar with lunches, drinks at the pub, shopping sprees, sports and social activities – any occasion that will keep you close to ‘the gang’. Of course, you’re not deluding yourself into thinking that you’re still a vital, central, important cog in the organizational wheel.  After all, it’s a given that maintaining these connections is absolutely essential to your mental and social sanity.

Until one day soon you confront the realization that you’re about to take a critical fall off that balance beam, in the form of ‘what happened to all that precious private time alone that you eagerly planned to spend, far from the phone, the meetings, the e-mail – treasured time puttering in the garden, organizing your books, CD’s, and videos, tracing your genealogy, repairing your fishing rods, etc.  And really, aren’t those luncheons becoming somewhat boring and irrelevant?  Maybe, just maybe, you not only can’t go back, you don’t want to go back! Smartly, you land in that safety net, vowing to retrieve and to relish your ‘alone time’.

Lastly, you’ve had to learn the balancing act of Family Time vs. My Time. When you were working, no one ever expected you to babysit the grandchildren, to drive dad to his weekly card game, to take advantage of that 9:00 a.m. Kmart Blue Light Special sale, to take the family dog to the vet! Now you’re considered the family day care person, errand-doer, the fill-in.  At first it seemed fun … you felt so important … and needed! After all, you’re free and available; you have nothing important on your agenda; you’re so approachable and capable and willing!

Whoa! Just wait a minute! Perhaps you need and want to establish some non-negotiables about your time, such as —

  • My time is valuable. It needs to be scheduled in advance, and only for significant, anticipated, needs and events.
  • My time is MY time. As such, I’m free to schedule it when and how and where I want to. Since it belongs to me, I have every right to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on any given occasion, for any specific invite.
  • My time is discretionary. It is not available for ‘free use’ or open to arbitrary and capricious encumbrance by others.

So… you’ve been warned. You’ll lose your balance. The good news – you’ll regain your equilibrium to find the riches, the joys, the opportunities, the challenges which are in store for those of us who are entering this third, most glorious phase of our lives. You can become an Olympics-like balancer of: work vs. leisure; time vs. money; social vs. private time; family time vs. my time. And, yes, truly, the best is yet to come.




YOUR RETIREMENT PERSONA:  PLAY PERSON OR WORKER BEE?

By Carolee Duckworth

In a previous piece, Your New Retirement: It's All About Balance! we talked about the four forces which could jeopardize that delicate balancing act in which you'll find yourself when you begin that greatest of new adventures known as “re-inventing yourself in your retirement”. These precarious balance-beam challenges are: Work vs. Leisure;  Time vs. Money;  Family Time vs. My Time;  Social Time vs. Private Time.

Consider Work Vs. Leisure.

What will it be? Work, toil, labor — a.k.a. — (“Tote that barge, Lift that bale!”);  or … leisure, fun, freedom — a.k.a. — (“Life is just a bowl of cherries!”)  Door A or Door B?

Whoa, again! Wait A Minute! Where is it written that you have to choose? Why can't you have the best of both worlds — and on your own terms!

When you began your career three or four decades ago as a young worker, you may have, either freely, or out of necessity, taken a job that you allowed to define you — what you did, when you did it, and how that work dominated your days. Now you're at that enviable point in your life when you have much more autonomy. You want to determine for yourself who you are, what you will do, when you will do 'it', and how 'it' will align with other facets of your newly-acquired life style.

For starters, you know that you do not want to work as much you did before — too many hours, too much time away from home and family, too much all-out expenditure of mental and physical energy. And more, you may not want to work at the same type of job you held during your previous lifetime career — too much compromise, too much outside control and too little self-control. It's time, you say, for more balance and more freedom, less stress and less constraint.

In a word, while you are not interested in a future dedicated entirely to relaxation, you just want more balance and control in designing your unique 'work versus relaxation' formula. Nor are you ready to set aside your past life of learning, engagement, achievement and contribution. As a matter of fact, you probably have an aversion to the prospect of having nothing to do, nothing to challenge, nothing to learn.

Take heart — in future conversations we'll examine in detail the various life-style configurations and options you're free to pursue, and the multiple combinations thereof. We'll talk about the 'how's and 'what's of the leisure/work combination.

But first, let's continue to make some basic observations and consider some general comments on the remaining three balance beam busters which are poised to sabotage our new-found freedom if we're not paying attention. We're talking about —

  • Time vs. Money
  • Social Vs. Private Time
  • Family Time vs. My Time

Our next article gives some insight on Time vs. Money. . .



A RETIREMENT CONUNDRUM:  I'VE GOT THE TIME, HONEY;  HAVE YOU GOT THE MONEY?

By Carolee Duckworth

In a previous segment, Your Retirement Persona: Play Person or Worker Bee? we talked about balancing your need and/or desire to continue to work in some capacity with a life of leisure. We also mentioned several other unexpected forces which could jeopardize your ability to balance all the components of this new adventure known as 'the re-invented retirement'.

Case in point, how do I balance the Money vs. Time equation? The short answer is … Oops!

The long answer: It can prove to be a frustrating paradox.  When you were working full-time, you probably had a generous wad of discretionary income to spend on luxuries — or, as I’m inclined to define them — items which you deluded yourself into needing, when in reality you wanted them. After all, you rationalized, you earned these trivial pursuits; you deserved them! And most likely, you did, and still do!

Now, in retirement, you have the luxury of time to spend, spend, and then spend some more! Hold on! What happened to that monetary safety net under the balance beam on which you’re so precariously poised? What once seemed to be a steady, unstoppable stream of cash has, almost overnight, begun to wane, or even abruptly has stopped. Hence, the paradox of access to less money vis-a-vis the availability of more time to spend it.

In all probability, you fit in one of three financial categories:

  • Over the course of my work life, I have amassed enough benefits and/or money to live comfortably for the next 30+ years, even if I never work another day.
  • Over the course of my work life, I have amassed some benefits and/or money, but not enough to sustain me comfortably for 30+ years of retirement.
  • Financially, I now realize that I am unprepared to support myself securely in my retirement.

If you fall into the first category, then you have all the time in the world to play, to travel, to spend. But a life of total leisure may not prove to be a long term source of personal and psychological satisfaction. You want and need to become meaningfully involved in a cause or activity which validates you as a person — an endeavor which fulfills your need to contribute to a cause, a community, a corporation.

Or you count yourself among the second group. Your work life has been a composite of successful investing, frivolous spending, supporting family members, and moderate saving.  You realized early on that you probably would not ever be in a position to ‘fully retire’, so you’re poised to continue to pursue some type of work. But you’re determined that any future employment will be had on your own terms, both interest and time-wise. And you also intend to carve out a respectable segment of time to pursue your leisure interests and passions.

If you’re a member of the third group, your options may be more limited; your need to continue working is a given. But again, you’re determined that, to paraphrase the song … “work is worthier, the second time around. Now you’ll choose your work with both feet on the ground.” And although you’ve known all along that you would need to continue working during this new retirement phase, you still intend to monitor and adjust your pace, to assure that you have more than adequate time to play at what you enjoy most.

Regardless of the category in which you find yourself, in future chats we’ll consider the many forms of employment and work you might want and be qualified to perform. We’ll provide specific resources and strategies you can put into play to thrive in this, your last and, hopefully, most productive, satisfying, enjoyable phase of life. 

But first, let’s continue to make some basic observations and consider some general comments on the remaining two balance beam busters which are poised to sabotage your new-found freedom if you’re not paying close attention. What about —

  • Social vs. Private Time
  • Family Time vs. My Time

Our next article gives some insight on Social vs. Private Time. . .



YOUR NEW RETIREMENT:  'SOCIAL' PAST VS. 'ALONE' FUTURE?  SOCIAL BUTTERFLY OR SHY RECLUSE?

By Carolee Duckworth

In a previous article, A Retirement Conundrum:  I've Got The Time, Honey;  Have You Got The Money? we discussed a frustrating paradox — when you were working full-time, you probably had a respectable amount of discretionary income to spend, but very little time to enjoy it. Now, in retirement, you have the luxury of time, but your once flowing (or gushing!) cash stream seems to be dwindling down to somewhat of a trickle.

Enter a further unexpected dilemma, in the form of social vs. private time, to threaten your precarious newly retired balancing act.  You never expected it.  Who would have thought that you’d be struggling to resolve a conflict between your social engagements and your coveted private time? How often when, as a member of the 9 to 5 squad, did you fantasize about stealing a pittance of privacy — anywhere — the restroom, the supply closet, in your car, behind the building dumpster — anywhere! How you yearned for some time to daydream, to read that latest tabloid, time to triumph over a Sudoku, to take a nap, to surf your favorite web sites, to indulge in that hot fudge sundae — all by yourself! It never dawned on you that, just as you prepared for your financial future, you needed to plan for a balance between time for yourself and time for friends.

Now, at last, you have all the time in the world, but … you suddenly don’t relish it. You almost dismiss and disdain it as a liability to be filled with all sorts of activities — occasions that you so desperately think are essential to your emotional and social well-being. You set out in a frenzy to  populate your calendar with lunches, drinks at the pub, shopping sprees, sports and social activities — any occasion that will keep you close to those whom you’re convinced are essential to your social and mental well-being.

Until one day soon you confront the realization that you’re about to take a critical fall off that balance beam, in the form of ‘what happened to all that precious private time alone’ that you eagerly planned to spend, far from the phone, the meetings, the e-mail — treasured time puttering in the garden, organizing your books, CD’s, and videos, tracing your genealogy, repairing your fishing rods, etc.  And really, aren’t those luncheons becoming somewhat boring and irrelevant?  Suddenly, the name dropping has become unfamiliar, the rumor mill no longer fascinates, the office/work site drama has become anti-climactic! Maybe, just maybe, you not only can’t go back, you don’t want to go back!

Take heart. Help is on the way.  There are several strategies and approaches you need to and can take to find a healthy happy balance between time to and for yourself and meaningful social intervals with others whose company you enjoy.  In a future article, we’ll look at the when, where, who, how, and why of apportioning time with friends and time with self. You’ll be surprised to find that the one (private time) enriches, enhances, and complements the other (social time). And maybe, just maybe, you’re in store to find a whole new group of fascinating friends within the scaffolding of your new-found retirement life.  Just wait and see.




RETIREMENT OPTIONS:  THE ALL OR NOTHING DILEMMA

By Marie Langworthy

Whether to —

  • Spend or Save?
  • Work or Play?
  • Stay Home or Travel?
  • Focus on Family or Friends?
  • Give or Take?

The answer is – YES! All of the above – not one or the other! It’s all about balance.

First, let’s talk about money.  For most of your work life, you followed all the financial rules. You invested wisely and regularly. You didn’t take any crazy, fly-by-night investment risks.  You shopped only during sales, on clearance, in bulk, never allowing yourself to be labeled as an’ impulse buyer’, never experiencing ‘buyer’s remorse’.  All this in the name of building an adequate, respectable nest egg for your boomer retirement years.  So, now you’re there! Live a little! Give yourself permission to splurge on that Harley you’ve pictured yourself riding  for, it seems, like almost forever! Go ahead and buy that real fur coat reminiscent of your late Aunt Hannah’s mink! Indulge in a delightful decadent day spa event with your best friend! Yes, you can afford it, and no, such indulgences will not bankrupt your retirement account!

And what about working vs. playing? If you’ve always been one of those ‘get up and go’ full speed  ahead Type A personalities, a ‘sit down and suddenly stop’ model just might not work for you. Then don’t! Slow down slowly, decelerate decisively, refrain from slamming on those ‘no more work’ brakes.   Volumes have been written and are currently being published about part-time work options for new retirees. And the one common theme in all these job opportunities emphasizes that you work in your own way, on your own terms, in your own timeframe, at your own pace, doing what you enjoy, using your unique talents.

Should you travel or stay home?  After all, if you try to escape the cruel Snow Belt winters, who will … make sure your pipes don’t freeze, plow your quarter-mile driveway, feed the birds? If you choose to escape the oppressive southern heat, how can you expect someone to … mow the lawn, weed the flower beds, take care of your cats? If you do decide to venture out, should you stay in this country or travel abroad? Venture out on your own or join a tour group? Land or sea? Fly or drive? Enough! Just do it! Choose a destination, near or far! Select a travel style, make the call, book the flight. Trust me, once you are bitten by the travel bug, you will be hooked for life. And think about it. If you decide to take one or two minor or major trips each year, you’ll still have majority time to nest at home.

Now how about the dilemma of spending time with family or friends? Think about it! For years, you managed to compete with the best of jugglers, dividing your limited, precious free time between family and friends. Now that your time is primarily your own, you have more time to spend with both groups – and without the pressure and stress of constantly checking your cell phone and your calendar! You can visit and play and sit with the grandchildren, enjoy stimulating lunches with former colleagues, shop and dine with your new boomer friends, gather with your siblings. And the operative words for these experiences -- leisure, open-ended, stress-free!

But suddenly, all types of charitable organizations and community associations are beckoning for your volunteer services. Until now, you never realized how many needs existed within your own community; nor were you aware of the importance and value of and satisfaction derived in rendering these services to others.  But wait a minute – how did you inadvertently become ‘triple-booked’ with promises to help with the Boy Scouts Popcorn Drive, to man the local soup kitchen, and to decorate for the annual Snowflake Ball – all within the same time frame! Yikes! It’s time to step back, regroup, update your calendar --perhaps even to engage the services of a social director to help you regain that delicate balance between your personal social life and your public service agenda!

If, as a newly retired boomer, you recognize yourself amid any of the above conundrums, take heart. You can have all the above. It’s all about balance, and about your conscious awareness and deliberate determination that now, at last, more than ever before, you are in control of your time, your life, your destiny! You can have it all! Just make sure  that you update that digital calendar on an hourly basis!


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