Browsed by
Category: Creating it

Everything EXCEPT the money that it’s wise to be thinking about before you retire.

“Disneyland” Retirement

“Disneyland” Retirement

We have all these fantasies when we are getting ready to leave work. The excitement. The fun. The joy of just doing what you want as it occurs to you. It is a bit like Disneyland when you dream of it.

Photo by Taylor Rogers on Unsplash

But what happens when you actually live it? Well…

That’s like Disneyland, too–at least at the start. But it’s the reality of an actual trip to the Magic Kingdom in how things play out.

Yes, there’s Adventureland–all the exciting things you want to do that you’ve been waiting to experience. Yes, there’s Sleeping Beauty’s Castle–where you are special (if you book and pay for that experience). Yes, there’s Mickey’s Toon Town–where you can act like a kid and no one raises an eyebrow. Maybe you will even do the Star Wars stuff–or maybe you’ll pass because of the crowds (but on a mega cruise ship or in a busy city you’re visiting, not in Disneyland itself).

But there are two things about actually living your “Disneyland retirement” that are starkly different than the still-at-work fantasy: it wears you out, and it’s fake.

Anyone who has actually gone to Disneyland (or Disneyworld for that matter) knows the trip typically involves a lot of planning, a significant amount of expense, and days of nonstop effort to make sure that you’re having the maximum amount of fun. You fall into bed each night. You rub peppermint lotion on tired feet and aloe vera on sunburned arms at the end of the day to be ready for the next day. You eat anything you can find because finding it is more work than when your refrigerator is within arm’s reach. You walk and walk and walk and wait and wait and wait. You love it. You pull it off for three or four or five days.

Then the fantasy starts to wear thin. Do you really want another ride, even if it looks like the Matterhorn? Do you need anything else with Mickey Mouse ears on it, even if your five year-old granddaughter is begging for it like her life depended on it?

You start to notice this magical place is a business. You become aware of the “cast members” (staff), cleaning up trash and trying to keep order in the crowds. You are a customer. It’s not real magic. It’s a consumer enterprise. Buy your ticket and stand in line (literally!)

All this is fleeting with a real trip to Disneyland. It’s a short period of time, and it’s easy to dip back into the fantasy to have fun while you’re there. But in “Disneyland retirement” the timeline is a whole lot longer. There, you will eventually surrender to the fact that you need something more authentic–more substantial. Why?

A trip to Disneyland is a vacation. The idea is to step away from your normal identity for a short time for fun–to recharge. Then you go back to being the Real You. With actual retirement, trying to live as if you were an extended trip to Disneyland isn’t satisfying because you give up your real identity to do it. That’s why vacation doesn’t work as a full time, long term gig. Retirement needs to be custom fit and an honest reflection of who you really are. You need to build it out of the stuff that really makes a difference to you, not off-the-rack, one-size-fits-all adventures day in and day out.

The Real Deal still includes a lot of fun. It might be fishing with your grandson rather than riding around a fake lagoon on a fake paddlewheeler. It may be creating a garden instead of walking through one carefully maintained along the Grand Promenade. The genuine experience will last longer and resonate more deeply than the commercial version. It might not be as flashy as the theme park variety, but it will feel right for you. (Then again, it may be a wilder ride than anyone concocting the commercial version could have imagined.)

Don’t buy a ticket and wait in line. Customize what you decide to do from Day 1 of your retirement. It works a whole lot better if you make it your own.

Good Work

Good Work

It’s Labor Day. Let’s talk about work.

Did you groan? Or maybe even flinch? If so, there’s a whole lot of stuff that you can’t see in what you’re seeing as “work.”

Photo by NEoN Brand on Unsplash

Work–absent the paycheck and the boss and the nosey cube-mate–is something humans have been doing since we arrived on this earth. Some of it was for survival. Some of it was for the approval of others (another form of survival). And some of it was just because it was fun.

Yes, work can be fun. Actually, work should be fun. We have things really screwed up in our current approach to it, and that’s killing us, individually and as a society. We work work work without feeling joy in what we are doing–and that’s not “good work.”

We need to be doing work that reflects our sense of what’s important. If that’s not happening, a lot of things can go wrong. Physical health. Job performance. And the biggie, mental health. Doing bad work really can kill you–or someone else. This is not safe. Is anybody listening?

Even worse, when we retire, everyone assumes this problem is solved. It’s not. It just morphs. Sometimes there’s still a paycheck involved. Sometimes it’s unpaid–as a caregiver to a family member or to help kids who need child care for their own kids. Work does not stop when you retire. It shouldn’t. But it needs to be good work.

If you do not want to do it, it’s going to be bad work. So a big factor in work once you retire is honesty. If we were doing this right as a culture, that would be true from the get-go. At least in retirement, you have control over what you choose. So put some real effort into choosing well. If your friend wants you to volunteer and you really aren’t interested, don’t say yes. If your service guild needs a President and begs you to take on the role, only do it if you believe you can take pleasure in doing the work.

More important than anything when you get far enough in life to decide whether you want to do things or not is to choose the things that you want to do.

The vast majority of the time, this will not mean choosing to avoid work–which you may find surprising. Work has huge personal benefits even when there’s no money coming in as a result. Work is confirmation of your competence. Doing work says you have value to the world. Work usually gives you the chance to be with other people, too. And we do need to be with other people. Social connections have more impact on our health as we age than everything modern medicine can do.

Once you retire, you’re still going to work. Get used to that idea. You’re going to need something, both to confirm your value and to offer good social contact. You many need some time to figure out what that is once you leave the job. You may have been doing it as a hobby or volunteer effort for years. But you’re going to need it–provided it’s GOOD work.

Getting into Volunteering

Getting into Volunteering

A lot of us enter retirement with a strong desire to give back.  A lot fewer of us have already established how we are going to do that.  The difference in what happens with those two different starting points can be dramatic.  Why?  Because finding a way to “give back” when you are approaching existing organizations who don’t know you is every bit as daunting as finding a new job.

You have to prove yourself.  That comes over time.

That means you will have to make peace with the reality that those who were there before you will have more say in how and what gets done–even if you are an expert with 35 years experience in what the group is trying to accomplish.

You will have to accept that politics can exist and be every bit as lethal in the volunteer setting as in business, academia, education, or whatever arena you just stepped out of.  

And you have to accept that you are a beginner in everyone else’s eyes because they don’t know you (yet). If you’re already smarting from losing the sense of competence the job gave you, that can be a more brutal beating than you’re ready for.

Do it anyway. 

But be ready to be “the new kid” in terms of what you get to do and how you are perceived.  (And be ready to do your happy dance if being seen as “the rookie” when you aren’t turns out not to be the case.)

Find a volunteer gig that relates to something you’re deeply interested in rather than just jumping into what a friend is already doing.  With paid work, you show up anyway if what you’re doing isn’t that interesting.  With volunteering, “ya gotta wanna” to keep at it long enough to achieve the momentum of enjoying being part of the group.  If you quit a lot of things right after you start because they aren’t interesting, you lose interest in volunteering altogether–an unfortunate overreaction.

Pay attention to the tone of the organization.  Do they appreciate volunteer help?  Are they upbeat with their mission?  Do they treat both those being helped and those doing the helping with respect?  Are they well organized?  Are they using resources wisely?

When you volunteer, you really do get paid–but in emotional benefits.  Being part of a group effort for the greater good can foster a sense of belonging, create the opportunity for new friendships, and make you remember how lucky you are yourself.  But you need to choose the organization wisely to get those things.  “Whatever comes along” might leave you way short of that.

Or, as a good friend used to say “I’ll work for nothing but not any less.”

Planning — How Much Is Enough?

Planning — How Much Is Enough?

Planning is an interesting challenge for most of us. We either plan too much or plan too little.  (And we tend to make fun of those at the opposite end of the spectrum no matter which we are guilty of.)  Is one right and the other wrong?  And if so, which is which?

The truth is in the middle, of course.  How thoroughly we plan needs to be a function of what it is we are trying to get done.  But even that can be a matter of perspective.

If I showed you a photo of a bunch of vertical furroughs and said “We need to get to the top of this,” how would you make it happen?  Would you know what you were dealing with?  It’s easy to get deep into the details of things and miss what’s involved at a broader level.

In this particular case, the broader perspective paints a much different picture of what we are trying to do.  Getting to “the top of this” is not a matter of running up one of the furrows.  Getting to the top of Devils Tower takes climbing skill, specialized gear, and multiple conversations with the folks at the climber registration desk.  So the first thing to decide when you think about planning anything should be, “Just what am I looking at here?”

Christmas tasks come to mind on this.  We focus on buying the perfect gifts, trimming the tree, decorating the house, getting the outside lights up, remembering to buy eggnog ad nauseam and totally lose track of the basic idea of the season–“joy to the world.”

Planning can make life simpler if you use it at the right times.  It can also make life a whole lot more difficult if you get carried away.  The best example of the latter that I can point to is a family vacation I took long ago with my then husband, my two sons, (ages 12 and 16 at the time) and my then 11 year-old stepdaughter.  The intent was to fly to San Francisco to visit family and see the sights.  I planned the whole nine days to a gnat’s eyelash—and insisted on doing exactly what we planned to do exactly when we had predetermined we were going to do it.  It was awful, and it was all my sweet little planner-manic fault.  What a waste of a good time.

Too little planning isn’t much better though.  Traveling without any plan means you’re looking for a motel room when you’re dog tired and wanting to already be in it.  (You usually end up with worse accommodations at a much higher price if you do this, too–at least from my extensive road trip experience.)  Or maybe you show up in town the week after an event you would have loved to be part of has occurred—that was plastered all over the website if you’d bothered to take a look.  It might also mean you don’t have the resources—time, money, or vacation days–to do the dream thing when you finally notice that the opportunity exists.

Finding the right blend of planning and not planning is part of our life-long quest for balance.  You need to know what you have to work with and what you are trying to do—to have some idea of where you’re trying to go.  That’s the planning. But you also need to leave room for serendipity and magic.  That’s non-planning.  Remember that as you gear up for your next project.  Having the right balance gives much better results.

A few years ago, I was sending a friend hiking photos on a regular basis because he couldn’t get out on the trail.  The hiking opportunities are slim in early spring in the Pacific Northwest.  Plus, no matter where you hike, your photos will be mostly shades of gray.  So I decided to create a colorful photo. It was Easter Sunday.  I’d learned to “tie dye” eggs with food coloring and foil a few years earlier and chose that as my “medium.”  That was the “planning” part.  I could have just put them on plastic grass in an Easter basket for the photo.  But by nestling those wild eggs in what was available at the moment (the unplanned aspect)–in this case some newly blooming rock cress–I had a much more spectacular photo to send.

Planning is a tool, not the whole point of the effort.  So remember these four things:
  *  Don’t plan what you can’t control.  (It won’t go the way you want anyway.)
  *  Leave room for magic and last minute detours.
  *  If the plan becomes a burden, simplify it.
  *  Plan only for important outcomes; learn to enjoy doing things on the fly.

That should give you the best of both worlds…and you’ll thrive whether your plans are with planners or non-planners.

 

Retirement for Couples

Retirement for Couples

When you’re spending most of your waking hours at work, spending 24/7 with your spouse or partner sounds like heaven. It’s not that simple once it’s time to actually pull it off.

One of the the most unexpected challenges of retirement planning is figuring out how to do it together.  I’m not talking about synchronizing departure dates and retirement party calendars.  I’m talking about how to create a mutually satisfying new lifestyle once work is no longer the central focus of your lives.  And if you are a single-earner couple, this might be even more challenging than if both of you are giving up outside work.

The surprising truth is that while one–or both–of you was enmeshed in getting the job done as a career, the other was doing something else.  And that “something else” is just as important as your own job when you plan for what comes next.  Assuming all you need to decide is when you stop working is like deciding you are going to have fish for dinner because you got your fishing pole out of the attic.

The key, of course, is honest conversation. That, too, is not as easy is you might want to believe. If you are expecting to resume the carefree fun of when you first fell in love without any effort, please stop and take a look at reality. Neither of you is the person who said “I do” (or even “I would if I could”) so long ago. To get to the good stuff in the future with this person, you need to figure out what’s going on now. With her (or him). With you. With the living situation you’ve been content with for the last umpteen years.

There are a few questions you’ll need to find pretty solid answers to if you want to get this right.

Who am I? A lot of who you really are has gotten buried under what you have had to do to make a living and function as a responsible adult. Getting a solid sense of what the Real You needs to thrive once you retire is going to be a bigger job than going back to the guitar lessons you gave up when you started med school. Find a way to help yourself explore who you are now. (Supercharged Retirement: Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love has an extensive number of fun exercises to help you do that.)

Who is she/he? (your spouse/partner) Unless you have been having long, deep conversations about personal needs and dreams for years, you have a lot to learn about your sweetheart before you step into the next phase of your lives together. This is not the same person you married (or committed to). Your buddy for retirement is that person plus all the experience, insight, and foibles acquired between then and now. Assuming she or he is still the same innocent angel when s/he’s been negotiating deals for the non-profit s/he volunteers with is naive. Plus, we change as we age and our hormones rearrange themselves. Women tend to become a bit more assertive, and guys are more inclined to nurture than when we were younger. New stuff all around.

What is important–to each of you? It’s really really important to figure this out. It’s also really really important not to assume you know what’s important to your significant other. Many who have served in support roles are ready to step up to challenges they design for themselves. Some who have been “top dog” are ready to be the support for those who have had their back for decades. But not all. What’s important is unique for each of us. Effectively combining your priorities and your “other’s” for a satisfying new lifestyle depends on each of you knowing what they are for both of you.

How/what do you want to change? What do you like and want to keep or add? What do you want to not have to do anymore? Figure this out.

How/what does she/he want to change? Same deal for your sweetie. You can’t have it all your way all the time. Find the give-and-take and get creative in finding ways to include both sets of dreams.

What are your trade-offs?” Okay, this is something we need to be very candid about. Sometimes, not only do you not get what you want, you don’t get any sympathy for even wanting it. Be authentic in what you decide to do about that. If she (or he) absolutely refuses to do something you want to do, assess where your trade-offs are. Is keeping her (or him) happy more important to you than what you wanted to do? Is doing it on a less grand scale as a solo adventure while she (or he) does something else a good compromise? What are you willing to forego for the sake of keeping the relationship on solid ground? What do you truly have to have to be true to yourself?

Where are the log jams? This is the one that no one wants to admit might occur. Either we will agree happily in the first place or we will work in out. But sometimes, that’s not where the conversation goes. In fact sometimes, the conversation goes nowhere simply because the other person doesn’t want to talk about whatever it is that IS the log jam.

What you do in that situation is a function of three things: How much do you want to stay with that person? How hard would it be to go around the objection to do what you want/need to do anyway? How much of an imbalance are you willing to settle for? The situation may change over time, but if the person you love isn’t willing to look at retirement planning issues now, you need to decide what that means for you. (For the record, taking important topics of conversation “off the table” when the other partner wants to discuss them is a form of verbal abuse.)

This is just the tip of the iceberg on living well as a couple as we age. But starting with the tip will at least let you know which way the thing is floating.

Do the Next Thing

Do the Next Thing

Whether it’s building a business, finding a job, creating the life you really want, the best advice is “Do the next thing.”  Too often, we do one thing and stop.  Then we wait for the reaction on that thing–the email or phone call expressing interest, the dreaded form rejection letter, the suggestion that a prospective client wants to hear more.

Doing it that way means you spend a lot of your time waiting for what someone else may or may not do.  Waiting is a passive process.  So you lose momentum.  And you feel less effective because…well..nothing’s happening while you are doing all that waiting.

In other cases, you capitalize on one opportunity and call it good.  The chance to speak to a group or have coffee with someone who’s willing to mentor you.  Instead of using that as a springboard for doing more things, we consider ourselves done once we’ve written the thank you note.

Why do we do this?  I think it’s because it’s easier to handle life in little tidbits–to do one thing and then…well….rest.   The problem with this approach is that you start from the point of inertia every time and have to work up the moxie to do that one thing again and again.  You have to talk yourself into it and then get yourself going over and over.

If you look for the next thing with everything you do, you don’t have that acceleration challenge because you’re already moving.  You don’t have to talk yourself into it because you’re still finishing the last thing so you’re already in “do it” mode.

But even better, those “next things” can hold some pretty fun magic.  A year ago,  a career counselor on the other side of the country contacted me about reviewing my book on her blog.  Of course, I was delighted to send a review copy, and she did a wonderful write-up of what I had to say.   End of story, right?

Not really.  After I thanked her for the review, I decided I needed to check out her website more thoroughly.  Among the many things she offers there were links to TV shows she’d done interviewing people who had switched careers after 50 and were thriving.  One  interview in particular intrigued me, and I asked her to e-introduce me to that person.  She graciously agreed.

Then the “next thing” was to contact him.  When I did, I discovered he was looking for experts to write for his web-based business.  In particular, he was looking for somene to cover the business perspective of employing older workers.  That’s an angle I’d been trying to find a way to work for a year.  Perfect.  And that was it, right?  Nope.

The next thing?  Well, there were two.  Through that contact I met another expert who’s focused on people who start their own businesses after 50.  That gave me another angle from which to promote better use of our “retirement” years, another way to expand my knowledge base, and one more platform for increasing my visibility.

The second thing?  I got a request to be a keynote speaker for a conference on the topic because of the articles I’ve been writing from the business perspective.

Here’s the point:  None of these opportunities would have developed had I not gone beyond “thank you” with the woman who offered to review my book.  Stopping at the first thing means you’ll miss a lot of opportunities.

Doing the next thing gives you a sense of both control and movement.  Those are both vital and rare.

Do the next thing no matter what you are trying to do.  Go beyond what has to be done.  Look for what else might be worth the effort.  It will increase your chances of success dramatically.  And it will be more fun than waiting for the phone to ring or the tone that announces a new e-mail to chime on your computer.

 

Lonely, Blue, and 50+

Lonely, Blue, and 50+

It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself when life sucks and no one even notices.   It’s probably even easier at 50+.  But we’re big kids now and our fun—and a meaningful life—isn’t someone else’s job.  The “good life” is up to each of us individually.  You may think you’re doing all the right things to make friends and attract a special someone into your life.  But if it’s not happening, look at what you’re telling yourself.

“I’m bored…” 

Well, it’s good to notice this.  It’s bad to sit around waiting for someone else to fix it.  “Bored” is a danger signal.  You need to keep your world expanding to thrive.  Boredom means you aren’t doing that.  Figure out what interests you and pursue it.

Boredom is the first clue to understanding why you can’t make friends, find a sweetheart, or create that good life you’re yearning for, too.  Admitting that you’re bored with what you have going is a good step.  Continuing down that path is settling for being boring.  Boring is not interesting.  If you want a life, be interested—which makes you interesting.

“I want someone to…” 

Are you putting this in terms of what other people are supposed to do for you?  “I want a man to take care of me” is just plain lazy on many levels.  Same deal for “I want a woman to hang out with me.”  Why should other people want to be around you if you just want to use them?  If you want more in your life, you need to do the work to get it there.  Which means you need to be ready to give as well as receive.

The best way to find friends is to take that scary step of going solo to groups who do the things you want to be part of.  An organization probably already exists for what you want to do—some of them explicitly for singles.  Travel.  Sports.  Hobbies.  You name it.

Do some research online.  Check out the local listings of social groups.  And talk to people.   You might find your all-time favorite venue for rock ‘n roll dancing by talking to a guy at a singles dance.  (I did.)  Once you find the group, get active.  Go to the meetings, get involved in the events, volunteer to do what needs to be done.

As a general rule, the best way to beat a bout of the blues is to do something for someone else.  So think about that, too.  There are many ways to help and most of them will help you as much as whoever you’re assisting.  And you never know who you might meet while you’re doing it.

“My way or the highway…”

Another big mistake at this point in life is assuming that everyone you spend time with has to agree with your politics and your religious persuasion.  Good character and the party line are not the same thing.  This is another part of keeping your world expanding.  A good discussion with different points of view makes you think—and grow.  Respecting others’ right to their own views is a key piece of your own emotional development, too.

Being right is baloney.  There are so many shades of gray in what goes on in the world these days that insisting that whoever you talk to sees it exactly as you do is like assuming the entire world should be looking out the same 12” square window.  You’re building a bunker where a bridge belongs–a guaranteed way to feel lonely at the end of the day.

“I want my freedom…” 

One of the pluses of being alone after 50 is the bliss of doing everything the way you want, whether it’s popcorn for dinner, tai chi on the deck at sunrise, or never making the bed.  The hard truth about having other people in your life is you’ll have to let go of some of these “sovereign rights.”   If you want to do things with other people, you’re going have to agree to do it their way sometimes.  One-way streets are for cars not friendships.

Finding people to spend time with and to love is a multifaceted challenge.  It’s also something you have to choose to do and then work at getting good at.  Your mother may have been willing to listen to you go on and on about “you,” but the rest of the world needs more give and take than that.   Get good at both.

To beat “lonely and blue,” get on with what you like to do, connect with others who enjoy those same things, and then get to know them without deciding how they are going to be what you need.  A vibrant life at any age requires that you think beyond yourself and what you “don’t have.”

 

Writing a Killer 50+ Resume

Writing a Killer 50+ Resume

Crafting an effective resume when you’re over 50 has extra challenges. If you get it right, the whole world knows you’re good at what you do.  If you don’t, nothing happens.

One of the benefits of experience is that you can make difficult things look easy.  That’s a problem if you end up needing to convince someone new that you’re the right person for the job.   People who’ve been effective over the long haul often lose track of what it’s like to not be that effective.   That leads you to talk in terms of the job instead of how you did it.  Working from that perspective presents you as a plain vanilla anybody.  So before you write one word of that resume you really needed to have done yesterday, think through these questions.

What makes you a uniquely valuable hire?  The vast majority of us have an extremely difficult time putting this into words.  That may be because you’ve been taught not to brag or it may be a case of assuming everyone can do what you’re good at.  Either way, your next employer isn’t going to know that you have exactly what she needs until you get the information out there where she can see it.  Your first shot in that effort is with your resume.

The current jargon for what you need here is “personal brand.”  Knowing what makes you a valuable employee and being able to put that in five to ten words is important in a job search.  Ideally, you will have practiced these words enough that you come up with them as if on autopilot when needed, even in an unexpected place like at your kid’s basketball game or in line at the grocery store.   Having the first few words come out automatically makes it easier to deal with the rest of the conversation effectively.

What’s a resume for?  A resume is a marketing tool.  This is not the place to tell your life story or to go on at length about the minutia of what you did in each job you ever held.  Those of us with a lot of experience can easily shoot ourselves in the foot on this. The stereoype of aging that our culture holds associates longwindedness with mental decline.  Use only what’s important and be concise.

What does my next employer need to know most about me?  You will be way ahead of the competition if you write your resume so that it addresses how you can solve the hiring manager’s problem.  The best way to do that is to highlight how you’ve helped your previous employers get what they needed done.  Just mentioning that you served as the liaison with the Building Department is nowhere near as compelling as saying that you developed solid relationships with them and got permitting accomplished quickly.

What are the differences between the job description and how YOU performed the job?  Quite often, these two things get confused by resume writers.   Talking about the job instead of your performance obscures the value of your experience.  The duties of the job are what’s written on a formal job description.  It might be something like “handles walk in customer traffic.”  How you did the job probably goes beyond that in some unique way.   Were you effective at helping people figure out what they needed?  At dealing with volatile complaints?  At keeping track of clients’s preferences so they felt like they were “family” and became loyal to your place of business?

There’s a place for the job description language–in the experience section right under the company and job title listed.   Use no more than two lines for that description.  The rest of the space you allot for that job experience needs to focus on what you did particularly well.

How can I avoid being ignored because of my age?  The first step in this is to be sure you’re not setting yourself up with your own thinking. Are you making excuses for not learning new things (including technology!) because you are “too old?”  Are you telling yourself you don’t have the stamina you need for what you want to do next?  Neither of these things is a given consequence of getting older.  Change you lifestyle and stop telling yourself that you’re old.

In your resume, pay close attention to your choice of words. Use action verbs and short phrases to project energy. Consider an initial section that speaks in current terms–what you can do NOW–rather than putting everything in the past tense a chronological resume requires.  Avoid as many adjectives and adverbs as you can–they bog the writing down.  And avoid obsolete slang and phrases.

Having experience is a plus that has somehow become devalued in today’s job market.   You can’t expect to be valued for the seniority you had at another company.  But you can present yourself as a viable candidate because of how well you did the work.  You can create momentum to propell yourself into your next job by projecting energy and making a clear case for how you can help the next company better than those who’ve had less of a chance to learn how to get things done.

 

The “Foolishness” of Not Preparing for Retirement

The “Foolishness” of Not Preparing for Retirement

All those boomers who can’t afford to retire may not be the losers the “experts” make them out to be.  Another big study just came out reporting that millions of people on the brink of retirement don’t have the money saved to pull it off.   That may not be a bad thing.

Perhaps it’s the people making the predictions who need to stand back and take a better look at what’s going on. If it was all that important to those people to be able to retire, they would have prepared for it. But even before the financial meltdown of the last few years, baby boomers were not seeing the retirement years as the extended vacation it’s being painted as by financial planners and real estate developers.

In a study of over 3000 boomers in 2005, the Met Life Foundation found only 17% wanted to never work for pay again once they retired. Six percent wanted to go to work full time at something else. Seventeen percent want to work part time, 16% want to own their own businesses, and 6% want to do “other” things like join the Peace Corps.

For those of you who’ve been keeping track of the arithmetic on this, that leaves 42% still unexplained. What do they want to do? Cycle in and out of work. What better way to be sure you do that than to not have the money to “stay” retired? Many who do have the money do that same thing when they retire simply because it’s more enjoyable.

As a nation, we would be wise to look at how to use this immense temporary talent pool effectively instead of lamenting the “unretireability” of the masses. If we actually put some effort into using the potential of this segment of the population instead of shaming them for not trying to be what they never wanted to be in the first place, we would all win.

Economic boon
People who are actively earning are more willing to spend money than those living on passive income–even if there’s plenty of passive income involved. Even wealthy retirees adopt frugal behaviors, partly because it’s a way to demonstrate competence. If we gave these people the chance to work even a quarter of the time, the  loosened purse strings would have a startling positive effect on the economy.

Government cost containment
People who are engaged get sick less. They don’t dwell on their health problems because they have more interesting things to do. That means fewer trips to the doctor, the hospital, and to the medical lab for Medicare to cover. Let these people work some of the time, and they will take better care of themselves simply so they can keep on doing that.  “First you retire and then you get sick” is true way too often.

Social hat trick
Work is one of the best sources of self-worth on the planet. When people get paid, they know they are good at something and that translates into a more positive attitude overall. A postivie attitude has been linked to better health, plus they are more effective contributors to the common good because they believe they can still make a difference.

In addition, getting retired workers involved on a part time basis can cut down on the workload of those in their prime work years who are stressed into illness and poor performance because of there is simply too much that they are expected to do in how we are going about it now.

Third, putting retired talent in the same place as the newest generation of workers will help develop work habits that are currently lacking in younger hires. The “old hands” can also pass down the knowledge needed to solve problems without creating new ones–knowledge there is no “app” for.

Boomers have not saved for retirement because it’s retirement itself that needs to retire. The old cultural set-up simply won’t work with such a disproportionate number in the “retiring” generation and so few in the one that follows. (There are 77 million boomers and only 40 million in Generation X.) Instead of lamenting what individuals aren’t doing, we need to be building bridges to a whole new version of this time of life.

Once you are “old enough to retire,” the desire is for flexibility, not pure leisure. If we can harness the talent available in that pool and use it to make our for profit and not-for-profit efforts more effective, we all win–again and again and again.

This notion that boomers are stupid for not “getting ready to retire” is itself stupid. What the experts are urging them to get ready for is not, and was never, what they want to do. Let’s run with reality and shape some of the work that needs to be done so it replaces retirement.

 

The Power of “Letting People Know”

The Power of “Letting People Know”

When you let people know–what you need, what you have, what you would like to do–you increase your chances of getting what you are trying to accomplish done exponentially.

I’m writing this just after doing some volunteer work at the local library–where I didn’t work much because no one knew about what I was there to do.  Not promoting my availability to do one-on-one job search counseling was a conscious decision.  They were worried too many people would want help and that many wouldn’t get it because I was only there for two hours.  But not telling anyone before the period when I was actually there meant I had a lot of time to read magazines I don’t ordinarily get to see.

It also made me stop and think about how many ways there are to benefit from “letting people know.”

The obvious one is if you are job hunting.  Letting every person who knows your name know what you are looking for is essential.  There really are only a few steps between you and what you need–just as the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon party game suggests.  (Microsoft actually tested the premise–that any two people  in the world are connected by way of no more than six intermediate people–and found it to be very close to that.)  So “let people know” if you are looking for work, projects, internship opportunities, whatever.

Last week, my brother called asking if I needed a new dishwasher.  He had just purchased one he could not return, and it didn’t work in his kitchen.  I did (need a new dishwasher).  Desperately.  One friend described mine as sounding like I was washing bowling balls.  But I had just purchased one as part of a major kitchen remodel and was within days of getting it installed.  I did, however, know of someone else who needed a new dishwasher.  So I called him…and now his family has a nice new dishwasher.

I have a wonderful hiking group that I go out with on Wednesday mornings.  I would still be yearning for the chance to get up in the mountains if I hadn’t “let someone know” that I was looking for a way to hike.

Three very different examples of the same principle:  Good things happen when you “let people know.”  This isn’t a case of “expecting” people to give you what you need.  It’s more like getting your name on the list for the Universe to work with.

Let people know…if you’d like to meet some new members of the opposite sex…if you need a handyman….if you want to wallpaper your dining room with tinfoil and are wondering just how to do that.

The power of community is one of the sweetest things about being human.  You tap into it by “letting people know.”