In a recent blog post, I discussed Encore Careers where retirees combine “purpose, passion and a paycheck.” Marc Freedman who founded the organization, Encore.org, and coined the term “encore career,” had originally founded an organization called Civic Ventures. Freedman had written a book called Primetime: How Baby Boomers Will Revolutionize Retirement and Transform America, where he described how Boomers were changing retirement and looking to be more active in making changes in their world during retirement.
Baby Boomers and Civic Engagement in Retirement
In Minnesota along with the Vital Aging Network (VAN), Freedman held forums on Baby Boomers and Civic Engagement. One of the findings described at these seminars was that Boomers wanted intellectually challenging volunteer experiences that called on their skills and experience from their work life. They often preferred project management or coordination of a program as opposed to stuffing envelopes and being greeters.
However, the findings also showed that non-profits were not prepared for this new kind of volunteer. Aside from being board members, non-profits did not have a good process for incorporating volunteers with valuable business or other specialized skills into their organizations. Like training student teachers or teaching children life skills, initially a job can take longer when incorporating volunteers than if one completes it themselves. A friend of mine reported that she wants to volunteer at a local senior center where her technology skills and masters degree in gerontology would be a perfect fit, but that she always has to consider how she can help the organization without requiring too much of the director’s time to initially set up the project.
Non-profits and Skilled Retired Volunteers
A recent Forbes blog post, “Why So Few Baby Boomers Are Volunteering,” describes similar findings about Boomers and skilled volunteering, but it also points to some non-profits that are beginning to use volunteers in a more specialized way. So, Boomers, if you want to help with research, plan specific fundraising events, train other volunteers, put together educational or marketing literature, or provide community outreach and education, first you might need to help non-profits establish a process to more easily incorporate your services into their organization OR find non-profits that already “get it.”
If you have an example of how an organization benefitted from a volunteer’s expertise, please comment below. Maybe we can all help the growth of more meaningful volunteering!
Combining several of our last topics—passion in retirement, working in retirement, and volunteering in retirement —we come up with Encore Careers. Encore.org promotes “second acts for the greater good”—encouraging people age 50+ to use their experience, skills and wisdom to leave a lasting legacy for the well-being of future generations.
Boomers as “takers”
I love the encore career concept because we Boomers are always cited for taking so much—resources, jobs, services, attention. Because Boomers are the largest and best educated generation and had the greatest opportunity for jobs and material success up to this point, we are looked upon as “takers.” Now because we are entering retirement age, we are “taking” a chunk out of Social Security and Medicare. When the Boomers were born, we knew there would be a large number of people hitting retirement age at this time. What has changed is that thanks to advances in medicine, we are living longer and, thus, stressing those government programs even more.
Boomers as “givers”
Encore careers offer us a chance to prove that we can be “givers” as well. Even though we often have enjoyed a higher standard of living than our parents and seem to be focused on financial/material success, many Boomers are now at the developmental stage where we want to leave a valuable legacy for future generations. We can use our gifts of education, training and experience to help provide solutions to social problems.
“Encore career” was coined by Mark Freedman, founder of Encore.org. Encore careers promote “purpose, passion and a paycheck” in your second act. One way social entrepreneurs in the second half of life are encouraged is through the $100,000 Purpose Prize. According to Freedman, “Winners guided by experience, drawing on creativity and anchored in pragmatism set out to find solutions to significant, seemingly intractable social problems.” Recent winners from Purpose Prize:
Inez Killingsworth, 72, became a housing expert and advocate—just in time for the home mortgage and foreclosure crisis. In a recent year her organization, Empowering & Strengthening Ohio’s People, provided foreclosure counseling to 8,000 families, helping more than 80 percent stay in their homes.
Susan Burton, 61, a former drug addict who spent years in and out of jail, is an advocate for women who are also former inmates. Her organization, A New Way of Life Reentry Project in Los Angeles, helps female parolees — and their children — start fresh, by offering them housing, legal services and job training.
Judy Cockerton, 61, aims to transform America’s foster care system through her Treehouse Foundation. The nonprofit has created a mixed-income housing community where families who have adopted foster children live among “honorary grandparents” age 55 and older. Volunteers serve as mentors, tutors and counselors.
Other prize winners have helped the homeless; first-time, at-risk mothers; severely-disabled students; and have projects in other countries like Tanzania, India or Afghanistan.
Encore Career Resources
We may not all be able to start new organizations, but we can start looking for opportunities to pursue our “passion, purpose and a paycheck” through:
Encore Career Handbook Review at: Review
AmeriCorps national service network: AmeriCorps or call 800-942-2677. Volunteer and paid service.
AARP Experience Corps. Volunteer and paid tutors improve K-3 literacy in disadvantaged schools.
Support from other sources for encore careers
Richard Eisenberg in his blog post, Encore Careers for the Rest of Us, suggests there are 4 other major players who need to support this movement to make it part of traditional retirement:
–Financial Advisors need to help clients look at retirement in a new way and consider encore careers as an opportunity to help themselves financially while finding meaning in retirement.
–More employers need to offer near-retirees paid internships or bridge jobs like the Intel Encore Fellowships — six- to 12-month assignments at local nonprofits.
–Nonprofits need to welcome skilled people interested in encore careers.
–Colleges should provide training for people interested in encore careers. See encore.org for list of current programs.
So Boomers, let’s become known as the generation who started the “purpose, passion and a paycheck” retirement. Give us your encore performance!
If you want to do something meaningful to you in retirement, but also want to have complete freedom to travel whenever you want, have more control over what you do and do not need the extra income, volunteering vs. paid work may be the answer. According to a research study done for the Corporation for National and Community Service volunteering improves physical and mental health, with lower mortality rates, greater functional ability and lower rates of depression. Fantastic reasons to volunteer in retirement!
Types of Retirement Volunteering
What cause is meaningful to you? Do you want to work directly with people in need of services— alleviating hunger, poverty, illness, disability? Hospitals, social service organizations, nursing homes, food shelves, and churches can provide opportunities. Do you want to help animals? Animal shelters, zoos, and foster parent programs could use your love of animals. Do you want to promote the arts? Theaters, schools, and museums can all use help. Is the environment your passion? Parks, critical habitats, and organizations for specific environmental causes need help with research, conservation, education and community development. Is education where you want to make your impact? Schools, adult basic education and community education opportunities abound. Are you ready for physical labor when disaster relief is needed? Many national organizations need you.
Level of Involvement in Retirement Volunteering
Here again, you can pick the level of volunteer involvement you want in retirement. Do you want to work at a food shelf weekly? Do you want to head a project that is intense for a period, but is time limited—so you can be in Florida in December? Or do you want to be extra hands to help with mailings or setting up rooms? Do you want to get training in a specific area in which you have always been interested—mediation, tax preparation, Medicare assistance? Do you want to work a few hours a month or full-time? You get to choose. Look for the right opportunity that matches what you want.
Resources for Volunteering in Retirement
If you do not know where you would like to volunteer or where they could best use your skills and passion, check out the resources below. Some are national or international with the ability to identify your preferred area, and some are local, but there may be counterparts in your area.
Volunteers of America–national
AARP Volunteer Wizard–national
Senior LinkAge Line—Minnesota 1-800-333-2433
HandsOn Twin Cities, Minneapolis-St Paul area
AmeriCorps VISTA—more in next blog post
According to the Corporation for National and Community Service’s Volunteering and Civic Life in America survey, our own Minneapolis-St Paul metropolitan area is number one for volunteering—a total of 86,524,920 hours in 2011. And of course, the 65-74 age group volunteered the most hours! When planning your transition to retirement, consider volunteering–to benefit others and yourself!
Really! 75% of current workers say they expect to work as long as they are able according to a Bankrate poll. Why would anyone want to do that?
Obvious financial reasons for working in retirement
Since 2008, the stock market and economy have impacted many worker’s savings for retirement. When our 401(k) became our 201(k), we might have decided that we needed to work longer before retirement in order to build up our savings. If we were unfortunate enough to be downsized out of our job and we were over 50, we might have had to dip into savings that we had earmarked for retirement for current living expenses because we could not find another job quickly. Or our plan to use our equity in our home disappeared.
Longevity and working in retirement
One of the factors that we all are facing is that our life expectancy is longer than we might have considered previously. Medical advances are keeping us all alive longer. So the longer we can work, the longer we do not have to depend on our savings for income. A Society of Actuaries report suggests that since we cannot know how long we will live and how our investments will do in the future, we are just guessing about how much money we will need in retirement. The longer we work, the less guessing.
Early Retirement and Health benefits
Many Boomers dreamed of early retirement. However, with the continually rising expense of health care premiums and co pays, if we can even pass the health screening of insurance companies, we might be remaining on the job to guarantee health coverage until age 65 and Medicare.
Engaging work in retirement
But it is not all so bleak. Many Boomers are continuing to work because they love their work. Jim Toscano of Toscano Advisors, LLC, is 75 and going strong. He has “retired” from a few long-term executive positions in the nonprofit sector of the health care industry, but now enjoys using his management experience to help other nonprofits stay afloat.
Ron Strand of Russell Associates and Resource Connections describes the process of “rusting” in retirement when one does not stay actively involved. For him active engagement means continuing to help organizations provide relevant training and testing for their employees.
Our last blog post addressed activities that promote healthy aging. The intellectual, social and, possibly even physical, components of work that we love can contribute to a longer, healthier life.
Workforce demographics and work in retirement OR Because the economy needs us
As the Boomer generation enters retirement age, the demographics of the US workforce is changing as related to age and education. The generations coming up behind the Boomer generation are much smaller and have fewer college degrees or advanced training. Allowing Boomers to remain working will help provide a bridge to fill that gap until younger workers can be trained.
Flexibility in the Workplace
Even though retiree age workers may want to continue to work for any of the previous reasons, we often want more flexibility in order to enjoy some of the benefits of reaching retirement age. We may want more flexibility with hours or location in order to travel or visit family and friends. We might enjoy the same work but want to decrease stress, possibly without the responsibility of supervising others or managing a project. Pharmacies are an example of companies who are filling a shortage of skilled workers, e.g. pharmacists, by allowing retirees the flexibility of working in one location in the summer and another in the winter.
Resources for finding employment in retirement
Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … And Pays the Bills Book by Kerry Hannon of AARP
“5 Jobs in Demand for 2013” for 50+ workers: Crossing Guard, Hospice Chaplain, Home Health and Personal Care Aide, Construction Estimator, Move Manager
Work Reimagined: A project of AARP powered by LinkedIn. Work Reimagined connects you to the contacts, information, and inspiration you need to succeed in today’s ever-changing workplace.
When Work Works: A nation-wide initiative on effective and flexible workplaces that is designed to share research and best practices on what makes work “work” in the 21st Century.
Staying actively engaged and wanting more flexibility often leads to working without pay–volunteering. Watch for future blogs posts on this possibility and even a cross-pollination version of “encore careers.”
Activities to enjoy retirement—not just activities to enjoy in retirement. We cannot spend time in any information source—newspaper, magazine, internet, television, even snail mail advertisements—without finding health suggestions. We all know that nutrition is important to staying healthy. We do not necessarily eat the things we know we should, but we probably have a decent idea of the dangers of too much fried food and sugary drinks and desserts.
We all can think of examples of people who are still active, healthy and engaged in life well into their 90s. While we do not all have the luxury of good genes for excellent health, we can all look at how our choice of activities can help increase our health and enjoyment of our retirement years.
Activities to Enjoy Retirement
The Alzheimer’s Association recommends nutrition and activity to promote brain health. In addition to the usual Sudoku and crossword puzzles, they suggest any activity where you are intellectually engaged or learning something new—a foreign language or even how to use the new smart phone or tablet computer or video game that your grandchild might have brought you.
Another piece that we might not recognize as easily is the social component. We know that as older adults may become less mobile, they may become more isolated socially. We may think of depression coming into play, but the Alzheimer’s Association suggests that this may also affect basic brain functioning.
The last piece they connect with these brain-healthy activities is physical movement. We all know exercise is good for us, but have we considered it good for keeping our brains more agile also? This doesn’t have to be extreme exercise, but just healthy movement.
The Alzheimer’s Association calls the combination of all these components of activity—intellectual, social and physical– the trifecta. So what activity do you do that could be considered a trifecta? Because I always find this a very intellectually-challenging activity, I consider a social dance class a trifecta. Dr. Daniel Amens, who has written many books on brain health including Use Your Brain to Change Your Age and Making a Good Brain Great, recommends table tennis as the ultimate brain-enhancing activity. Table tennis definitely has the social and physical components and possibly strategy brings in the intellectual piece.
Social Portfolio for Retirement
Another way to categorize activities to increase our health and enjoyment of retirement was created by Gene Cohen who wrote The Mature Mind: The Positive power of the Aging Brain. If you are familiar with the concept of a financial portfolio for retirement, Cohen’s concepts in his Social Portfolio will sound familiar.
Cohen put activities into 2 groups, either active or sedentary and group or individual. Your financial portfolio should be diversified and balanced to insure against loss. The same is true for the social portfolio. You are insuring against the loss of ability and spouse/friends. You need activities in all areas so that if you lose the ability to be active, you still have sedentary activities to enjoy. If you lose your spouse or friends, you have solitary activities to keep you from losing everything you previously enjoyed. So do not have all your activities be active sports that you do with your spouse or best friend
As with a financial portfolio, you are best served by building up your assets early—your activities and relationships. Look for fun activities or a fun group before retirement, hopefully before you lose your spouse.
Cohen’s research found that our brains can continue to grow and change as long as we provide appropriate stimulation. What is appropriate stimulation? Cohen documented that even patients in nursing homes improved with artistic/creative activities. So one idea may be to give yourself permission to finally pursue that acting or painting class or learning to play the guitar. In a 2002 study, Cohen showed that those who engaged in the arts late in life had fewer illnesses and injuries, more independence and possibly decreased risk factors that drive the need for long-term care!
You can find new interests and activities at any age, but the sooner you build those assets, the more likely you will be to enjoy your retirement. So, once again, follow your dreams!
No, this is not about the kind of passion we think about on Valentine’s Day.
Suzanne McGee of MSN Money suggests that for baby boomers retirement will be a time when they can focus on their pastimes and passions—maybe hang gliding in Colorado, running aid programs in Africa or establishing theater festivals.
Jim McCarthy, the head of individual retirement services at Morgan Stanley, suggests that retirement is when you have permission to focus on what you are passionate about.
Dreams revisited in retirement
Did you have dreams that you were passionate about when you were younger but you had to give up in order to pay the mortgage or other family expenses? Now might be the time to revisit those dreams. If you aspired to be a major league baseball player, maybe you could spend time watching a game at every ball park in the US. If you wanted to be a ballerina or actress, maybe you could volunteer to usher at local theaters. Would you like to finally take an art class that you always put off due to lack of time?
Education in Retirement
Did you put off educational experiences that you really wanted to pursue because there was not time or money? The concept of Lifelong Learning is everywhere. Road Scholar educational adventures are educational travel programs originally started by Elderhostel for people over age 55. Many colleges and universities provide free or reduced-fee classes that seniors can take. Some are regular college courses and some might be more like continuing or community education. Have you always wanted to learn a foreign language or have more time to delve into the special period of history that fascinates you or learn how to become a gourmet cook? Google “lifelong learning’ to check out programs at your local college or university.
Travel in Retirement
Or is travel your passion for retirement? Of course, there are the traditional family visits or tours or cruises. However, there are many options open to people with time. There are companies setting up active senior travel experiences to exotic places or rugged locations. Possibility of travel to sporting events or with your alumni group abound. One option that coordinates with the next topic is travel for volunteering. Within the US, you can find places to help after natural disasters or build homes with Habitat for Humanity. Internationally, you can find relatively inexpensive locations where you can volunteer at schools, social service organizations or with organizations working to preserve local natural habitats. Ideas for affordable travel can be found at 5 Tips to Affordable Retirement Travel and How to Travel Affordably in Retirement.
Volunteering in Retirement
Volunteering is a perfect place to look for your passion in retirement. About what cause are you passionate? From the previous paragraph, you can look locally, nationally or internationally. Are you passionate about the plight of children or animals or poverty or hunger or literacy or the environment? More on volunteering in a future blog post.
New Career in Retirement
Many people are actually passionate about continuing to work in retirement. Maybe they want to stay active to stay mentally and physically fit, want to try something completely different or feel a pressing financial need to supplement their retirement income. Whatever the reason, there are many options for an “encore career.” Watch for more on this topic in a future blog post also.
You might have to dig back in your memory or just open yourself to the possibilities that surround you, but thinking about a passion that would make your retirement meaningful for you is worth the effort. So start dreaming again!
What excites you about the thought of retirement? What worries you about the thought of retirement? I ask these questions of the participants in my retirement education seminars to have them begin to think about what that major life transition into retirement will feel like. I often receive very similar replies to these questions.
Exciting Retirement Expectations
One of the first responses is “no alarm clock.” People are looking forward to less stress, not having to do something just because someone tells them they have to, being able to make their own decisions about their time, more family time, time to volunteer, more time for hobbies, travel, and sports in retirement.
Worrisome Retirement Expectations
Retirement seminar participants always put money and health/healthcare at the top of this list. Then things like boredom, too much unstructured time, loss of social contact with co-workers, not feeling challenged surface as concerns about retirement.
I often have to point out that too much of a good thing can move a positive expectation to the negative side of the chart. Too much family time can be stressful. Couples often need to figure out their relationship again. Full-time childcare for grandchildren can change that special relationship. Not having a reason to set an alarm clock day after day can trigger feelings of depression for many of us.
One of the things that people often do not mention is the loss from giving up our role at work. We just cannot wait to run for the door. In the United States, especially, we define ourselves by our work. Often we receive respect and fulfillment for our contribution to a team and do not realize that we might miss that. Our role at home will probably not change enough to fill that void. Which is a perfect segue into my next blog post on Passion in Retirement.
In previous posts I have touched on life planning in retirement, but a new year provides an opportunity to look at this topic in a new way. As I have commented in a previous post, Dream…OR Life Planning for Retirement :
During the “Transition to Retirement” class in our employer retirement seminars, I find most people in this audience of current employees rate this as one of the least important sessions to them (compared to Social Security, Medicare, Estate Planning, Financial Planning, etc.). However, when I speak with people who are already retired, they almost always say they wish they had spent more time thinking about this transition before retirement.
I plan to start this year with a blog series on the “softer” side of retirement planning. Planning what you will do with your time and energy in retirement is “softer” because it does not have as many critical details to know in order to avoid negative consequences. However, taking time to think about what you want out of retirement (or whatever you call those years after your full-time career—third stage, second half of life, etc.) is critical to enjoying those years.
As they relate to retirement, I will be addressing:
- expectations and anxieties
- activities for healthy aging
- encore careers
- problem-solving activities/ civic engagement
- volunteer opportunities
As I offered in my last post, a life review may help us pinpoint a direction for the future. The more we can review, evaluate and plan, the more prepared and confident we will be in those future years.
So as you embark on a new year, stay with us to consider what you can do now to enjoy more fulfillment in the future.
At one of our recent retirement seminars, the retirement financial planning presentation seemed to become progressively more negative with each new slide on the economy. Finally one of the participants raised his hand and asked, “So what can we do about it?”
Retirement Financial Planning–Out of Control
Included in our retirement guidebook in the financial planning section, we have a handout on “Considerations for your Financial Plan: Things you can control vs. Things out of your control.” The retirement financial planning session mentioned above was presenting the things that are out of your control due to the economy, both domestic and global: stock market, unemployment, inflation, taxes, Social Security, Medicare. Then there are personal factors that you may not have ultimate control over: unexpected emergencies—medical or natural disasters, life expectancy, job loss, loss of spouse–death or divorce, children’s economic needs.
Retirement Financial Planning–Within Your Control
But the good news is that there are many things that are within your control. It will not always be easy, but you can influence them.
–Healthy nutrition and exercise choices, consider Long-Term Care Insurance
–Save/plan for periodic large expenses: travel, weddings, cars, grandchildren’s college, home repairs
–Work longer: if healthy and job available, maintain job skills
–Where you live: geographically, size of house
–Living expenses: discretionary—need vs. want
–Adult children: boundaries on bailing them out
–Debt: decrease as much as possible before retirement: credit cards, auto loans, home equity, mortgage
–Retirement Account decisions: no loans unless absolutely necessary, limit withdrawal rate (especially first 5 years), diversify investments, know fees and penalties
–Tax consequences of investments: withdraw from appropriate account—taxable, tax-deferred, tax-free
–Research investments: risk (inflation/market), income vs. growth
–Timing of retirement: use skills and luck (market-based), consider health, have a plan
You cannot plan for everything or necessarily have enough savings for your goals, but the more you think about retirement before you retire, the better off you will be. Sometimes an attitude adjustment may be all you need. As Dave Carpenter of the St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper put it, consider voluntary simplicity vs. involuntary poverty. Couldn’t we all benefit from more simplified lives?
“Plan” is a key work in this question. Please don’t sell your house and move to your dream location without at least visiting first. The scenery may be beautiful, but the cost or community may not be welcoming.
Criteria for desirable retirement location
First think about what are your criteria for a desirable location. Is it the cost of living or scenery or access to healthcare or activities or potential community or pace of living or some prioritized combination of these?
How to research retirement locations
There are websites to research such retirement locations. If possible, begin your decision-making process pre-retirement. Visit on vacations for a high-level screening. Once you have identified the top choices, before you still sell everything and move, make a longer visit. Get to know what day-to-day living is like:
- traffic– or ease of public transportation
- activities—social, intellectual, cultural
- attitude toward new residents—welcoming or not so much
- taxes—on retirement income or not
- pace of living—adventurous or relaxed, urban or rural
- healthcare—access, cost, availability of insurance (Medicare and individual plans)
- demographics—lots of retirees or mixed age-range
- opportunities to stay fit and active—weather, geography (walking/bike trails, etc.)
Helpful website: http://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/best-places-to-retire
International retirement locations
International locations can fit the bill for cost, beauty, healthcare, activities and adventure, but check openness to non-citizens, taxes, access to local banking, visa requirements, and ease of transportation to and from family and friends.
The world is open to you, just look before you leap. Enjoy the adventure!