Category Archives: Older Workers

Sole Proprietor

If having your own business has been a lifelong dream, chances are you will start out as — and possibly remain — a sole proprietor. Legally, a “proprietorship essentially means a person does business in his or her own name and there is only one owner,” according to Wikipedia’s definition. These days the slightly antique IRS category of sole proprietor could includes everyone from the 50-something employee-turned-consultant, to a life or career coach, freelance commercial writer, motivational speaker, cruise ship lecturer, professional organizer, yoga instructor, or massage therapist, to name a few popular late life career choices. There are some distinct advantages to running your own business, tax-savings and the speed with which you can make decisions and respond to opportunity perhaps the most obvious. Anyone with a good idea can get into business at minimal cost. About $5,000 is typical to set up with the basic tools for a home-based enterprise.

Yes, small can be beautiful, and it appears may become the encore career of choice for many. In Free Agent Nation: How America’s New Independent Workers Are Transforming the Way We Live, Dan Pink predicted an explosion in independent contract workers, soloists and owners of microbusiness, a trend he believes is already reworking work itself. One example in our area of South Florida (more retirement central than a hotbed of entrepreneurial spirit) Kinko’s is open 24/7.

To be a successful soloist, you have to be self-sufficient and comfortable wearing many hats. It also helps to know yourself well enough to know what you don’t know, and what, when and where to outsource, in effect, building your own team of specialist/ sub-contractors. After all, being small in size doesn’t mean you can’t have big ideas. Luckily, there are any number of excellent resources so that you don’t have to go it alone. And many of them market themselves by giving away tons of free, valuable advice (take note). Here are three of our favorites, all small business owners themselves:

  • Terri Lonier’s Working Solo is a must read. See Terri’s excellent piece on Networking for the Terminally Shy.
  • Our former neighbor and friend, Ilise Benun’s excellent Marketing Mentor is another resource that belongs in your toolbox. Ilise is also the author of The Art of Self-Promotion.
  • For guerrilla publicity that really works, Joan Stewart’s Publicity Hound will inspire you to get going. Sign up for her free newsletter. Just say we sent you.

The Leisure Economy?

Now’s here a new wrinkle (you should pardon the expression). According Canadian economist, Linda Nazareth, leisure is the new, new thing that will shape the way we live (and work!) Here are eight trends — some self-evident, some whimsical — outlined in her new book: The Leisure Economy: How Changing Demographics, Economics, and Generational Attitudes Will Reshape Our Lives and Our Industries (Wiley 2007):

1. In the Workplace, It Will be Time to Welcome Back Fido

With more people looking for leisure or retiring early, companies are going to have to put up with more special requests from employees – like maybe to bring the odd dog, or cat or budgie into the office. Think the days of the boom.

2. Saying “I Was Here All Weekend” May Make You Seem Like a Loser Rather than a Hero

It’s very ‘baby-boomerish” to brag about working flat out all the time. Gen Y is into having a life; they’ll work, but they want their leisure too. (By the way, they know how to use technology so they know they don’t have to be in on the weekend anyway).

3. If You Don’t Know How to Knit, It Will be Time to Learn

Boomers have been too busy working to take up hobbies. When they retire, they are going to make leisure pastimes huge – even if they have to learn how to knit or rughook or how to play with model trains first (caveat: education will be the biggest growth industry, but it may not be traditional education).

4. Chopping Up Your Own Carrots May Seem Like a Reasonable Thing to Do

In the leisure economy, some people will be coping with lower incomes, so they will not want to pay for the convenience of pre-chopped vegetables or the like. And they’ll have more time to do the chopping. Keep an eye on the restaurant industry – it could be forced to adjust as more people cook.

5. People Will be Hitting the Road – and Not Just on the Long Weekends

More “leisurites” means more travel – but a different kind. The new leisure class will have lots of time, so can think in terms of seeing lots of different things, maybe over the course of a few months.

6. There’ll be Lots of Volunteers – But They Won’t Want to be Candy Stripers, Thanks Very Much

Boomers may be open to the idea of volunteering, but many will want to use the skills they developed when they were working in professional fields. Problem? The volunteer sector isn’t well set up to receive their talents, so they may lose them altogether. And keep an eye on Gen Y volunteers. They’ve spent years volunteering in school, and could be convinced to keep at it if organizations manage them well.

7. If You’re Looking for a Business to Start, Try a Moving Company

Boomers will be tapping into the value of their homes in the GTA and looking for cheaper places to live. They’ll pull up stakes at a quicker pace than their parents or grandparents. Gen X and Y may move too: they’ll want to try out telecommuting and they don’t have to be in big city-centres to do that.

8. Loitering Will be Encouraged

Or at least it will be by smart companies. If people don’t need to rush back to work, they’ll stay in stores longer, and smart ones will offer them comfortable spaces to hang out (Starbucks gets this), or things to do (talk to a nutritionist in a drug store or take a craft class at a craft store).

Interestingly, Nazareth’s book foreshadows the latest Metlife Mature Market Institute survey of leading edge boomers, which we found full of surprises. Boomers Ready to Launch finds that “Contrary to what most of us have believed about the baby boomers who came of age in the turbulent 1960s, the group is very much like the ‘Silent Generation’ that preceded them,” said Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D., director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

“Despite the social and political turbulence of their youth, these leading edge boomers have established very traditional lifestyle characteristics. They were married once, had two children and feel they’ve done a decent job of caring for their family, their community and themselves. They really are more like Ward and June Cleaver than we may have thought and they might be classified as ‘conventional.’ Just 2% say they attended the Woodstock Festival of 1969.”

“They’re comfortable being identified as a baby boomer, and contrary to claims that they’re not ready to retire, only 18% dislike the term ‘retirement’ to describe their next transition.”

Bottom Line: there isn’t one. Trend-spotting makes for interesting books and surveys. But as you know, and Peter Drucker famously said: The best way to predict the future is to create it.

The New Senior Moment

You know the comedy routine: a ‘senior citizen’ tears the house apart looking for his reading glasses only to find them, perched on top of his head. It’s been called a ‘senior moment,’ but it’s only funny if you find stereotypes about the aging brain humorous. Well, Gene Cohen, M.D., Ph.D., the first Director of the Center on Aging, Health & Humanities at George Washington University, has news for us on the other side of 50: it ain’t necessarily so. The brain is far more malleable than has been supposed.

In his back-to-back addresses to the Life Planning Network pre-conference and the First Annual Positive Aging Conference, held December 5-8 at Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, Florida, Dr. Cohen mixed cutting edge evidence about brain regeneration (there’s more to the line, use it or lose it than you might think) with flashes of wit. Creativity and practical intelligence actually increase with age, Cohen told some 200 professionals including life planners, life coaches, career counselors, social workers and psychotherapists — most of them 50 or better and eager to serve clients in the age cohort.

As an example of a new kind of ‘senior moment,’ he told a story about his own parents. Visiting Cohen and his wife one winter, the elder Cohens found themselves marooned in an unfamiliar part of the city by a snow storm, with nary a taxi in sight. The solution: they ordered a pizza ‘to go,’ and had themselves delivered to their son’s address with it.

“It’s not at all about denying the very real problems associated with aging,” Cohen said. “It’s all about not denying th very real potential associated with aging. Any program that doesn’t consider both [the problem and the potential], is not state of the art.”

The fact is, the brain — once thought to have all the neurons it could — can continue to regenerate and experience can actually have an impact on brain structure. We have, Cohen said, “a built-in inner push [which is] an evolutionary component of aging. Furthermore, it never leaves us.” Midlife can and should be more than a ‘crisis.’ For many it is a flowering of creativity coupled with a feisty sense of self that manifests in ‘second acts,’ ‘encore careers,’ and a strong desire to make a positive impact on society.

For more on the conference, visit Positive Aging Conference

Here’s a report that rebuts the notion that aging and disability go hand in hand.

Here’s how to keep your brain sharp so you can give ‘senior moment’ a whole new meaning.

Can We All Get Along?

Longevity is making four-generational families commonplace. You see it at family reunions and special celebrations honoring long-lived family members. And inevitably, four generations are showing up in the workplace, as more people 50 and older choose to keep working longer, often among those young enough to be their grandchildren.

How well (or poorly) we will get along is the subject of a new book, How to Get Radio Babies, Boomers, Gen Xers, and Gen Yers to Work Together and Achieve More (Career Press, 2007) by Robin Throckmorton and Linda Gravett, based on a three-year study of workers from each age group.

Here’s how the authors see the generational divisions:

Background: Children who remember the Depression and/or World War II, appreciate employment and career continuity.

Common characteristics: Strong work ethic, extensive job experience. Often perceived as frail or inflexible.

Comments: “People are sometimes afraid of radio babies for health reasons. But radio babies want people to recognize that their bodies and brains still work. Those hiring people between 60 and 80 tell us they’re the most productive workers they have.”

Background: Boomers grew up with post-World War II prosperity and TV; entered the work force when “career path” meant a single company ladder to climb.

Common characteristics: Hard workers, experienced and loyal. Sometimes seen as “stuck in their ways.”

Comments: “A lot of people are reluctant to hire boomers, thinking they’ll retire soon,” Trockmorton says. [But] They want to keep going. They want a better work-life balance. And their second career is often much different than the first one.”

Background: Latchkey kids, often from dual-income homes. Entered the work force at the dawn of the Computer Age.

Common characteristics: Independent, flexible, technologically diverse. Can be perceived as self-absorbed or disloyal.

Comments: “This is the first latchkey generation, so they’re very used to surviving on their own. They change jobs more often, so they put less stock in company loyalty. So, they can be seen (by elders) as impatient with their careers.”

Background: Raised in a fast-paced, violence- and media-saturated, technologically booming world.

Strengths: Energetic, innovative. Can be viewed as arrogant or defiant.

Stereotype: “Gen Y’s are sometimes called ‘Gen Why?’ because they question everything. They look for the value in what they do, and are less inclined to confer respect upon someone because of a title.”

Given the differences in work attitudes, e.g. Radio Babies are famously ‘loyal,’ with a strong work ethic, vs. the Gen Y’s ‘what’s in it for me’ approach to work, the best strategy is “reverse mentoring,’” says Throckmorton. “Each group draws from the other’s wisdom. Boomers and radio babies know how things get done, and have the experience that comes from years inside the system. Generation Xers and Gen Y’s have a lot of new ideas and technological expertise. And those born on the cusp of each generation are vital because they communicate well with both sides. It does work, and we found that the generations born furthest apart have the most to teach one another.”

None of this will be news for you grandparents or Experience Corps mentors out there, of course.

Not Ready for Prime Time

It’s not exactly news that too many American companies have been dragging their feet when it comes to addressing the potential brain drain when (we’d say if) there is a boomer exodus. According to a poll of HR managers conducted by Monster Worldwide, less than 12 percent said their organizations are doing enough to hold on to the institutional knowledge of their older workers, not to mention familiarity with clients and vendors, and a hands-on feel for what works and what doesn’t.

Perhaps these companies are in denial. Possibly they are focusing on the surveys that indicate that the majority of this age cohort plan to keep working, and ignoring the caveat that remaining on the job will be on a new set of terms yet to be negotiated. We’re talking about incentives that include part time, flex time, telecommuting, and other variations that facilitate boomer elder care responsibilities, to name one growing concern, or the simple desire to live a more balanced life.

If you are a boomer (and even if you’re not), this is a listen up moment.

1. If millions of you jump ship, it will hurt the economy; it will damage service organizations, the nonprofit sector and government. Yours is the last generation of workers with decades-long experience at the same company or organization. So it’s not only the valuable know how we stand to lose if you go, it’s the invaluable know why. That beats out objectives, mission statements or vision, hands down. It’s Purpose with a capital P.

2.Here’s another good reason you need to stick around. You have the best shot at transforming the workplace from within. After all, you know better than most the high cost, both personal and professional, of living to work. “Midlife overwork in America has reached pathological proportions,” says Marc Freedman, co-founder of Civic Ventures, a think tank and incubator for ideas and programs to capture the experience dividend.

Boomer Nation: It doesn’t have to be so. You’ve got the numbers and the power to demand change. Your kids will thank you.

More Reading:

The ‘Eldercare Generation’ Cares About Continuing to Work: Are Companies Interested in Keeping Them? Knowledge @Wharton

Live Long and Well

Have good work to do, and a brisk walk to it.
– Delfinio Lujan, merchant, herbalist
This simple recipe for a long and good life comes from a centenarian, one of the Living Treasures of Santa Fe, NM. It pretty much sums up our philosophy at 2young2retire. Work you enjoy is a health maintenance strategy and life extender. If what you are doing is also something that contributes to the good of society, so much the better. As it turns out, socially significant work is where the opportunities are — in teaching and health care, to name two. And many people 50 and older are feeling the call to make a positive difference.
But even you wouldn’t characterize your work as a form of giving back, if you keep working past the age when you are ’supposed’ to retire, you are giving back. Here’s why. You are likely to stay in good health for much longer. Everyone has a story about a relative or friend who retired and began to decline. The other side of the coin is that people who work — whatever their reason for doing so — have far fewer visits to the doctor. Maybe feeling relevant and necessary is good for us in ways that can’t be measured by medical science today. But given the high cost of medical care, every year you avoid needing it, is a blessing to you personally, and a gift to society and future generations.
Get Physical
The second part of the quote underlines a key ingredient for health maintenance after age 50: vigorous physical activity every day for the rest of your life. If you are lucky enough to live a mile or two from your place of work, you’ve got a head start. You can’t help but notice how urban dwellers tend to be much trimmer and fitter than those of us who are dependent on a vehicle for every errand.
If you work at home, you have to be that much more disciplined about exercise, making sure whatever you choose is fun, so you’ll want to keep doing it, yet challenging enough to make a difference to your cardiovascular system. Most people need about 28 days to get into a new habit of biking, swimming, weight work, yoga, tai chi or Pilates — three ideal practices for the mature body — every day.
Commuters, start campaigning for a fitness break at work. Most of the best employers have added gyms and instructors. It’s a rare executive these days who doesn’t understand the relationship between exercise and better morale and productivity. Take a page from a centenarian’s playbook, and plan to make good use of your own century on Earth.

Encore Careers

Marc Freedman is one of our heroes. In the midst of sound and fury about the boomers, his is a steady, reassuring voice of hope and reason. In his new book, Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life, Freedman wastes no time in painting two starkly contrasting visions of the future. In one, boomers — ‘greedy geezers’ — on an endless, subsidized vacation, have sabotaged the economy, tipping the nation into decline. In the other, ‘boomer labor power’ fueled by Encore Careers — what he calls ‘purpose-driven jobs’ — makes life more meaningful, fulfilling and financially sustainable, not only for boomers themselves, but for generations to come.

Freedman, 49, founder and ceo of Civic Ventures, a think tank and incubator dedicated to “generating ideas and inventing programs to achieve the greatest return on experience,” shies away from the emphasis on voluntarism that characterized his earlier book, Prime Time: How the Baby Boomers Will Revolutionize Retirement and Transform America. He believes that, given the right policy decisions and bold new initiatives to address the ‘experience dividend,’ millions of boomers will make a virtue of the necessity to generate an income later in life, and enter into a new phase of work that may be shorter in duration, but ‘weight more’ in impact.

What is needed, he writes, is a new social contract with older people that directs them not toward the outdated ‘freedom from work’ of an earlier generation and time, but ‘freedom to work.’ To illustrate, five ‘Encore Pioneers’ tell their stories and show what is possible when you don’t accept the status quo. Former car salesman, Robert Chambers, now provides low-interest loans and fuel-efficient cars to the rural pool in New Hampshire. After thirty years as a truant officer, Jacqueline Kahn began to train in her early fifties for her new career as a critical care nurse (see her featured in Time Magazine).

“In choosing work that is aimed at making a better world, these leading-edge baby boomers are challenging the definition of success for all Americans,” writes Marc Freedman. In the future he envisions, these examples of Encore Careers will be commonplace and the dire forecasts of those who saw inevitable social collapse caused by an aging society, will seem as absurd as Y2K.

Read this book and light your own fire. The Appendix, Your Encore, is packed with resources to help you find your way and keep the flame burning.  And there is an Encore website.  “The future is calling,” Freedman concludes. “What are we waiting for?”

Recareering: It’s the Future

This past weekend, troubled automaker DaimlerChrysler announced restructuring plans that offer incentives to its most experienced workers to leave. A couple of days later, the company made buyout offers to its union workers. The fate of the auto giant isn’t exactly clear, but what is crystal is the human side: a large number of ex-autoworkers who are way too young to retire. Despite everything we know about labor shortages, certain businesses believe they have no choice but to cut jobs in order to remain profitable and people 50 or better usually take the hit. It’s a prime example of short-term thinking.

The truth is, downsizing isn’t the only change agent operating in the workplace. Burn out and discontent with corporate life is fueling the trend to recareer to something more personally fulfilling. Downsized workers with generous buyout packages will swell these numbers. If you happen to be a career counselor, coach or other professional trained in helping people assess their skills and untapped talents (or want to be), that could be good for your career.

It’s only a matter of time before older workers become sought after — according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2012, workers 55 and older will grow to 19.1 percent of the total workforce — and that will make your job a lot easier. In the meantime, how can you best position yourself to serve this potentially large market? How will you connect with these folks and attract them to the services you offer? Here are a few thoughts:

1. The stigma once attached to job-jumping is long gone. Serial careers are the norm, in fact, people who have developed skill-sets across a number of industries will be seen as flexible and adaptable, two traits in demand in a fast-changing work environment.

2. Many people who want to start a new career will head right back to school. Your community college could be the ideal place to offer a course or workshop.

3. Centers that cater to the needs of people 50 and older are offering outplacement services, e.g. Scottsdale Boomerz, a program of Next Chapters. Check out their courses and workshops for ideas.

4. Add certification as a 2young2retire facilitator to your credentials as a coach, social worker or career professional. Learn a process that helps people in the age group get clear about the work they want and how to take steps in making it a reality.

5. Educate yourself on this broad trend. What are the thought leaders in your community saying about recareering? Read the local papers. Check out the chamber of commerce.

Stayin’ Alive

A number of years ago, a study published in the British Medical Journal showed a 20 percent spike in heart attacks at the beginning of the work week, and that men were particularly susceptible. The Monday morning heart attack syndrome suggested it was a return to work after a weekend of leisure that could be a killer. The composition of that leisure, of course, could make an important difference. Vigorous exercise or a six-pack in front of the tube? Nonetheless, according to Harvard Men’s Health Watch, “Stress is the likely explanation for the Monday peak in cardiac risk. Retirees may retain the responses they learned in their working years, and they are certainly susceptible to the hustle and bustle of a Monday morning.”

It’s enough to make you hit the snooze button and pull the covers over your head. Or perhaps take that early retirement package and hit the beach.

But wait. An equally compelling argument has been surfacing that correlates work — that is, work you enjoy, at a pace that you set yourself — with staying healthy. We’ve all heard anecdotes about hard-charging people who retire then become ill and die within a short time. In an earlier post, we mentioned the Shell Oil study of 3,500 employees which showed that people who retired at 55 died earlier than those who stayed on the job until 65. The question that always comes up is, was ill-health a factor in the choice of early retirement?

A study from the National Bureau of Economic Research concludes that “complete retirement leads to a 23-29 percent increase in difficulties associated with mobility and daily activity, an eight-percent increase in illness conditions, and an 11-percent decline in mental health.” Could help explain the well-documented fact that white males over 65 also have the highest suicide rate.

No doubt more research that will clear up causal links between retirement and premature mortality is needed. But we’re persuaded that among all the other benefits it provides — identity, meaning, community, structure, a sense of self-worth, an income — good work is one way to stay alive.  TGIM — Thank God, It’s Monday.

Have What It Takes to Launch a Business?

This is an interesting question and one probably not asked often enough by would-be entrepreneurs, which explains why so many businesses never make it to Year Five. Even the most well thought out new venture carries a certain amount of risk, which is part of the attraction. It’s one thing to risk money, time, and energy when we’re in our 30s or 40s, and quite another when we are 50 or older, for obvious reasons. So even if you have a great idea and the money to invest in it (or know how to raise it), it makes sense to put yourself through at least one assessment of your potential as an entrepreneur. Here’s a pretty good one from, twenty-one questions that will help you get clearer about communications skills, self-confidence, how you deal with uncertainty, financial issues, partners or employees, to mention a few essentials. Fun to take. If it turns out that you don’t have the right stuff, take heart. All it has cost you is a few moments of soul-searching.

We also recommend Michael E. Gerber’s The E Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, especially Part II, The Turn-Key Revolution: A New View of Businesses. What we learned from this book is very simple: a successful business is one that can and must outgrow its founders. It can be franchised, scaled up, whatever buzz word fits. Two other gems: “Without a clear picture of the customer, no business can succeed.” “Ask yourself: Does the business I have in mind alleviate a frustration experienced by a large enough group of consumers to make it worth my while?” Read it before you take the plunge.