Category Archives: Older Workers

In Business For Yourself

A few things converged in the last two days that make this a timely topic.

First, AARP Bulletin’s cover story, You Be the Boss which reports that half of all entrepreneurs are baby boomers, 7.4 million of them. Whatever your age cohort, if you are considering joining the ranks of business owner, Questions for the Self-Starter are helpful, as are the notes on franchises. Business Week’s article about Second Acts is also worth your time.

Terri Lonier, founder of Working Solo, offers Top Ten Trends for Solo Businesses in 2007. One that caught our attention, green businesses. With global warming now unequivocal, the smart money is betting on all kinds of opportunities to address the growing need to reduce one’s carbon imprint. You don’t have to be a soloist to benefit from Lonier’s insights, both practical and visionary.

Many soloists and couples in business together, start out — and sometimes remain — in a home-based office. If the idea of working out your home appeals to you, here are a few thoughts on the subject based on our nine-year experience.

Not So-New ‘Retirement’

A study from the Vanguard Center for Retirement Research released recently is further evidence that retirement is more marketing concept than reality. “Worried You Don’t Have Enough for Retirement?” (from AARP The Magazine) is pretty typical of the advertising for financial advice and portfolio management that targets our age group.

The Vanguard survey of 2,474 individuals age 40 to 69 indicates that “The conventional view of retirement — working full-time until a set date then shifting to full-time leisure –- does not match the experience of many older Americans.” Ergo, the so-called “New Retirement” of baby boomers that blends work with leisure is not so new. Some other nuggets of interest from the study:

  • According to the Social Security Administration, 45% of people 65 to 69 are earning income from work, as are 25% of people 70-74.

  • Downshifting, as in changing one’s relationship to work, is more typical than an abrupt end to work.

  • 6 in 10 people define the word “retirement” as some combination of work and leisure.

  • Self-employment is the second most popular option among the “Never Retire” group.

  • Implications for financial advisers: more complex and customized help needed.
  • Implications for employers who want to hang on to their experienced talent: phased retirement in demand.

Our choice and recommendation is for a balanced portfolio of work, service and leisure in later life. For more on this, contact a 2young2retire Certified Facilitator in your area and ask about the 2young2retire course. For listing by state, scroll down on right.

Saving Too Much?

Huh? When was the last time you heard that in this country? It is certainly an attention-grabber, which explains why A Contrarian View: Save Less, Retire With Enough is the number one emailed article in today’s New York Times. Naturally, the surprisingly consistent conclusion of a ‘loose confederation of well-regarded economists’ is getting a frosty reception from the folks who profit the most from managing large retirement portfolios. And critics of the research have a point in arguing that it could be a disincentive to save, which is a tough sell as it is.

We are squarely in the contrarian camp ourselves on this subject, if for a different reason. In fact, one book we recommend to people 50+ and older is Retire on Less Than You Think written by Fred Brock, former Seniority columnist for the Times, now ‘retired’ as a professor of journalism and author. Brock’s case is not for saving less, but for cutting expenses, and he offers specific and compelling examples of how to do that, including his own.

What isn’t at all new in the report is the persistence of the idea that people are retiring, as in ceasing to work, and therefore in need of adequate funds to keep them out of soup kitchens. This flies in the face of every survey conducted recently, and disputes the abundant evidence of people working past age 65, even if they can afford not to. Why older people in the workforce or starting businesses remains newsworthy, is a puzzlement.

Trailer Park and Cat Food Blues? No Way!

Don’t know about you, but we get pretty steamed by these patronizing articles about Boomers and their money, see It’s Crunch Time for Retiring Boomers. And technically, we’re not even in the Boomer cohort! OK, maybe you guys have had a run of living too well too long, to borrow from the Paul Simon song. But there are two reasons, at least, why we believe that singing the trailer park and cat food blues is wrong-headed and should be rejected.

First, the assumption that you are too addicted to the so-called live-for-today lifestyle to adapt. We’re not buying it. Let us tell you that it is possible to go from 0 in the reserves to a chunk of change that gets the attention of financial advisers. We did it, starting in our 50s, and we’re no smarter about money than any one of you. Here are two things that worked for us:

1. We started paying ourselves first. In our case, it was stashing the maximum amount then allowed in a 401K, and fully funding a KEOGH account we created for our small business. We did this every year, and didn’t even miss the money after a while. Know what? It adds up.

2. We began to pay cash for just about everything. This is a recommendation you hear often, but here’s how it affected our bottom line and could impact yours. When you use cash, it puts the brakes on impulse spending. We didn’t like walking around with cash-fat wallets, so it forced us to think twice, put it off. Procrastination, whether about starting an exercise program, a diet, or making a purchase, is very effective. Just keep passing those ATMs!

Second point: the assumption that retirement — the dated model of full-time leisure — is inevitable. Take this away, and the whole picture changes. Find work you enjoy or create it, and plan to do it in some form for the rest of your life. After the technology bubble popped, one Boomer who thought he was headed to the golf links forever, revised his plan to become a golf equipment rep.

You need to build up a financial reserve. If you haven’t, beating up on yourself is pointless. Just start now. Working longer is an option well within your grasp. And don’t give up too easily or settle for the first thing. If you’re like a lot of folks (like us!), you did that the first time around. What could you happily do for the next 20 years or so? Where can you make a meaningful contribution? Those are the questions to ask yourself now. More about career change from Career Journal.

Ageism within?

A shortage of workers in the coming decades will be a global phenomenon. In Japan, which has one of the oldest populations, companies are being given incentives by the government to extend retirement age to 70. Last fall, we attended a presentation of the AARP/Towers Perrin report The Business Case for Workers Age 50+: Planning for Tomorrow’s Talent Needs in Today’s Competitive Environment. As negative stereotypes begin to erode, says the report, older workers will be sought after for their “experience, loyalty, perseverance, work habits and emotional maturity.” AARP projects that by by 2010, almost one in three workers in the U.S. will be 50 or older.

It appears that economic necessity could do for older workers what legislation — the Age Discrimination Act of 1967 — has only partly accomplished. Could we be seeing the last of subtle manifestations of age bias, e.g. the contention that executives 50 and older take twice as long to land a new job as their younger colleagues?

We believe so. Yet our optimism took a hit this week when a human resources executive friend suggested that mature workers feel compelled to cut years from their work experience to appear younger because it improves their chances of being hired.

Ageism begins at home. Stamp it out! Here are some useful ideas: