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What is needed, he writes, is a new social contract with older people that directs them not toward the outdated ‘freedom from work’ of an earlier generation and time, but ‘freedom to work.’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.Â And there is an Encore website.Â “The future is calling,” Freedman concludes. “What are we waiting for?”