Achievement in Retirement

It has been a while since I posted to this blog.  Life gets in the way sometimes. However, I have accomplished something: the publication of the long-promised book “Where Shall I Live When I Retire? It is available from Amazon.com in both print and ebook form. If you are mulling over the decision to age in place or to downsize and move to a new home, read this book.  Click here for the link.

Although it feels good to have this long term project finished, there is a void. There is nothing to fill the time. I need a new challenge.  That got me thinking about achievement, and what it means for retirees.

Back in the 1980’s, a psychologist named David McClelland studied worker motivation. He proposed that people at work were motivated by three primary needs which arise out of life experience:

  • Achievement: These people need to master complex tasks, to meet goals that offer challenges, and to accomplish those goals.
  • Affiliation: the need for friendly harmonious relationships, to be liked and held in high regard.
  • Power: the need to influence and direct others, to make an impact, a need to lead.

McClelland’s theory states that most people hold a combination of these needs, but that one of them will be dominant.

When we retire, how do we satisfy these needs?  I suspect that many people who struggle with the adjustment to this new stage of life are having trouble with at least one of them. I know that I am achievement-oriented, that I need new challenges to keep me going. Those challenges need to be achievable but not too easy.  The book project involved researching the content, which was interesting but not particularly challenging (the internet is a wonderful thing). The challenge came from researching and learning how to format and upload an e-book and negotiating the self-publishing process for the print version.

It seems to me that the affiliation need may be the easiest to fulfill in retirement.  It involves getting out and meeting people, and getting involved in activities. People who have a strong affiliation need are probable ‘people’ people, and seek the company of others easily.

Power needs are probably the most difficult to satisfy in retirement. As one executive told me once “I don’t have the corner office, the support staff, the title or the big paycheck.” People who have a need to lead, to be in charge may find their niche on a nonprofit board, or even going back to work and running a nonprofit or starting a new business.

Which of these is your predominant need? How are you satisfying it?  As for me, I have some ideas for new projects. We’ll see where they go.

Carol


Look For Your MBI

What’s an MBI?  In an effort to reduce identity theft, the Social Security Administration will be issuing new Medicare cards that will not have our Social Security numbers on them. Instead, they will have a randomly generated Medicare Beneficiary Identifier or MBI number. Cards will be mailed between April 2018 and April 2019.

No doubt, the scammers will be trying new ways to cash in on this change. Here are a few tips from the Scambusters,org newsletter to help you avoid them:

  1. Medicare won’t phone or email you about the new card, so if you get a call, it’s almost certainly a scam. On the rare occasions that they make customer service calls, they never ask for confidential information.
  2. The cards are free, so anyone asking you to pay is a scammer.
  3. Medicare never asks for your Social Security number and, when the new cards are issued, they won’t be asking you for your MBI either. They already have it!
  4. There won’t be any changes to your Medicare benefits as a result of issuing the new number and you don’t have to do anything to “activate” your new card. Anyone saying you need to take certain actions to remain covered is a scammer.
  5. Watch out for fake websites offering to issue new cards or help you secure your card. As we said, you don’t need to apply. But if you want to check any Medicare questions online, the only site to use is www.cms.gov
  6. Be particularly alert if you’re not yet in Medicare but expect to enroll during the interim period. When you submit your application, it’s possible Medicare will contact you but they normally do this by letter. If someone phones, carefully check their identity — don’t take their word that they’re who they say they are.
  7. The cards can be used as soon as you get yours — it will come with instructions. However, it’s not clear whether all Medicare service providers will be equipped to use the MBI at the outset. They may ask you for your old, SSN-based number — but usually only in the payment office.

For more information, see the CMS website at:   https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/New-Medicare-Card/index.html


Where shall We Live When We Retire?

In the retirement workshops and programs that I run, the question of “where shall we live when we retire?” comes up frequently. Housing decisions have a far-reaching impact on your life satisfaction and well-being in retirement. I have identified five big questions to be considered when deciding where to live in retirement:

  • Geography – what locations are you considering? Seashore? Mountains? Urban? Rural? What amenities are you looking for? What kind of lifestyle?
  • Sociology – where are your friends, family, social networks, activities? A social support network is one of the most valuable assets to one can have as we age.
  • Psychology – feelings about one’s home and home ownership. Is your home part of your personal identity? Are home-based activities such as gardening what give meaning to your life?
  • Physiology – preparing for aging. How will you live in your home as you age? Your housing wants and needs will be quite different at age 65 than at age 90.  What design features should you be seeking for the present and the future?
  • Financial – housing expense will probably be your biggest cash outlay going forward, and that can greatly impact your lifestyle. What can you afford? How can you get the best housing for the money?

For many people, there is no decision.  They are going to stay right where they are, that is, to age in place.  However, that place may not be the right place for the long haul, so for some people, the housing decision means finding a more suitable place in the same community.

Other people choose to move to another town, another state, or even another country.  The primary reasons for doing so are:

  • To move to an area where there is a lower cost of living, especially taxes
  • To move closer to family members
  • To live a different lifestyle such as the beach, a golf community, and enjoy a warmer climate, or even a different culture

In researching this question, and going through my own decision process, I realized that there wasn’t much material out there to help people struggling with this issue. So, I have written a book on this subject.  It is in the editing stages, and I hope to have it available as an E-book in the next few months.  While it is written for Boomers planning their own retirement living, there is information here that will be helpful for people helping aging parents or family make these decisions, especially when it comes to care needs.  One thing I found is that many people are unaware of the services and care levels provided in different types of senior housing.  I hope this book will remedy that. Look for it soon.

 


On Flunking Retirement

I recently ran across an article by Mark Walton on Why We’re Flunking Retirement. Now, it has been my position that you cannot ‘flunk retirement’. I learned from personal experience after I retired, that it takes time to find your new ‘calling’. I tried various things, which did not work for me. But then eventually something clicked, namely developing and running programs for boomers on planning for their lifestyle in retirement. I concluded that if one thing does not make you happy, and provide meaning to your life, you can try something else – or two or three something elses. You are not building a career here, and you can take your time in finding out what works for you. And over time that can, and probably will, change. This is not failure. There are any number of opportunities out there waiting for you to discover them. And, as Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.”

Mr. Walton’s article caught my eye, however, because he cited Peter Drucker, who has been called the Father of Modern Management. Peter Drucker’s writings were required reading for us MBA students at New York University, and as a young manager, I found much in them that resonated with what I saw in my own organization. Drucker coined the term Knowledge Worker, one whose body did not wear out from physical labor, and who reached retirement age with a brain that was still working. For the knowledge worker, a retirement of leisure, referred to as The Golden Years, was not satisfying. These people need a new way of retiring, one that challenges the mind.

In Drucker’s 33rd major book, “Management Challenges of the 21st Century,” published in 1999, he proposed that the greatest management challenge of the 21st century will be managing oneself. To do this, we need to know our strengths, identify our values, and know where we belong – the result of the first two points. From that, we can approach the questions of what is my contribution, and where and how can I make a difference? For retirees, this line of thinking may lead into new careers or volunteer activity in the nonprofit sector. Success is redefined as making a difference in the world, or some corner of it, not achieving the top job or the highest salary.
What Drucker proposed has become the Encore movement, spearheaded by Encore.org, an organization dedicated to building a movement to tap the skills and experience of those in midlife and beyond to improve communities and the world. Encore looks to harness the experience and skills of boomers to address the problems of the modern world and create a better future for generations to come. You can read what others are doing in their encore careers at encore.org.

Dr. Drucker, by the way, remains a role model for aging. He was writing, teaching and consulting up until his death at age 95.

Mark Walton is Chairman of the Second Half Institute which offers courses to people who are approaching the second half of their lives.


Curiosity

Life must be lived and curiosity kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.
Eleanor Roosevelt

In my last post, I talked about doing, being and becoming. How does one continue to become – to grow, to evolve? I have been thinking about this question, and I think being curious is a big part of it. Curiosity can lead us into avenues we never thought to pursue before. It can open new worlds and possibilities and bring excitement into our lives. Recently, along with several million other people, I was curious about the lifestyle and birthing practices of giraffes, specifically a giraffe named April, living in an animal park in upstate New York. I watched her live giraffe-cam on YouTube religiously, and saw the birth first hand. Now, I am not about to take up a new career as an animal caretaker, but I did learn how big these guys really are – over two stories tall! And it was awesome to see the little guy, just a few minutes old. Within an hour he was standing on his own four legs, and already as tall as the caretakers.

A deeper experience was standing on the top of a mound at Jericho in Israel, looking down into a pit at a Neolithic stone tower 28 ft high. We were told it is the oldest known stone structure in the world, built around 8,000 BCE. That experience opened up for me a whole new avenue of exploration that has kept me curious for years – the study of ancient near-eastern history, which has enriched my life immensely.

Wikipedia defines curiosity as the desire to acquire knowledge and skill: it drives the process of learning. It is the urge to draw us out of our comfort zone, while fear is the agent that keeps us within its boundaries.

So how do we become more curious? I would say the first rule, the foundation, is to pay attention. Really see what is about you. Take time to look, to listen to what others are saying, look at the details, the shapes, the colors, smell the roses. So often, we blithely go our way and never see what is right in our own back yards. Curiosity is about seeing new things, and novel experiences, even in everyday life.

The website Lifehack.org suggests starting with the five basic questions of news reporters: Who, What, When, Where and How. Stopping to ask those question about something you have observed or read about can open up a whole new world and a rich life experience.

The important thing is not to stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when contemplating the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of the mystery every day . . . Never lose a holy curiosity.
Albert Einstein


Listening to the Silence Part 2

Debra Lambo M.A.  LCSW
Guest Blogger

When I turned 60 I asked myself how I wanted to live the “bonus years” of my life, a time in which I am still healthy, have financial security which offers an opportunity and freedom in which to choose how do I want to live? I wondered are there other people out there that are asking themselves the same question.

Mary Catherine Bateson’s book Composing a Further Life, An Age of Active Wisdom, proposed that the boomer generation needed consciousness raising groups like those that women that formed in the 60’s and 70’s in order to “free themselves from limiting stereotypes of who they were and what they wanted out of life.”  Would such a process help to break out of old stereotypes about aging and help us create lives that reflect how we want to be in the world?  What is life asking of me at this stage of life  and how do I want to respond?

My response to this mandate was to start a group called In Search of Active Wisdom: Consciousness Raising for Adulthood ll. The group would meet at the local Senior Center for four weeks.  Our search for answers would not to be found with one of the many gurus who are proposing solutions.  A solution wasn’t what we needed, since it wasn’t a problem that we had. Instead the group would use the wisdom to be found in poetry, psychology, Op-Ed writers, and mostly in the dialogue we had with each other. Using the group discussion to reflect on the readings and our own life experiences. The readings and discussion helped challenge us to move out of old established habits of mind and allow us to imagine alternative ways of thinking and possibly living,  during this stage of life.  There were no promises made to find more happiness, satisfaction, or spiritual growth.  What such a process did offer was a time and space in which we would live with questions, an opportunity to loosen tightly held beliefs about ourselves and the world.

Our Active Wisdom group has been meeting for four years and is more about our questions than acquiring more information.  Using a process of reading, reflecting and dialogue, we explore together new ways of being and living during this phase of life.

Research by Keith Oatley and Maja Dojkic at University of Toronto (NYTimes, Dec. 21, 2014)[1] shows that reading can transform us.  The more artistic the writing, more powerful it is in getting us to think of about ourselves anew. If we are seeking new ways of being at this stage life, a time when many of us may find ourselves living with freedom that that was not available in the past,  what do we do with it?  Is the current paradigm of aging well, with its emphasis on health and financial security the only possibility for “happiness,” another promise held out by current models of the good life?  Can we imagine something other than what is available through our culture?  Holding a space and time to re-imagine life after 60 creates the possibility to continue the human potential movement that  many boomers were a part of in their youth.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/21/opinion/sunday/how-writing-transforms-us.html


Being, Doing, Becoming? Yes!

I read a number of e-newsletters, and a headline in one this week caught my eye.  “Are you a human being, doing or becoming?” This particular article was in a marketing newsletter that was aimed at self-employed small business owners, and not referencing retirement.  However, it struck a chord with me.

In some of our Route To Retirement materials we talk about doing versus being.  Once we retire, we don’t need to be doers all the time.  It’s OK just to be sometimes.  And as we move toward our senior years, we tend to be more than do.  This shift in mindset is not easy for some people, especially those who have been work oriented all their adult lives – those who took their identity from what they did in life – their work identity.

But there is more to that headline than being or doing. It is the becoming part. As the author pointed out, “in the plant kingdom, you have a choice – grow or die.  You simply cannot remain stagnant or you’ll wither and die.”  The same is true for humans.  We need to keep expanding our thinking and awareness in order to grow.   How do we do that at this stage of life?   For one thing, it means getting off the sofa and out of the house.  Try new things, different groups, places, activities, books.  This may take some effort to get going, but the rewards will be well worth it.

A woman came to my program on life style planning in retirement.  I wondered why she came to that program, because she was in her 80’s, and most attendees were 50-60ish.  She made some contributions to the group, and when the program was over, she said to the other people in the room  “I can tell you one thing for your plan: Say Yes!”  I have never forgotten that message – say Yes! to life, to new experiences.  That is how we keep growing.


More Life Long Learning Opportunities

I recently watched the Age Without Borders Virtual Summit. One of the sessions was about Life Long Learning and the diverse, worldwide opportunities for keeping an active state of mind as we age.

Several sessions dealt with the University for the Third Age. There are local U3A’s in countries all over the world, offering a wide range of local leader-led courses. There is also a website, offering online courses to anyone U3Aonline.org.au.  This is a membership organization.  For an annual membership of about $20 USD, you can take as many independent study courses as you want in that year.  (Since this is an Australian-based organization, the fees on the website are quoted AUS).  There is no equivalent in the US for leader-led courses, but Road Scholar has a page on its website listing Lifelong Learning Institutes in the US.  You can search by zip code for one near you.   http://www.lli.roadscholar.org/find-an-lli-near-you.

The March 2017 issue of AARP Bulletin has an article on online courses (Get Enrolled, page 37.)  They list several additional sites for online lifelong learning courses.

Big Think is defined on Wikipedia as a Web portal that features interviews, multimedia presentations, and roundtable discussions with speakers from a range of fields.  Big Think has also been described as a YouTube for ideas.  The Big Think website offers short articles and videos with a team of experts.  There is also a subscription channel called Edge for businesses.  I did a search for material on retirement, and Big Think listed 264 articles and 82 videos, although many of them had a very limited connection to retirement.  However, there was some very good material from experts such as Joseph Coughlin, director of MIT’s AgeLab, and the economist Paul Krugman. These are free.

The Great Courses.  These have been around since 1990, offering CD’s and DVD’s of college level course lectures.  Now, Great Courses have gone digital, with a subscription streaming service through their Great Courses Plus website.  You may find, however, a selection of Great Courses at your local library, either CD’s or DVD or streamed.  I am currently watching an online course on The History of the Ancient World on Hoopla, through my local library, however I am limited to five lectures a month. There are a few individual lectures on Youtube.com, plus previews of some courses.

Open Yale University.  These college level lecture courses are free, but no college credit is offered.  Actual Yale professors were taped in class and posted on youtube.  I did note one course that resides on Coursera.  These courses start at specified times, they don’t seem to be available on demand.

EdX  was mentioned in my first article.  It is a MOOC offering college level courses from schools and institutions around the world.  Some are self paced, others start at specific times.  They are free.

 

 


On Flunking Retirement

I recently ran across an article by Mark Walton on Why We’re Flunking Retirement.  Now, it has been my position that you cannot ‘flunk retirement’.  If one thing does not make you happy, providing meaning to your life, you can try something else – or two or three something elses.  You are not building a career here, and can take your time to find out what works for you.  And over time that can, and probably will, change. There are any number of opportunities out there waiting for you to discover them.

Mr. Walton’s article caught my eye, however, because he cited Peter Drucker, the Father of Modern Management.  Peter Drucker’s writings were required reading for us MBA students at New York University, and as a food service manager, I found much that resonated with what I saw in my own organization.

Drucker coined the term Knowledge Worker, one whose body did not wear out from physical labor, and who reached retirement age with a brain that was still working.  For the knowledge worker, a retirement of leisure, referred to as The Golden Years, was not satisfying.  These people need a new way of retiring, one that challenges the mind.

In Drucker’s 33rd major book, “Management Challenges of the 21st Century,” published in 1999, he proposed that the greatest management challenge of the 21st century will be managing oneself.  To do this, we need to know our strengths, identify our values, and know where we belong – the result of the first two points.  From that, we can approach the question of what is my contribution.  Where and how can I make a difference?  This leads many into new careers or volunteer activity in the nonprofit sector. Success is defined as making a difference in the world, or some corner of it, not achieving the top job or the highest salary.

What Drucker proposed has become the Encore movement, spearheaded by Encore.org, an organization dedicated to building a movement to tap the skills and experience of those in midlife and beyond to improve communities and the world.  Encore looks to harness the experience and skills of boomers to address the problems of the modern world and create a better future for generations to come.  You can read what others are doing in their encore careers at encore.org.

Dr. Drucker, by the way, remains a role model for aging.  He was writing, teaching and consulting up until his death at age 95.

Mark Walton is Chairman of the Second Half Institute which offers courses to people who are approaching the second half of their lives.


Busyness

Often one hears recently retired people say something like “Oh, I am so busy since I retired, I don’t know how I ever had time to work!”  When I hear that, I ask “But are you having fun?”  Most of the time they say “Oh yes, I’m having a great time.”  But once in a while, the response will be “well . . . now that you mention it . . .  “

This is busyness, not fulfillment.  A friend of mine is always busy – driving people to doctors, errands for home-bound friends, church committees, caring for neighbors’ pets, and occasionally caring for grandchildren who live several hours away. She says “I have no time for myself.”

Why do people fall into the busyness trap – activity that is not rewarding . . . now, when we have control over how we spend our time?

We have been busy all our adult life, and for most of us, that busyness has been in the structure of our work hours.   It is simply a habit that gets us out of bed early in the morning, and out of the house keeping busy with work and errands.

Another remnant of the job may be the sense that one must be productive – effective and efficient in order to be a valued employee and an important, needed employee.   For a workaholic, this is the most difficult mindset to change. All of a sudden, it is OK not to be busy all the time. It goes against the grain.

For some, the need to be busy is sensed as an obligation. “I should go and help them out, that organization needs people; she helped me or my family in the past.  Fear of boredom is sometimes given as a fear of retirement. Post-retirement time is seen as an empty void, with nothing to enhance our psychological needs to be useful, to achieve or accomplish, to be needed.  Sometimes an empty void is threatening.  It creates a space for something we have been trying to avoid or forget, something that work kept at bay.  Now we need to deal with it, and busyness is one technique to continue avoiding it.

Back in 1955, C. Northcote Parkinson, a naval historian, wrote an article in The Economist, satirizing the British Admiralty.  He announced a new scientific law, to be called Parkinson’s Law.  It stated: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”  I believe that the prevalence of busyness in retirement is evidence of this law in action.  If we have all morning to do grocery shopping, we take that time, even though before we retired, we could accomplish the same task in an hour after work.  Hence, more busyness.

” Socrates said “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”

How does one break the busyness habit and move to a more fulfilling lifestyle?  Here are some suggestions:

  • First, start by keeping track of how you are spending your time – what is keeping you busy.
  • Then, rate each activity on two things
    • How important is it? What would happen if you quit doing it?
    • How fulfilling, rewarding, fun is it?
  • Decide which activities to stop doing,   and which to keep on doing, or to do in a different, less time-consuming way.
  • Think about why you have chosen to take on all these activities that keep you so busy – what are you trying to avoid? Are there psychological reasons – a need to be needed? To be seen as important? To achieve, to be accepted, loved?
  • Identify what is really important to you, and plan your time accordingly.
  • Learn how to say no. Set boundaries.   For example, I will babysit one day a week, or one week a month.
  • Are there activities you are not doing that you would like to do? Once you have got your schedule under control, then decide what new activities can go on the calendar.

Greg McKeon in his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less  says “become an Essentialist” – identify what is essential in your life: the right thing in the right way at the right time.  Then channel your time and energy in pursuit of that essential thing.

Are we having fun yet?

Carol