|BossWoman eNews – April 2005
Combining prosperous work lives and balanced personal lives
Welcome to the April 2005 edition of Susan Robison's free
e-mail newsletter for women business owners, executives, and
Our goal is to bring you news, insights, and information about
leading a balanced and prosperous life while making a
difference. If you are on this list you have been a client, an
advocate, or attended a workshop. Pass this newsletter on to
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In this issue, you'll find:
- To Retire or Not?
- BossWoman coaching
- Up and coming workshops
1. To Retire or Not?
Since April is the month for filling personal income tax forms
in the US, it is a good time to review your retirement goals
and savings. Retirement is interesting not only to “old”
people who are collecting social security checks or to late
middle agers attending seminars put on by their human resource
department. It is a topic worth considering even in your youth
because your current career, life style, and savings choices
will all affect how you live in your later years. Living the
good life in your later years is about two aspects, strategies
to become financially independent from paid employment and
choices that determine your well being in your later years.
They are related topics. Next month this newsletter will cover
some ideas about making sure you live well financially. This
month we will talk about things that will determine the
quality of your life.
Did you ever wonder why people age so differently in the later
decades of adulthood? You may have relatives or neighbors who
span the range of vibrant, active 60 or 70 or 80 year olds and
their age mates who look beaten down and ill. Harvard
physician and adult development researcher George Vaillant has
been studying how the choices we make during early and middle
aged adulthood lead to the outcomes of aging well. He tracked
three cohorts of people older than 60. Currently some of the
research subjects are in their 80s having out lived the
original researchers who began the longitudinal studies when
these subjects were in their teens or early 20s. Vaillant has
taken over the data sets and found that, contrary to popular
wisdom, there is no such thing as a “mid-life crisis.”
Developmental crises do occur but they occur at any time when
people fail to attend the developmental tasks of each age –
when the forward motion of adult development runs into
stubbornness or cluelessness. Vaillant identifies six tasks of
adulthood each one being added in 7-10 year intervals while we
continue maintaining and repeating the earlier ones.
Age 50 is a critical turning point. If you are doing the right
stuff at 50 you have a good chance of living well at 80. Six
factors to aim for at 50 are having a warm marriage,
possessing adaptive or coping strategies, not smoking
heavily, not abusing alcohol, getting ample exercise and
not being overweight.
- Identity – figuring out who you are. This task starts in
adolescence and challenges you to know yourself and become an
individual while at the same time fitting in with your peer
group. My Aunt Bertha advised me, “Be different.” I wanted to
take her advice but I didn’t want to be so different that no
one would like me. During the rest of adulthood you keep
deepening your knowledge of yourself as you take risks, accept
challenges, and get feedback from others.
- Intimacy – using social skills and emotional intelligence to
form close bonds with other adults including a possible mate
- Career Consolidation – using one’s strengths to find work and
revise one’s career as the field changes or you develop new
- Generativity – helping the younger generation of adults and
leaving a legacy. This can be done through one’s children or
in work with younger employees.
- Keeper of the Meaning – being able to learn from history and
pass the lessons along, imparting wisdom to the community.
- Integrity – it all comes together in satisfying old age.
In addition, those who really thrive from 50 to 80 (that’s the
decade the research subjects are currently in) are doing four
things: social activity, play, creativity, and lifelong
learning. Neglect any of those, he says, and you will not
enjoy your later years as fully as you might.
Vaillant’s most shocking finding of all: beyond enough
money to cover one’s needs, how much money you have
socked away will not lead to happiness in your later
years. It does give you the freedom to make good
- Social activities: Don’t try to convince your mother that
she will have a great time being thrown together in a room
full of strangers at the senior center. Remember, the last
networking event you went to as a newbie? Mom would rather
be alone or with family and close friends especially with
people who have known her a long time. Paradoxically those
who do well with aging do make new friends but not with
age mates. Rather they start relationships with younger
adults – a way to protect themselves as age mates become
less available due to health problems or early death.
- Play and creativity – here is the leisure time of
retirement. The difference between play, which is about
time limited fun, and creativity is that creativity
produces something, a carved duck, a piece of music, a poem.
Just having fun gets stale and empty. Creativity renews a
sense of awe. *Lifelong learning – curiosity about one’s
world and interest in exploring new things predicts doing
well with aging.
Retirement Lifestyle Trends
Your grandparents may have worked at one job and then
retired but the trends predict that you won’t follow that
pattern. Our daughter can’t even say this statement about
her grandparents. She was six when we traveled to Chicago
to celebrate her grandfather’s retirement from the police
department. She had been studying prefixes and suffixes
in school so she asked, “Retired, is that when you get
tired and then get tired again so that you re-tire?”
While we were visiting, her grandfather retired from his
job on Friday and went back to the same office as a
civilian employee on Monday. She observed, “He didn’t
even get a chance to get tired, let alone re-tired.”
Her grandfather was a man ahead of his times. Today, the
definition of retirement is changing away from the image
of the old guy sitting on the fishing dock waiting to die.
If you in your twenties or thirties, you are likely to
change careers 6 times in your lifetime. Add to the fact
of high job mobility the greater longevity of employees,
and it becomes normal to change jobs, retraining and
redefining self along the way. Hence, you will have to
manage your own retirement plans. No one company will
take care of you in your later years. While you may draw
income from some sort of retirement plan, it is also
likely that you will continue working, possibly for pay
and/or possibly to make a contribution using your skills.
Studies show that employed senior citizens do better than
those that are not employed. It is probably not employment
itself but a variable called “engagement” that matters.
Staying engaged in the world means having a reason to get
up in the morning, interacting with people of all ages
are all part of engagement. Here are some current
lifestyle options of “retirees.” For younger readers,
your options will increase in complexity.
However, it is smart to plan the financial part of
your retirement as though you wish to become
financially independent from a job. Financial
independence is different that retirement. It begins
the day that your money makes more than you do. My
father gave me some great advice. “Money doesn’t
buy you happiness, but it does buy you options.”
In sum, save as though you are aiming to become
financially independent and work as though you will
continue to offer much to the world.
- The real retirees: This group fits your image of your
grandpa’s retirement. These folks stop working for pay,
collect a pension check, and do fun things. Career
specialist, Richard Bolles, predicted 20 years ago in
“Three Boxes of Life” that the three boxes of life (school,
work, play) would get less rigidly assigned to ages with
adults finishing school, working hard, and then getting
to play. He foresaw the current trend of education, work
and play as being woven throughout adulthood.
- The boomerangs: This group retires and then goes back
to work often out of boredom or financial necessity.
Some of those smiling helpers at McDonalds and Wal*Mart
are in this group.
- The escape artists. One of my neighbors, who had not
worked outside the home since giving birth to her first
child, went back to work when her husband retired
because she married, “for better or worse but not for
lunch.” Her husband’s image of hitting the road in the
RV had to be revised.
- The retreads: This group retires from one job and
retrains in something new. They may go back to school or
tech training and then back into the work world.
- The double-dippers: These folks repackage what they
already know and keep working while they collect
retirement checks. This option has been particularly
popular among government workers. One of our friends who
is following this option and consulting to his old
agency said, “I do what I used to do but they pay me
more and listen to what I have to say.” My father, who
according to his granddaughter didn’t even get a chance
to get tired let alone re-tired, eventually retired
from the civilian job at the police department and went
to work for a private corporation as head of computer
security. He actually collected retirement funds from
all three jobs in differing amounts dependent on his
length of service. He lived 22 years beyond his first
- The professional volunteers: They collect pay from
their retirement while taking their knowledge and
talents to a worthy cause such as a non-profit or a
place of worship. One of my clients who had worked for
a large accountant firm back when they were called
“the big 8” volunteers her time as the accountant for
- The day care providers: Some grandparents have fun
taking care of the grandkids while mom and dad work.
More frequently grandparents might be offered pay or
room and board in exchange for their child care
services. Think of this option as a pair of aupairs.
Other grandparents may be actually raising their
children’s children due to their parents’ death,
disability, prison, drug problems, etc. This group is
more common than you think. The US 2000 Census found
more than 2.3 million grandparents raising their
children’s children, resulting in more than 5.6
million children living in grandparent-headed
Since creativity in work predicts well for aging,
imagine that your current career life will be
extended into older adulthood – whether for pay or,
if you follow the suggestions in next month’s
newsletter, for fulfillment and contribution. Here
are some tips for keeping your work satisfying for
a lifetime, even if you don’t need to work for pay:
All of the above strategies are good habits to
build now that will make the human side of
retirement planning easy. If you are defining
what retirement will mean to you by thinking
through the concepts in this month’s newsletter,
you will be ready next month to examine the
money side of retirement.
- Do a career assessment annually or semi-annually.
If you begin to feel that it is time for a change
but are stumped on how to go about doing so, find
a career coach to help you. Working with an
experienced coach who can show you the
steppingstones to a more satisfying work life
could shave years off your growth curve. In
addition to helping you with your current change,
the process will be one you can replicate on your
own for subsequent transitions.
- Do you enjoy what you do? How can you do more of
what you do enjoy and less of what you don’t enjoy?
- What is your next career move? What do people in
your field/job do next? What do you need to do
(networking, training, etc) to position yourself
for this move?
- Does your current job use your talents? All of
them, some of them? What kind of work would better
use your strengths?
- Does your current job satisfy your work values?
Values could include pay, intellectual stimulation,
social relationships, contributing to society. What
jobs would better meet those needs?
- If you have some ideas about what you want to
do but don’t know much about those jobs, consider
doing some informational interview of people
working in those fields. Be respectful of their
time, though, by structuring your interview time
down to 15 minutes. Ask them:*What do you like and
not like about your job?
- What did it take to get this job?
- What advice do you have for a person who wants
to enter this fields?
- Look at the trends in your field and how can
you be ready for new things when the field
changes. Read your trade journals, attend
professional meetings with speakers who can
talk about the trends, form a mastermind group of
colleagues who meet regularly to pool their pulse
taking of the field.
- Have an exit plan. Hire/train a successor who
can take your place so that you can leave the work
in capable hands. No matter how tough things get,
exit gracefully. Don’t burn bridges when you leave.
The whole world is small. The person you tell off
today may be tomorrow’s boss, client, vendor, or
colleague. Don’t confuse your need to move on with
the place being bad. It’s not their fault you feel
a need to make the next career move. It is about
you recognizing it is time.
- The hardest question of all: What is the most
important work action you could take today to
position you for your ideal work life 20, 30, years
from now? It might be going back to school for an
extra degree. It might include making a short term
sacrifice in work/life balance in order to advance
in your field and assure yourself of long term
Live well now… and later.
More next month,
George E. Vaillant (2002). Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life From the
Landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development
New York: Little, Brown, & Co.
2. BossWoman coaching
About the publisher: Susan Robison, Ph.D. is a
professional coach, speaker, author and seminar
leader. She loves to coach women who want
If you are feeling stuck on the way to your ideal
life, give Susan a call for a complementary
half-hour coaching session.
- work-life balance,
- career transitions,
- building your business or practice,
- time management,
- increasing productivity.
She provides keynotes and seminars to business
and organizations on the topics of:
She offers her audiences a follow-up coaching
session because she knows that workshops don’t
- leadership strategies for women,
- work-life balance,
Contact Susan for your coaching, speaking, or
seminar needs at Susan@BossWoman.org or at
3. Up and coming workshops
Topic: Working Successfully with Couple Clients:
Staying Sane in Insane Places.
Date: May 12, 2005 Part of the Education
Conference for the Maryland state association of
Place: Columbia Sheraton
Contact: Director of Education, Mike Curley,
Topic: Teaching Well, Saving Time: Managing
Diverse Faculty Responsibilities.
Date: May 20, 2005, Part of an all day conference
for women medical faculty at Johns Hopkins
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