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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 professionals.

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 others who might be interested. This e-mail list is not sold or exchanged. Details on subscribing (and unsubscribing) are at the end.

In this issue, you'll find:

  1. To Retire or Not?
  2. BossWoman coaching
  3. 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.

Aging Well
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.

  • 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 if desired.
  • Career Consolidation – using one’s strengths to find work and revise one’s career as the field changes or you develop new interests.
  • 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.
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.

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.

  • 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.
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 choices.

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.

  • 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 retirement.
  • 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 her church.
  • 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 households.
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.

Working Well
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:

  1. Do a career assessment annually or semi-annually.
    • 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 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 balance.
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.
Live well now… and later.
More next month,
Susan Robison

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 improvement in:

  • work-life balance,
  • career transitions,
  • building your business or practice,
  • time management,
  • increasing productivity.
If you are feeling stuck on the way to your ideal life, give Susan a call for a complementary half-hour coaching session.

She provides keynotes and seminars to business and organizations on the topics of:

  • leadership strategies for women,
  • relationships,
  • work-life balance,
  • change.
She offers her audiences a follow-up coaching session because she knows that workshops don’t work.

Contact Susan for your coaching, speaking, or seminar needs at Susan@BossWoman.org or at 410-465-5892.
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 Financial Planners.
Place: Columbia Sheraton
Contact: Director of Education, Mike Curley, 410-833-4006.

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 University.

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BossWoman e-Newsletter is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Coaching should not be construed as a form of, or substitute for, counseling, psychotherapy, legal, or financial services.

© Copyright 2005 Susan Robison. All rights reserved. The above material is copyrighted but you may retransmit or distribute it to whomever you wish as long as not a single word is changed, added or deleted, including the contact information. However, you may not copy it to a web site without the publisher’s permission.

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