Having a tough time at work? Tough it out while you make a plan!

As part of my work, I attend many conferences where stale statistics on slides are soon decimated by fresh frenetic factoids of reality spewed at us from the churn of the 24-hour media cauldron.

For example, speakers at these events often assert that baby-boomers are “retiring in huge numbers” – 30 million to over 60 million, supposedly, “…and there aren’t enough 30-somethings out there to fill the void.” There’s some Tough LOVE for Boomers embedded in those statistics, and advice for daring to Tough It Out:

Boomers aren’t exactly stampeding to the golf courses or beaches. That hackneyed cliche is an egregious insult to boomers who look forward to continuing their productive careers or starting fulfilling second careers. It is most insulting to boomers who have lost their savings, and even their homes.

The work experience and expertise of boomers make some of us costly hires in this economy. Headhunters and American corporate expatriates advise boomers to consider international work, citing India, China and Vietnam as attractive emerging markets.  However, some skills may be moot even in a rebound, if the industries or companies that used to need them are mature or defunct – here and abroad. Boomers who are interested in leadership positions should also seek out small or mid-size firms rather than large corporations. Private equity firms, though somewhat dormant right now, look for experienced leaders to fill C-suite positions in their portfolio companies.

For older, mature career-switchers, there’s another indignation: headhunters and corporations call us “seasoned professionals with a short runway.”Some presume boomers will work only five to ten years more before we retire, and therefore we’re not worth the investment. Glenn Okun, a successful venture capitalist and finance professor, has a very different view: he recently told a group of MBAs ranging in age from late 20s to mid-50s: “You’re all going to be working until you’re 90 years old.”

A final dose of Tough LOVE re: career switching: many boomers jump to nonprofit without considering the risks, especially if the salary is comparable to their corporate pay. Don’t presume that your hard-driving private-sector persona will be welcome everywhere. It’s a very hard transition for individuals who are used to focusing almost entirely on quantitative goals and metrics without considering the cultural ramifications. Again, know what you want and need, especially the ROLE you want to play, regardless of title and salary.

As for the Tough It Out part, here are just a few of the strategies that reflect the advice of psychological counselors, social workers, management consultants, business academics and executive coaches who work with individuals in transition in their personal lives or careers:

  1. Develop a concrete plan of action. Have clearly defined objectives, desired outcomes and a strategy for managing your transition and your finances, along with a firm deadline and benchmarks along the way. Focus on delineating what your key priorities are, what you really want and need from life, what you’re passionate about for yourself and for your loved ones. Be honest about your deal-breakers as well as what you would be willing to compromise.
  2. Write in a journal about what’s on your mind, how your anxiety might be connected to past experiences, and what this means for your future. Journals can become powerful personal development tools that impart a holistic view of what’s going on in your life, eventually transforming your vents and rants into insights and solutions.
  3. DARE to spend time alone. Friends, colleagues and experts are a welcome source of counsel and support, but if you’ve just had a serious loss, you need time alone to process it, be angry and mourn. If you haven’t developed strategies for being alone to take care of yourself, it could be very lonely, and drive you to fill the void with people, activities and things that could thwart your ultimate goals for moving forward.

If you tough it out, perhaps the best years of your working life are still ahead of you!

Advertising: Mature Brains Process Ads Differently

Companies have been aiming their marketing to people over 60 in very specific but perhaps unsuccessful ways, based on assumptions that may not be valid. A new report from Nielsen NeuroFocus, the Berkeley, Calif.-based agency that specializes in neurological testing for consumer research shows that mature brains respond very differently to marketing messages. They are more emotionally balanced, and have a longer attention span. This evidence flies in the face of the traditional belief that older brains cannot adapt easily and no longer learn well. [Hey, if I can submit my own brain as a “specimen” the fact that I learned quantitative finance principles in my mid-50s surprised me as well, except that I was tenacious about learning it!]

The neuroscience field is releasing results of research showing convincing evidence that the mature brain retains plasticity, or the ability to change as a result of experience, even at later stages of life. This is also the reason why EXPERIENCE MATTERS – there’s only so much book learning that the younger adult mind can do, especially in the era of over-divulging, over-diversion, and over-distraction – all of which often leads to distortion of: input, information and interpretation.

Here are some of the findings, bulleted, for ease [with my editorial comments in brackets]:

  • Boomers do not want to feel old or be treated as such. They do not respond well to ads that portray stereotypes and they steer clear of messages that feature older people. [But please stop featuring buff 30-somethings in clothing ads that are meant to appeal to sizes 12 and up.]
  • Boomers want to be spoken to honestly. [Yes, but that doesn’t mean our lives will be less than enriched if we don’t use your products, or that something terrible will happen without your company’s anti-depressants.]
  • To that point, mature brains, being more emotionally stable, respond better to positive, rather than negative, fear-based advertising messages. According to Nielsen NeuroFocus, marketers should deliver upbeat advertisements that focus on the benefits to the baby boomer. [Memo to pharmaceutical firms: stop portraying women in their fifties as if we are back in the 1950s, as in mid-20th century!]
  • Mature brains have broader attention spans. [Could be because we’re not on multiple mobile devices, all of the time, at the same time? We actually look at and listen when we care about something.]
  • Boomer brains respond better to advertising messages that are simple; research shows they may ignore those that are rapid or cluttered. [However, about certain products – such as pharmaceuticals or financial services – we want all the information; just don’t make it so filled with jargon, because we mistrust that.]
  • Advertisers are still guilty of ignoring baby boomers, although they are strong and influential in terms of purchasing power. Boomers are on track to spend $7 billion online this year, and they are dining out again. [News alert to fast-food and quick-serve restaurants: take a page out of Panera’s playbook. The firm boomers love to love is doing better in some areas and time slots than McDonald’s and Chipotle – the latter two still banking on 20-somethings who can eat only so many burgers and grinders. Panera’s 58-year old Harvard MBA CEO knows where his bread is – literally and figuratively. In this recession, baby boomers are flocking to Panera for meals that are lighter on the waistline as well as their bank accounts.]

Check out the research:

Nielsen NeuroFocus

Are You Suffering from Deadline Dandruff? Here’s How to MAKE SOME HEADWAY!

deadlines clockAre you procrastinating? Most mature professionals are juggling multiple roles and responsibilities, and often fear or resist tackling something out of their comfort zone. The reason, subconscious or otherwise, is that they think, after that’s done, well, then what? Or, they postpone finishing up a project or relationship or other endeavor because their daily lives demand it. For them, it’s other people’s priorities that drive them.

Other women turn prioritizing, organizing and meeting deadlines into a science; still others know it’s closer to an art. Even then, their to-do lists are filled with what amounts to “deadline dandruff” rather than actual “Big Deal” accomplishments that help them move forward toward a significant goal. So, what have they actually accomplished – except to knock some deadline dandruff off their minds, without actually making any – pardon the pun – HEADWAY.

But there comes a point in our lives or schedules or to-do lists that we realize it’s later than we think. It’s now or never. If not now, then when? One of my favorite authors, Seth Godin, writes in his kick-ass book called Linchpin that at some point you have to be content with “good enough,” and moving quickly to get the mundane things on your to-do list out of the way, off the list, done, and done.

Godin calls it “SHIPPING” – as in, get it out the door! On the other hand, SHIPPING is hard. SHIPPING means you’re acknowledging that you have only so much time in your life to perfect the project, or resuscitate the relationship, or primp up the place before you have to declare it whipped, zipped and shipped. We all tend to seek out something to tackle that will soothe or entertain our frazzled nerves right now, because it’s so much easier than doggedly completing a really critical task or a long overdue project that will deliver actual benefits.

So, go ahead, Ship it! Schedule it, work on it, get it done. Whip it! Zip it! Ship it! Stop procrastinating! This will help:

1) Create a to-do list that has a BIG-THREE, MUST-DO-TODAY mandate. This may seem like “duh.” But limiting yourself to those BIG-THREE, MUST-DO-TODAY on some days, helps you prioritize what’s really critical. Even if those BIG-THREE items have multiple parts, just getting past those smaller hurdles will help you conquer the BIG THREE. But remember, writing it down is important, but merely writing it down WON’T MAKE IT HAPPEN. We have to actually take action and do that thing that’s long overdue. Recent studies are showing that writing things down and telling people you’re “doing that” can actually delude us into thinking we’ve actually DONE IT – and we know the truth. It doesn’t get done until you get it done – or SHIPPED!

2) Do the hard one first. Tackle that biggest looming item first. It will give you a boost, (and a sense of relief) which will help you finish the other jobs more easily.

deadlines eat that frogBrian Tracey calls this “Eating the Frog.” Check out his book, Eat That Frog, 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time. He doesn’t delve too deeply into the psychological whys and wherefores of procrastination, but goes straight to the “do” heart of the matter. In clear and concise terms he instructs you to tackle your “frog,” that one task that will lend the greatest results first. Eating that biggest, ugliest frog on your to do list each morning can greatly increase your sense of accomplishment. This book is an easy read, and it might be a good one to read before going to sleep, since that supposedly aids in moving your unconscious self to action.

3) Do 15-minute-drills: Fake yourself out. Just tell yourself, “I will do only 15 minutes on this job, and then I can do something else.” Very often, you get into a groove, lose track of the time, and you find you are still working at it after the 15 minutes is up. But remember, you have to SHIP it by an urgent deadline – imposed by you or someone else.

4) Clear away distractions. Turn off your phone, log OUT of Facebook or Pinterest, try noise-cancelling headphones, and put your novel, i-pod, or whatever, in another room.

5) Let go of perfectionism. Don’t wait for the “right” time, or the “right” piece of software before you can complete the job. Remember, Voltaire said, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Aim for excellent, not perfect.

6) Promise yourself a reward: A treat you can look forward to will provide
some additional incentive to get the job done. Or tell yourself you can’t have
that Starbucks coffee or hot chocolate until you have completed the task;
negative reinforcement sometimes works as well!

There are many more helpful ideas in my book, Get DARE from Here™! – 12 Principles and Practices for Women Over 40 to Take Stock, Take Action and Take Charge of the Rest of Their Lives. Here are a few:

1. 90-Day ACTion PLAN: DARE to establish and commit to conscientious habits for achieving your Aims. You need an ACTion plan that requires you to tackle at least one Aim every day that will get your closer to ADVANCE your PLAN, and it is helpful to manage our time in chunks, so we can see three months out.

2. Design your life: Looking back on your life in your 80s or 90s, what would you like your life to look like? How can you make changes today so that Design is enacted?

3. Know your three most important Aims you have for your life, career, and community. What do you need to do to enhance your ideal Design?

4. Identify three ACTS toward any of those Aims that you could start in the next three months, and the resources you will Access & Approach to help you. 90-day plans, why they help manage chunks of our time so we see three months out.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


© The DARE-Force Corporation, 2015.

Check out Liz Weinmann’s book, Get DARE from Here™! – 12 Principles and Practices for Women Over 40 to Take Stock, Take Action and Take Charge of the Rest of Their Lives, by Liz DiMarco Weinmann, MBA. All rights reserved.

All of the content on this website and in the other content-driven products and services of The DARE-Force Corporation are based on sound business principles and practices of strategy, operations, leadership and marketing, and on current and emerging trends in those referenced business principles and practices. None of the content on this website, nor in the other content-driven products and services of The DARE-Force Corporation, are intended to be, nor should they be, perceived as, practiced as, or applied as, counsel, diagnosis, or treatment for any implicit or explicit mental, emotional or physical health challenges.

 

 

 

Power Station: It’s Time to Rewire, Reboot and Resurge!

If that’s your urge, then take time, take stock and take care. Then, take action.

Are you energized about learning and doing something new and exciting with every coming year since you’ve begun your career?

Whether your response is a yelping “Yes!” a tentative “Well, maybe” or an anxious “Not really, but I know I have to, in some way at some point in the second half of your life, you will experience the natural desire or face a compelling need to rewire, reboot and resurge. The economic realities of this century have eliminated the option of “No way” for most of us, because we will be working for longer than we ever thought. For most people that alone is “new and different.”

It’s not as impossible or untenable as it might seem. Whatever “camp” you’re in, I have good news for you: a rewire, reboot and resurge will absolutely power your life for the better. Just who am I to talk? In my early fifties, I was firmly in the “Yes!” camp of doing something new and different than my long career in marketing, only to embark on a series of soul-wrenching and workaholic career moves that challenged my overall physical, emotional and financial health. The experiences almost led me to believe that I couldn’t overcome even minor setbacks, let alone deal with bona fide crises. Making those career moves taught me a lot about resilience.

My resurge began in 2007, when I enrolled at New York University’s Stern School of Business to earn an MBA at age 55, graduating two years later, on my 57th birthday. Armed with extensive research I conducted while in business school, I started writing a book on how visionary, intelligent and motivated individuals over 40 drive and advance successful organizations, their careers, and their own personal development – despite the fact that many stereotypes cast midlife professionals as “over the hill” or “landing on a short runway.” Business school taught me how effective leaders get the right things done, not just by doing things better, but doing better things. Not coincidentally, I expanded my consulting practice to help other motivated individuals rewire, reboot and resurge. In the process, I’ve met and learned even more from other bold, brave people who are accomplishing more in the second half of their lives than they thought possible – even after great adversity.

Rebooting and resurging in midlife is necessary regardless of your calling, goals, stages, challenges, or roles – past or present. Whether managers or machinists; teachers or technicians; surgeons or salespersons; the fact is that all of us are CEOs – managers of our own lives. In carrying out our own mission and vision, we have much to learn from adapting sound business principles of good strategy (being effective), disciplined operations (being efficient with resources, especially time) and inspired leadership (managing ourselves and motivating others). We are all CEOs – with the “E” standing for enlightened, enriched and empowered.

Feeling the urge to rewire, reboot and resurge? Thinking “maybe”? Still in the “no way” camp?

Here are three Power Lines to get you going!

1. ) Whether your response is “Yesssss,” “maybe,” or “not really, but I know I have to,” you very well may experience a desire to do something different in the second half of your life. It requires taking the time to be thoughtful in figuring out what you really want; taking stock, so you lead with your strengths; and taking care, so you don’t compromise any aspects of your health. Then, develop an action plan to accomplish concrete goals and execute within a sensible timetable.

2. ) Figure out which “station” you’re in before you set a destination or route (i.e. your “strategy” for getting there). Here’s how:

If you answered “yes” and are looking forward to a new career, hobby, relocation, etc., but are not exactly sure what or how, then you’re ready for a first-class ticket on the rewired-not-expired express. You’re in good company: millions of people are determined to mash the myths, slam the stereotypes and bash the biases that older people are “winding down.” Yay, you!

Your route/strategy: Focus on what you really want, figure out what or who is keeping you from getting there, and whether it’s your own diversions, distractions, or other time management issues that are stalling you. Then write down all the things you want to do – in the next five years, one year, six months, all the way down to the current month, week, day and even hours. It doesn’t mean you become a robotic efficiency slave; but, without plans and to-lists, the unimportant “dandruff” in your life (emails, Facebook, Internet overload) will consume you, and you’ll have no time or energy left for what will get you ahead. Focus on “a-head” and get the “dandruff” under control!

road closedIf your replies were more tentative “maybes,” today there’s an abundance of “maps” – reputable information, sound research, and credible advice about why it’s beneficial to start something new and different, and how to deal with roadblocks. Many people who can’t or won’t get going on something new and different focus too much on their weaknesses and external obstacles. Laser in on your strengths – what you do well that you actually like to do. Strengths help you maximize opportunities.

Your route/strategy: Think about whether the pursuits you’re engaged in now are holdovers from the first half of your life. If you’ve already accomplished those earlier goals, then you really need to consider new pursuits. Either you regenerate, or you stagnate! Whether your new pursuits focus on personal goals, career transition, hobbies or community service, always be developing new ways to utilize your brain and maintain your physical health. The more you do physically, the better your brain performs, and a positive mindset accelerates exercise benefits, leading to more energy and more power over your choices.

If your reaction to rewiring, rebooting and resurging veer into the “no way but I really have no choice” zone, for you I have a special affinity and empathy. In this economy, financial and health challenges seem insurmountable. In fact, if you have to go back to work for the first time in many years, or you need to start work in a new career, new industry or new city, then it’s understandable that you’re stressing out. If you’re dealing with divorce, the death or prolonged illness of a spouse or partner, or your own illness, and the financial challenges of all these stressors, then you’re definitely overloaded. You may be too over-committed to sort out all the things you feel you have to do, let alone pursue new and different things you’d like to do.

Your route/strategy: You are the very person who needs not to rush into anything without first making a concerted commitment to build in private time to take care of yourself, so you also figure out what you really need and want, and what resources you need to help you. You have to make the time and effort to eat right and fit in exercise, even if it’s a short walk. You have to pay careful attention to your finances. Carve out quiet time, to journal, read, jot notes on index cards or on your smart-phone, meditate, pray, get a massage, a manicure or some other respite from your stress. You owe it to yourself and others who rely on you, to take that time. These are all coping mechanisms – for you they may be exactly the new and different things you need the most.

3. ) Dare to “arrive” at your final destination: create your own “Power Structure” and “Bottom Line” for the second half of your life. We all know that “power structure” usually refers to hierarchy in an organization. Your life has a hierarchy too – the Before, the Now and the Future. The Now and the Future should rule your own bottom line. Here’s an exercise I use in my workshops. Using one sheet of 8½ X 11 sheet of paper and a pen (computers and pencils make you think too hard and edit too much), write the following:

— a. Top half: Write ONE (1) sentence about what you dreamed, desired and were good at as a child (ages 10-18);

— b. In the same half: write ONE more sentence: what you dreamed, desired, achieved and were good between the ages of 20 and 40;

— c. In the bottom half and back of the page, write as much as you want on: 1) Your vision of the “perfect life” – when you look back in your 80s and 90s; 2) What you’re dealing with now that is keeping you from that perfect vision; 3) What you think you need to power up in your life – i.e., to rewire and reboot – so you can resurge and drive that vision to reality.

That exercise alone can help you see the many strengths you have and appreciate the opportunities before you, so you get going on your action plan.

Rewiring, rebooting and resurging help us to explore, examine and expand – creating new ideas, new insights, new solutions and new horizons. What energizes me is that the alternate route – to assume that I’ve “had a good run but now I’m ‘done'” – is so demoralizing I can’t even think about stopping now. Most likely, neither can you.

Yes? Maybe? No? Here’s what you need to believe: The power is yours. Use it or lose it. You are your own power station, in control of your own power structure. You are the only one who can take stock, take action and take charge of the rest of your life. You are the only one who can take care of your health, by making time to think, pray, read for inspiration, meditate, exercise and eat right. And, you are the only one who can take concerted action to make a plan, set concrete goals, get rid of the distracting “dandruff” that’s holding you back, access the right resources, stick to a schedule, and advance that plan to make the second half of your life even more powerful than the first.

Think ahead!

Caregiving for Baby Boomers: Blended families have blended loyalties

couple calculatorThe baby boom generation is history-making, life-changing, innovative and unusual.  Boomers take literally the mandate of “…Do not go gentle into that good night.” And the boomer cohort is HUGE.  According to  the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging, the number of Americans entering retirement age will nearly double by the year 2030. How on earth will we, as a nation, look after the health care of about 72 million older adults with few youngsters to support them financially and physically? Kotlikoff and Burns state in  The Coming Generational Storm, that “by 2030, the senior to kid ratio will be three to one!”

Caregiving is a stressful and exhausting task, even in an “old-fashioned” nuclear family.  My siblings and I continue to struggle with decisions we made (or waited too long to make) regarding both my parents, especially my mother, who is 89 and ailing in a nursing home located close to my sister’s weekend home.  While my sister elected to keep Mom close to her, the enormity of the responsibility for my mother’s care is taking a monumental toll on my sister and her husband – more than anyone else in our family.     

Modern blended families add an unprecedented level of complexity to the mix. Second and third marriages create a web of connections (and disconnects), with stepchildren and other more distant family members expressing varying degrees of loyalty and commitment.

Many questions arise:  How involved will children and/or stepchildren be in the long-term care needs of their parents? Who will be required to make difficult decisions if an older person or parent is no longer able to live alone, or make decisions about their own care? In blended families, competing loyalties make these decisions more difficult.  

And here is a harsh reality: an older person may wonder if after his death his biological children will treat his surviving spouse, their stepmother, in the same way they treated him.  The grown stepchildren of later baby boom marriages just do not have the same history with the new stepparent, and feel less responsibility to help out. This is from the recent New York Times article entitled: “In Blended families, responsibility blurs:  “The ties which lead adult children to become caregivers — depending on how much contact they have with parents, how nearby they live, how obligated they feel — are weaker in stepchildren.“ Older couples in this situation fall through the cracks.”[i]

The New York Times article can be viewed as more than a cautionary tale to add to the woes of boomers who currently may be unemployed, under-employed and dealing with the compounded responsibilities of supporting college-age students, eldercare expenses, diminishing home values, and their own health concerns.  Turn it into a call to action: “We will not go gentle into that good night!”

Boomers may be the first generation that made Botox, gym memberships and Spanx as essential as bread and water, but “essentials” take on a whole new meaning in a recession.  Considering that many women (and men) between the ages of 55 and 65 are working two and three jobs, with no healthcare benefits,  and resorting to health regimens that at best are questionable and at worst harmful to their health, and you don’t need a battle cry to realize it’s time for a better plan. 

For my husband and me, the fact that we are childless means that we had to become our own caretakers – to a certain limit.  Our plan included buying long-term insurance ten years ago when we watched my father die in pain over the course of two years in nursing homes.  That was our alarm clock: We then put in place concrete goals, decision points and deadlines that included downsizing from the home we had bought 30 years ago when I was a bride, and which we sold last year, to reducing myriad unnecessary expenses. 

By anyone’s definition we do not live a Spartan life!  Today we are in a very small but perfect (for us, anyway) apartment where we each monitor every financial and health decision, keep necessary costs down and eliminate non-essential expenses, defined as those that would cause us more stress if we indulged in them than if we don’t. What works for us certainly isn’t for everyone else, and we also realize that we are extremely fortunate in being able to live where we want to live, and enjoy what we have. 

For other boomers, especially those in blended families where the demarcation lines of responsibility and loyalty give new meaning to the words “blurred” or “nonexistent” I can only offer a lot of empathy and encouragement:  It takes a lot of work and sacrifice to plan for retirement!  Even then, there are no guarantees that your plan will succeed, or that a health threat will not thwart your plan.  Therefore, plan for what you absolutely need as well as for what you want (two different constructs, of course).  Plan well, and monitor your plan diligently so you can shift your priorities when the need arises.

Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.  In other words, do not go gentle into that good night.   Not on your life!

 

SOURCES:

http://www.csa.us/pubs/articles/Journal50_7_mccabe_BlendedFamilyTensions.pdf

http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/05/in-blended-families-responsibility-blurs/

American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America” survey

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-amy-ziettlow/caregiving_b_1220053.html

The Coming Generational Storm, Kotlikoff and Burns Kotlikoff and Burns

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging

 

 

 

 

 



[i] “In Blended Families, Responsibility Blurs,” Paula Span, NYTimes, http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/05/in-blended-families-responsibility-blurs/. February 12, 2013

 

 

The baby boom generation is history-making, life-changing, innovative and unusual.  Boomers take literally the mandate of “…Do not go gently into that good night.” And the boomer cohort is HUGE.  According to  the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging, the number of Americans entering retirement age will nearly double by the year 2030. How on earth will we, as a nation, look after the health care of about 72 million older adults with few youngsters to support them financially and physically? Kotlikoff and Burns state in  The Coming Generational Storm, that “by 2030, the senior to kid ratio will be three to one!”

Caregiving is a stressful and exhausting task, even in an “old-fashioned” nuclear family.  My siblings and I continue to struggle with decisions we made (or waited too long to make) regarding both my parents, especially my mother, who is 89 and ailing in a nursing home located close to my sister’s weekend home.  While my sister elected to keep Mom close to her, the enormity of the responsibility for my mother’s care is taking a monumental toll on my sister and her husband – more than anyone else in our family.     

Modern blended families add an unprecedented level of complexity to the mix. Second and third marriages create a web of connections (and disconnects), with stepchildren and other more distant family members expressing varying degrees of loyalty and commitment.

Many questions arise:  How involved will children and/or stepchildren be in the long-term care needs of their parents? Who will be required to make difficult decisions if an older person or parent is no longer able to live alone, or make decisions about their own care? In blended families, competing loyalties make these decisions more difficult.  

 

And here is a harsh reality: an older person may wonder if after his death his biological children will treat his surviving spouse, their stepmother, in the same way they treated him.  The grown stepchildren of later baby boom marriages just do not have the same history with the new stepparent, and feel less responsibility to help out. This is from the recent New York Times article entitled: “In Blended families, responsibility blurs:  “The ties which lead adult children to become caregivers — depending on how much contact they have with parents, how nearby they live, how obligated they feel — are weaker in stepchildren. “Older couples in this situation fall through the cracks.”[i]

The New York Times article can be viewed as more than a cautionary tale to add to the woes of boomers who currently may be unemployed, under-employed and dealing with the compounded responsibilities of supporting college-age students, eldercare expenses, diminishing home values, and their own health concerns.  Turn it into a call to action: “We will not go gently into that good night!”

Boomers may be the first generation that made Botox, gym memberships and Spanx as essential as bread and water, but “essentials” take on a whole new meaning in a recession.  Considering that many women (and men) between the ages of 55 and 65 are working two and three jobs, with no healthcare benefits,  and resorting to health regimens that at best are questionable and at worst harmful to their health, and you don’t need a battle cry to realize it’s time for a better plan. 

For my husband and me, the fact that we are childless means that we had to become our own caretakers – to a certain limit.  Our plan included buying long-term insurance ten years ago when we watched my father die in pain over the course of two years in nursing homes.  That was our alarm clock: We then put in place concrete goals, decision points and deadlines that included downsizing from the home we had bought 30 years ago when I was a bride, and which we sold last year, to reducing myriad unnecessary expenses. 

By anyone’s definition we do not live a Spartan life!  Today we are in a very small but perfect (for us, anyway) apartment where we each monitor every financial and health decision, keep necessary costs down and eliminate non-essential expenses –defined as those that would cause us more stress if we indulged in them than if we don’t.   What works for us certainly isn’t for everyone else, and we also realize that we are extremely fortunate in being able to live where we want to live, and enjoy what we have. 

For other boomers, especially those in blended families where the demarcation lines of responsibility and loyalty give new meaning to the words “blurred” or “nonexistent” I can only offer a lot of empathy and encouragement:  It takes a lot of work and sacrifice to plan for retirement!  Even then, there are no guarantees that your plan will succeed, or that a health threat will also thwart your plan.  Therefore, plan for what you absolutely need as well as for what you want (two different constructs, of course).  Plan well, and monitor your plan diligently so you can shift your priorities when the need arises.

Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.  In other words, do not go gently into that good night.   Not on your life!

 

 

SOURCES:

http://www.csa.us/pubs/articles/Journal50_7_mccabe_BlendedFamilyTensions.pdf

http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/05/in-blended-families-responsibility-blurs/

American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America” survey

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-amy-ziettlow/caregiving_b_1220053.html

The Coming Generational Storm, Kotlikoff and Burns Kotlikoff and Burns

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging

 

 

 

 

 



[i]In Blended Families, Responsibility Blurs,” Paula Span, NYTimes, http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/05/in-blended-families-responsibility-blurs/. February 12, 2013