Episode 15 Transcript
(Robert Lipsyte) Coming up on "Life (Part 2)," So what do you do after you retire? Play golf, see the world, watch a lot of TV? Well, more and more Baby Boomers are deciding on meaningful encore careers, and we just might inspire you to do the same. And later, he's a pioneer in helping older Americans find purpose in their lives. Plus, why one anchorwoman left TV and instead of retiring, decided to finish strong. All coming up on "Life (Part 2)."
(woman) Major funding for "Life (Part 2)" was provided by The Atlantic Philanthropies-engaging many to improve the lives of and achieve health and economic security for older adults. And by MetLife Foundation-- celebrating the wisdom, talent, and experience of older adults. MetLife Foundation proudly supports "Life (Part 2)."
[bass, & plucked strings play in playful rhythm; bright in tone]
(Robert Lipsyte) Welcome to "Life (Part 2)," I'm Robert Lipsyte, and yet another friend of mine has disappeared down the golf hole. I may never see him again, unless I take up the game, which is highly unlikely. I don't believe that golf is a game. Baseball is a game, tennis is a game. Soccer and volleyball and ping-pong are games, but golf is an excuse! Golf is a socially acceptable way to be alone for hours, avoid your spouse, do business, pretend to have a purpose in life. Golf, for those who are retired, is a way of killing time until time kills you. Golf, for those who are not yet retired, is a way of preparing for a useless retirement. I say start a new career, mentor kids, take a college course, teach, help. I have never been shy about expressing these sentiments over the years, and no one has ever been offended. They merely look at me with the pity that true believers reserve for the unchurched. Poor Bob, you'll never understand until you wrap your hands around a stick and try to whack a little white ball. In your dreams! I say. Or maybe in life (part 3). I will admit though, that golf has its uses. Watching golf on TV is probably safer than taking sleeping pills. The idea of a second career that is fueled by one's passionate interests and serves a vital social role is certainly appealing, and if work (part 2) brings in a few bucks and introduces you to a whole new social circle, so much the better. It may sound too good to be true, but millions of Baby Boomers are achieving this idealized goal, and we've assembled a group that knows all about it. Chris Farrell is personal finance guru on the weekly Public Radio program "Marketplace Money," and he's a contributing editor to "BusinessWeek." Since he was in his 20s, Richard Leider has studied the ways people retire and live the second half of their lives. He is Founder and Chairman of The Inventure Group, a coaching and consulting firm. His latest book sounds like it's tailor-made for our show... "Fortune" magazine called J. Walker Smith one of America's leading analysts of consumer trends. He is President of Yankelovich, the celebrated marketing firm that coined the term "Baby Boomer." He is author of... Welcome, gentlemen, to "Life (Part 2)." Let me start with a word that seems to be coming retired from our language, and it's "retirement!" Richard, what's happening to retirement?
(Richard Leider) Well, I think a lot of people don't have the choice to retire anymore. Throughout history we've always used the "D" words like "decline" and go "disappear" and "disabilities," and now we're using new "R" words rather than retirement like "reinvent" and "renew," and my favorite one, "repack" your bags, so to speak. I think it's a new reality with living longer and new choices, new language.
(Robert Lipsyte) And also a lack of choice, isn't it, for a lot of people?
(J. Walker Smith) Well, I think Baby Boomers are facing new economic realities as they get older and may discover that their savings have not gotten them to the point that they'd like to be at a retirement age. But I think more of a driving factor for this generation is the desire to stay engaged in their lifestyles. Baby Boomers don't aspire to the kind of retirement that they saw their parents take. And really, even that form of retirement...
(Robert Lipsyte) Why? Their parents played golf, became docents, were incredibly busy, and seemed to have a much better life in retirement than they did in working in jobs that they came to hate.
(J. Walker Smith) You know, a large part of the Baby Boomer's search throughout their lives has been for meaning and fulfillment, and for a lot of Baby Boomers this has been found in the workplace. This whole concept of meaningful work is to some extent a phenomenon that has really driven Baby Boomers a lot more than it drove their parents. That's not to say it wasn't there for them, but it's been much more central for Baby Boomers. And so as they try to think about how they stay engaged in their later years, work is one of those things that really means something to them. They don't aspire necessarily to reinvent how they stay engaged. They want to continue to be engaged in the ways in which they have had an impact and had power in years past, and a lot of that means trying to find ways in which they can continue to be engaged in the workplace.
(Chris Farrell) Work is where you say hi to people. It's a social place. Our parents, they worked at the same place. A lot of people got burned out in factory work. It was hard, it was grinding. So playing golf, that was a great thing. It was wonderful, it was a relief and a relaxation. Well today, we're living longer, we're healthier, we're better educated. So yeah, you say good-bye to your workmates, but you go take another job. And I think that's the real change that's happening.
(Richard Leider) And it's not either/or. It's not work/or, it's both, it's balance. So this whole notion-- E.B. White, he said this. "I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world or a desire to savor the world--this makes it hard to plan the day." I think the Boomers are wanting to both savor, whether it's golf or anything else, and save, meaning work-- do something meaningful with their time, balance their personal portfolio.
(Robert Lipsyte) This all sounds good, but are there those meaningful or otherwise jobs for Boomers out there to jump into?
(J. Walker Smith) Well, I think that's part of the challenge, and I think that's going to be one of the challenges facing employers and facing the workplace going forward. How do we make room in the American economy for a generation, a very large generational cohort that wants to stay engaged in the workplace in a very different way? Baby Boomers have always mattered in the American marketplace, literally from the time they were 1 or 2 years old. In 1948, "Newsweek" had probably the first cover story on Baby Boomers in which they had a baby, and the article was all about how this 2-year-old Baby Boom was going to transform American business. Boomers have always been at the center of everything that has happened throughout their entire lives, and now they look at retirement as being one of these transitions where they might not matter as much anymore, and I think psychologically this is a very difficult thing for the generation to face up to. So Boomers want to continue to matter, and so staying engaged in the workplace is one of those ways to do it. But it is this broader phenomenon of continuing to be important as a generational cohort.
(Richard Leider) And they want to live in the intergenerational world, not go away from it, but be involved. And the whole notion of isolation being fatal they know, and I think they observe whether it's coming back from an illness or leaving the workplace as we're talking about. They don't want to be isolated. They see there's a fatality in that. They want tribe, they want community, they want to matter.
(Robert Lipsyte) Richard, this is a survival instinct as well as anything else, right?
(Richard Leider) It is, yeah, if we don't have a reason to get up in the morning, we don't do as well in any transition. When we do have a reason to get up in the morning, we heal faster, we live longer, and we end up being more happily engaged in our work. That reason, I call that the power of purpose. But my father worked for the same organization for 40 years. Retired right on time at 65, 3 years later, he died. I saw this happen frequently, and every time I ask an audience if they have seen the same thing, all the hands go up. So I started to say well, what's that all about? And started to look at that, did some study, interviewed myself thousands of people over the age of 65, asking them if they could live their life over, what would they do differently. To a person, they said if they could live their life over again, they would understand their own personal bottom line, which I call purpose. But every single human being wanted to matter.
(J. Walker Smith) Baby Boomers have thought about that ever since Dustin Hoffman in that famous movie. He asked for some career advice, and the one word answer was, "Plastics." That just seemed not to be fulfilling. It seemed to be 40 years in one place where they wouldn't get a chance to reflect and think about the personal bottom line. So Boomers have been concerned about that from the outset and now carry this forward as they're thinking about the rest of their lives.
(Chris Farrell) I think part of the aspect of work, I mean, we use the term work, and we're going to continue to work, but an awful lot of it is the social side of things. The friends, the camaraderie. It matters whether some colleague, how their son or daughter is doing. They just graduated from college, this is good. And these are sort of the things when people say work, and as you say, they want to matter, which is often why they'll do something different. But they still want to be going to an organization, maybe making a little bit of money at the same time.
(Robert Lipsyte) When I was a youngie, I remember the term "dead wood." You wanted to push those old guys out of the way. Now, isn't there that same kind of pressure to get rid of the older Boomers?
(Chris Farrell) Well, there absolutely is because there's several factors going on. One is, most companies, hey, they'd just as soon get rid of you and hire a young person. That person is cheaper. You have a future ahead of them and they're going to invest some resources behind them, and they'd just as soon get rid of you. And yet at the same time, you have this aging generation that's still vital and believes they have something to contribute, and they're educated. So it's a clash, and anybody who is in a situation wants to continue working, they're going to have to be active to make that happen, and that's why I think for a lot of people it's not going to be working at the same firm or the same company. I don't think the notion that you'll be at the same place-- you probably might be dead wood at that place. They just might say you are!
(Robert Lipsyte) This is a good start for us to briefly go into survival mode. I'm 50 years old, I've listened to you guys on "Life (Part 2)," and now I want to start making some moves like take a community college course in something else. Do I become a nurse? What do I do?
(Richard Leider) Well, you need to step back and look inside to begin with, which is, in a fast-paced high-tech organization...
(Robert Lipsyte) There's nothing there!
(Richard Leider) Get a sounding board then that can help you look at yourself.
(J. Walker Smith) I think that's right, you need to get a sounding board, so the first thing you need to do is expand your network. You need to be in contact with more people and to discover what some of those opportunities are. The second thing is you have to be willing to reinvent yourself. You have to be willing to educate yourself, and so you should be prepared to go back to school. You should be prepared to experiment. So at 50, as you're beginning to approach a transition, you should start experimenting. Let's find some ways in which I can see what is of interest to me and what I can do. And the third thing I think is for Baby Boomers in particular, you need to become as proficient as possible with all the technologies that are available today, because these kinds of technologies are going to be driving the future of opportunities, and if you want to matter in the future you're going to have to be very technologically conversant. So I think those are at least 3 key things that you can begin to do. You need to invest.
(Chris Farrell) We're talking about aging and thinking about retirement, a latter stage of life, investing in what you're going to be doing. So networking, education. Let's say you're interested in working for a nonprofit. For example, I was interviewing this woman. She'd been very high up in the University of California, Berkeley, and she was big in Bay to Bay, which is a very powerful environmental group in San Francisco. She said there are people who show up at 70 years old, very successful executives, and they say, I've retired and I really want to work with you. They look at them, they go that's great. Well, why don't you answer some phones or lick some stamps, that proverbial stuff. But let's say you're 55 years old and you start volunteering, and in 5 years they know who you are, you know them, and you know where you can help them, and they can't wait for you to retire and walk through that door. That's an investment in time.
(Richard Leider) Time is your most precious commodity, and so what people, particularly the Boomers, they know this. They want to use their gifts on something they care about in an environment that values them, and that's the trick, is how to figure that out. When they find that, they have a reason to get up in the morning.
(Robert Lipsyte) Gentlemen, thank you so much for being with us on "Life (Part 2)."
(Robert Lipsyte) You might say Marc Freedman is obsessed with the idea that the second part of life can be the better half, or at least the more rewarding. He is Founder and CEO of Civic Ventures, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making sure that society benefits from the wisdom and experience of people over 55. He's also Cofounder of Experience Corps, a national service program, and The Purpose Prize, which is given annually to social entrepreneurs 60 and over. Marc's most recent book is...
(Robert Lipsyte) Marc, welcome to "Life (Part 2)." Among the many things that intrigued me in "Encore" was that you've created a new stage of life, that somewhere between midlife, whatever that may be, and true retirement is this third age, a third adolescence or a second adulthood. What is it?
(Marc Freedman) We hear all the time 60 is the new 30 or the new 50 or the new 40, but I think 60 is the new 60. That we're actually seeing something beyond the reinvention of retirement or a stage that already exists and the creation of an entirely new period in American lives. These new stages come around about once a century. We had no adolescence before the beginning of the last century. That phrase wasn't even coined until 1904. But there were all these young people who weren't children, they weren't adults, so we created teenagers. And now that's happening in the period that's opening up between the end of midlife and the beginning of true old age. Now you've got 10,000 Boomers a day turning 60. They're flooding into this new period, but they don't know what to call themselves. They don't know what success is in this period of life. And as their numbers accumulate, it's an opportunity to shape this new stage of life in a way.
(Robert Lipsyte) Because there's no real structure, is there?
(Marc Freedman) There isn't, and the downside is that so many people feel like they're on their own. They're confused and they think it's their own shortcoming,but in fact, they've got lots of kindred spirits. And so I think we're in the early stages of this transition into a new stage.
(Robert Lipsyte) A lot of men at the age of 60 feel irrelevant. They feel that younger people don't take them seriously, bosses don't take them seriously, that they're being somehow shunted aside.
(Marc Freedman) I think there's a feeling of being dismissed, and that would be fine if it was just a brief hiatus, or if people really were at a point where they've lost their productive capacity. But in fact, it's a long period, and people are in many cases at the top of their game. They've got this whole accumulation of experience and enough time to actually do something with it.
(Robert Lipsyet) And you call this "the encore career."
(Marc Freedman) Well, a segment of the population wants to move in that direction. I've felt for some time that the Golden Years were being turned into the Wal-Mart decades, that was becoming the new default position for people at this stage.
(Robert Lipsyte) Why do you call it that?
(Marc Freedman) Well, now we're seeing a movement of many people into retail jobs because that's been one of the few sectors that's embraced this population and said come work for us. We've got jobs for you. But there's another group of people really numbering in the millions who want to move in a different direction. They want a combination of continued income, a new sense of meaning, and the desire to use their experience to contribute to something larger than themselves, something that's not only personally meaningful, but that means something beyond their own fulfillment.
(Robert Lipsyte) Somehow it seems like this is a middle-class phenomenon.
(Marc Freedman) If anything, it's a phenomenon that's anchored in working-class individuals who have to keep working. For them, it's not a choice. Well, will I go to the golf course or will I put in another 10 or 20 years? I think the big question that these individuals are asking, and really people across this socioeconomic spectrum, is it work that I'm really going to want to do? Is it going to be another few years at the grindstone, or is it something that actually is a culmination? And that's why I think this question of what kind of work people are going to do in this stage of life is so important.
(Robert Lipsyte) What would be examples of this?
(Marc Freedman) Well, we're already seeing an increase in people moving into fields like nursing, teaching, into nonprofit positions. Not only leadership positions, but on the ground working with homeless people, trying to help solve day-to-day problems in their communities. A lot of people are moving into government service, especially at the state and local level. They're all taking these jobs that are practical idealism. There's such large numbers in this population. If only 5% of the Boomers launched encore careers, you're talking about 80 million people. That's the same number that went to retirement communities in the last generation. That would be 40 million years of service dedicated to the environment, to education, to health, if people had 10-year careers.
(Robert Lipsyte) Do you see this as volunteer work or paid work?
(Marc Freedman) Paid work, absolutely. I think in a previous generation people could afford to volunteer in this stage of life; they can't do it anymore. They need the practicalities of income and benefits. But they still aspire to give something back in this stage. So I see the encore career as a hybrid between work and service.
(Robert Lipsyte) Is there a mechanism, Marc, for, because I mean, nursing and to perhaps a lesser extent teaching, there are certification processes. You've got to go get more education, which can be costly. And then you've got to learn something. How does that happen?
(Marc Freedman) I think this is one of the great challenges because if you do need to go back to school you're going to probably be losing income during that period and having to pay for education. So I think we need a human resource policy for the second half of life that helps people make the transition, that meets them halfway, and I think we have some institutions out there that are perfectly poised to do this. Community colleges are in every community around the country, they're inexpensive, and more and more are providing expedited programs to help people move into areas like health care, into green-collar jobs, into education. So I think we can take some of the institutions we already have and help them adapt so that they can meet the needs of this population.
(Robert Lipsyte) It seems to me that you have to start thinking of your encore career well before 60.
(Marc Freedman) Absolutely, when we did research on people who wanted encore careers a few years ago, it turns out 50 to 55 was the period when most people wanted to shift. Some had saved so that they could make that transition, some had to delay it, but I think people want to start early so they'll have enough time to go through the inevitable ups and downs and have a whole career trajectory. They don't want to just teach for 2 or 3 years, but for a decade, have a 10-year career.
(Robert Lipsyte) Why isn't there more of a sense of purpose and contribution the first time out of the starting gate?
(Marc Freedman) I think for many people, maybe most, there are, but it runs its course after a certain number of decades. Joseph Campbell said that "Midlife is when you get to the top of the ladder, but discover it's leaning against the wrong wall." People are going to have another chapter in their lives and a second chance at purpose, and they can't just continue what they've been doing all along. They have to find a new source of fulfillment.
(Robert Lipsyte) Well Marc, I have to tell you the truth. I'm in my encore job right now! Thank you so very much for joining us on "Life (Part 2)."
(Robert Lipsyte) Carol Jenkins spent close to 3 decades as a news anchor in New York City earning an Emmy award along the way. But when life in front of the camera got old, she decided that what she really wanted was an encore career that would allow her, as she puts it, to finish strong.
(Carol Jenkins) After 30 years of reporting and anchoring television news and hosting my own show in New York City, I clicked off my microphone and camera in search of new challenges. That was 10 years ago. My work life took the zigzag trajectory of many recovering journalists. I produced a couple of documentaries, wrote a book, went on the book tour, and started the next book. Then I really took a zag and moved to Virginia to help a friend run her organic farming enterprises. At about this time, a thoughtful acquaintance asked me if I had a plan for this long stretch of time ahead. After listening to me think out loud, he said, "So you want to finish strong." And I guess that's what many of us would like. Rather than just drive off into the wilderness of retirement, our accomplishments and contributions fading in the rearview mirror, we'd like to have something to show for the spans of time that follows traditional work. I was happily communing with my cows on the farm when luckily I got a call from the activists
Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, and Robin Morgan. Distressed by what they saw as the exclusion of women in the media, they wanted to do something about it. That something, which I have helped build with them is the Women's Media Center, a nonprofit organization working to even the score, so to speak, when it comes to women working in the media, the way women are portrayed, and the very stories that are told. The work has brought me full circle. While moving recently, I came across a letter written to me by my very first news director on my very first job. It said "Dear Carol, it has come to our attention that you are attempting to organize the women in the newsroom. Please feel free to leave at any time." Well, I stayed for 30 years. Now it's my job to organize the women. The only regrettable element of my new work is that after 40 years, it's still necessary. But being a part of this effort makes me feel that we all just might be able to finish strong.
(Robert Lipsyte) Carol Jenkins, you're welcome in my newsroom any time. For now, that's it for "Life (Part 2)." Thanks for joining us. I'm Robert Lipsyte. See you next time, older and better.
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