Tag Archives: retirement

What You Don’t Know About Second Life Can Hurt You

Recently I heard this called “the second life.” You might have heard the phrase “midlife crisis.” And you’re probably aware of baby boomers turning 60, and boomer entrepreneurship. Retirement? Golden years? Hooey.

Amazing fact: Humans have existed for a few million years, but it’s only in the last century or so that we have this second life. In 1900 the average life expectancy was 47 years, and only 1 in 25 people reached 60.

Think about it: most of us spend our first adulthood marking a living, pairing up, building careers, raising children, and having not a spare moment to think about anything but work, kids, problems, and getting by. We hope we’re developing and growing, but we don’t have a lot of time to reflect.

Then, in what seems afterwards to have been in a blink of an eye, you’re 50 something, and wondering what’s next. Maybe you buy into retirement, and the lure of the golden years, and maybe not. But when you reach 60 you still have a life expectancy of another 25 years or so. And that’s a lifetime. A second lifetime.

I don’t buy the golden years idea, sitting around, beaches and rocking chairs … normal people need something to do. And it has to be something they believe matters.

A couple of Saturdays ago I attended a seminar given by James Hollis, author and psychologist, during which he brought up his version of the second life. It was an interesting day. Hollis has done a lot of writing, analysis, speaking, and teaching about how we deal with the second life. This seminar was built around his latest book, what matters most.

I think I’ve been lucky. What I do now — this blog, twitter, several books, speaking, and teaching — seems as important to me as what I used to do. And I really like it. I posted earlier here Why I’ll Never Retire, and I’m sticking to it.

But what about you? What are you going to do with your second life?

Why I’ll Never Retire

Ugh, baby boomers, retirement, selling the business … ouch. Strikes me like “lions, tigers, and bears,” in the Wizard of Oz. Scary.

I’m 61. It was my choice to change my job more than two years ago, so that now instead of managing my company with 45 employees I’m writing, speaking, blogging, and teaching. And I thank God that I had that choice. The company’s better off with a new management team, and I’m better off with a new job. But I worry about the rest of us. Retirement scares the hell out of me.

One of my closest friends retired two years ago. Now he’s bored out of his mind, looking for things to do, and not happy about it.

I’ve seen some successful retirements: it seems to work when they jump from one thing to another, something they like, something they’ve always wanted to do. Golf and fishing, or the equivalent, are rarely enough.

One variable that I’m sure matters is liking what you do. As my good friend now retired used to talk about it with relish, just 3-4 years ago, it always sounded great to him, but horrible to me. And, no surprise, he was tired of his work, but had nowhere else obvious to go. I was getting tired of the managing, but I did have somewhere I wanted, badly to go: the writing, speaking, etc. I still love the company I started, just not the day-to-day management of it. I liken my new job here to the concept of a safe harbor. It’s different, it’s easily separable from what I did for years, but it’s still the same company, same industry. And it also keeps me away from meddling with the new management, which (I’m pretty sure) is a relief to them.

Apparently I’m not the only one. I just read Steve King’s Greying of the Workforce post on Small Business Labs. Lots of grey-haired folks are staying on longer. And that’s because they want to, not because they have to.

And then there’s this, which turned up last week in Why Retirement is Bad For You, on Forbes.com

Studies show that men who retired from corporate jobs, donned their gold watches and lazed about at a resort lived measurably shorter lives than those who sought productive work (e.g., volunteering for organizations like SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives). In fact, plenty of retirees who traded productive work for sunshine and early-bird dinners dropped dead surprisingly soon after making the transition.

That seems like a variation on the same theme. Those older people in the work force are probably way better off for it, at least if they figure out how to be in jobs they like. Maybe that’s the best answer to an aging population?