Do I Really Want to Work to 90

Many boomers are rethinking their retirement plans. A June 11th report from the Federal Reserve, reported that average net worth fell 40% between 2007 and 2010.

Changing retirement plans is not as bad as it sounds, and this is what a small business owner client of mine found out. Marion Speidel operates a residential construction business and I recently went to help her plan her own home space for retirement. I ended up helping her redesign her lifestyle so that she could work until 90! “Oh no” you say; I want to retire at 65. That was Marion’s idea too, until we had our discussion.

Marion started the conversation with “I am very good at what I do, I have a marvelous network of architects & designers I work with, I have a competent construction crew, so do I really have to retire in 3 years at 65?” So we decided to look at how she could continue doing and enjoying what she does well. First putting more focus on using technology & “smarts” rather than relying on the physical part of being a hands-on contractor. Hands-on via technology tools, not hands-on swinging the hammer as Marion does, often working alongside her crew.

Typical of the homes Marion builds. This is a summer home for an architect client himself; with a decidedly green focus. Photo by CASUDI

Typical of the homes Marion builds. This is a summer home for an architect client himself; with a decidedly green focus. Photo by CASUDI

Several years ago I helped Marion upgrade her computer skills; she learned to bid and manage projects on her computer, and use email for efficient client approval/communication throughout a construction project. It has really paid off for her, saving her time and giving her fast access to everything she needs to know. Her foreman manager can take & send her work update images from his camera phone. All this will allow Marion to manage an entire project from her home office. Clients need a lot of hand holding, and she can do this well via email, phone calls, and occasional in-person meetings.

“I love what I do Marion continued, it’s my life’s passion making peoples dream homes into a reality they love, live and enjoy. I‘ve done it for 29 years, and I’ve learned by making every mistake in the book, so why should I change?” Marion is lucky because simply by adopting new technologies it’s relatively easy for her to continue in her career path. When you’ve had a 9-5 job, this transition to a working retirement is not so clear, and needs more thought on how to direct your expertise and what you love to do into new channels and focus.

What if you’ve been in bricks & mortar retail all these years, and your skills are related to customer experience. Consider working in a “remote” customer service group. Since many more companies are realizing that customer service is the tipping point to success for their company, these skills will be greatly sought after. One key here will be your ability to learn the required technology a company uses for their customer service focus.

Look around and see how your current skills and expertise can be re-purposed, and then work on adding the tech ingredient.

I can’t afford to maintain my lifestyle if I give up working. I don’t see myself giving up my house, garden and property and moving into a small retirement condo”, Marion told me reluctantly. Well that’s true for many of us; we want to continue with the lifestyle we are accustomed to, and considering inflation, and the slowing economy, many of us don’t have the nest egg we thought or hoped we would have to enable us to live the quality of life we now have without working. This is not all bad, and I say this as someone in this same situation. Not all bad, because it gives us the incentive to reinvent our lives using our “work-life” or “hobby” expertise, plus todays technology, in order to remain active and productive; and of course have some fun and a great sense of accomplishment.

“I don’t want to grow old and boring…..I want to keep learning new things; that’s what will keep me young” Marion went on to describe how many of her peers are “boring” and how on a recent group hike she found a 30‘s-something hiker the most interesting person to talk to, and how they exchanged ideas the entire 10 mile walk! Part of that is attributable to Marion having embraced technology (with some difficulty I might add) but she has continued to expand her horizons.

Many years ago I read an article, which truly inspired me. It was about a sect of nuns in a remote settlement, who routinely lived to a healthy 110 or more. Much research was done about the “why”, including diet, water, climate, exercise, stress and so on. The conclusion was that it was because they were always learning. In fact many would learn a new language every year and some spoke more than 12 languages fluently! Spoken languages are not my forte, however since then I have made a point of learning one new computer program (or new complex aspect of a program I routinely use) every year, and every week I work on learning some new computer skill. I read about new computer tools, then try them out; often needing help and support along the way. I think this is time well spent and a valuable investment in myself.

Summary on why I should continue working:
1) I am very good at what I do
2) I love what I do
3) I can’t afford to maintain my lifestyle if I give up working
4) Making the effort will keep me feeling young and (hopefully) being interesting

I did give Marion some design advice on her house too! This included upgrading to LED lighting in her office for a better working environment, extending the upper floor balconies to make a more pleasing first impression of the house exterior, and site planning advice for a new barn, so the many little sheds she currently uses for construction materials can be deleted and the contents consolidated into one easily accessed area away from the house and convenient for her crew to use. With everything in place she can continue to manage things using technology “smarts” until she is 90 or beyond.

About the Author
Caroline Di Diego (CASUDI) is a multi-faceted entrepreneur with two parallel careers. In the one she focuses on Architectural Design solutions and the other (where most of you know her) she helps small business, start up & early-stage companies, building effective start-up teams, creating workable business models, and bringing new technologies to market.

  • Bruce Sallan

    The “I can’t afford to maintain my lifestyle” excuse/reason not to retire totally defeats YOU in the long run. It’s NOT things that make life good, it’s people. You can retire on far less than you think. I’ve driven the same truck for over 7 years because I prefer to have less financial pressure. I really do WANT the new Porsche Boxster, but it’s more of a dream than any likelihood. Too many boomers have unrealistic expectations of themselves AND their kids…but I could go on forever on the latter!

    Nice piece, Caroline!

    • Linda Sherman

      Thank you for that point of view Bruce. I appreciate your bringing that up. You certainly achieved early retirement. But there is living at a lower lifestyle and there is surviving. Some people worry about having enough money to make it through the many years they intend to continue to live following the financial losses beginning in 2008. 


    Bruce, it’s different strokes for different folks. Everyone has the option of designing their “lifestyle” and making the choices. This piece is to show that working to 90 is a viable option, for whatever reason; whether to buy the new truck or Porsche, or keeping active learning new things. You are quite amazing yourself…… what more can I say. Thanks for the comment.

  • Casudi

    Tara Alemany COMMENTED on my Designing Success blog > Great, thought-provoking post! I’m in my mid-40s, and am looking forward to “retirement” someday. But perhaps I define “retirement” in a different way than other readers. To me, retirement is about having the flexibility both financially, temporarily and physically to do what I want with my days. It doesn’t mean that I stop earning money. It simply means that I have the freedom to choose how and when I do that based on my interests, not on the driving need of my ever-hungry bank account. So, while I do plan to retire, I don’t anticipate spending too many days in my rocking chair. :-)

    I RESPONDED >That’s exactly my point. Marian no longer involves herself in actually building the houses, climbing ladders and swinging hammers (difficult to do when you are in your 70s and 80s, though not impossible) but using Tech she can manage and actively still have a lucrative house construction business.

    I like how you say retirement is having the freedom of choice to do what you want to do, but to many of us this means working and earning to allow this to happen. The goal is to work at something you can do and enjoy doing and Tech is most often the “key” to this.


  • MikeW

    Casudi and I had a discussion about retirement/second (or third) careers 4 years ago.  I had been working in Africa on an engineering project and was struck with the presence of so much inapproriate First World technology being forced into situations where it was a total failure.  Further conversations regarding the underlying causes of these failures lead to development of a non-profit focused on appropriate and sustainable technologies for developing regions of the world with particular emphasis on water and sanitation issues.  Casudi suggested the name “Bank On Rain” and today we have a functioning organization working with local organizations in Africa to train at grass-roots level simple, cost-effective and sustainable access to safe drinking water.  My post-retirement career has been launched well ahead of my retirement — great job Casudi, thanks.


    • Casudi

      Thanks Mike for commenting. The interesting thing about Bank-On-Rain is, it was initially conceived and set up with just you in mind, however I got quite hooked and
       have continued to be an active co-founder working in the wings. It’s amazing how a small seed of an idea can grow into something making a real difference. It’s does not take a big organization to make a difference, as today with Tech, a small and nimble group like ours can have considerable impact solving the water crisis in developing countries. This should be a very good example to many of the readers here.