Let these outstanding authors on entrepreneurship, jobs, and well being for 50 plus adults help you invest your time well during this stay at home phase of the Coronavirus pandemic.
With the ASA Aging in America 2020 Conference cancelled due to COVID-19, we thought it more important than ever to bring you the full video from a truly outstanding panel during Aging in America 2019 (AiA19). These subject matter experts provide insights for entrepreneurship and happiness in the second half of life that you won’t want to miss.
American Society on Aging (ASA) is putting together a virtual AiA2020 as well. We provide additional information on that at the end of this article.
As introduced by moderator Richard Eisenberg, the panelist authors are:
Video: 5:30 – 27:00
Author: The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50
‘Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C.
Contributor to The Atlantic
Has written six other books on a wide range of topics including The Soul of Japan, Gay Marriage and Why Washington Stopped Working.’
Video: 27:00 – 40:00
Author: Purpose and a Paycheck: Finding Meaning, Money, and Happiness in the Second Half of Life
‘Writes for Next Avenue on the topics of Working After 50, Entrepreneurship, and Public Policy issues that affect older Americans.’
He is the Marketplace Economics commentator for Minnesota Public Radio
Video 40:00 – 56:38
Author: Never Too Old to Get Rich: the Entrepreneurs Guide to Starting a Business Mid-life
‘Her book is being co-published with Next Avenue.
Kerry has written many books. She also writes for Next Avenue, New York Times and AARP.’
Kerry writes and speaks on the topics of: job hunting, career and life transitions, career happiness and engagement, and women and financial security.
Richard Eisenberg – Moderator
Moderator Richard Eisenberg begins the panel by talking about Next Avenue, a website from PBS. Richard is Managing Editor and Money and Work Editor and blogger for Next Avenue.
‘Next Avenue has been around for about seven years.
Our audience is mostly in their 50’s and 60’s and we are trying to help them with money, work, health, care giving, technology
Sometimes we’re writing about the parents of our readers.
Sometimes we’re writing about the millennial kids and now even the Gen Z kids and grandkids as well.’
Jonathan Rauch’s Happiness Curve Presentation
Video: 5:30 – 27:00
The Happiness Curve is not an average. It is a scientific statistical abstraction of the simple effect of time / age on happiness.
The good news is the that same kind of midlife dip happens universally and that both primates and humans find gratitude and happiness after 50.
The “midlife crisis” is caused by the conflict between the expectation of mastery over life at that age versus one’s own perception. There are real issues at midlife, like depression and opioid addiction that people need help with.
Two notes on the science backing up Rauch’s book from dozens of editorial reviews:
“Rauch’s elegantly lucid and nuanced book, which smoothly summarizes the work of dozens of economists, scientists and psychologists, begins by examining the work of “happiness economists,” who use “big data” to trace the arc of happiness. Filtering out variables such as health, wealth and marital status, they found a consistent U-shaped pattern.” ―The Columbus Dispatch
‘The Happiness Curve is about a midlife transition that empirical life-time studies and “big data” have demonstrated to be just as reliable a finding as was Stanley Hall’s ground breaking 1907 definition of “adolescence.” In order to demonstrate that our psychological well-being declines until the fifth decade and then steadily improves, Rauch not only provides illustrative case histories but also reviews authoritative lifespan studies, ranging from primatology to neurophysiology, from demography to frequency of mood altering medication use. With maturity, gratitude becomes easier…’ George E. Vaillant MD, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School
Jonathan uses paintings by the artist Thomas Cole to illustrate the classic image of life’s psychological journey with decline the end.
This is contrasted with the Happiness Curve which shows life satisfaction going up after 50.
The standard images of midlife crisis are mostly of males
‘This is the story of some very recent science which is transforming the relationship between aging and life satisfaction. It should change the way we think about education, pensions, employment and work’, says Rauch.
Chris Farrell Purpose and a Paycheck
Video 27:00 – 40:00
Chris Farrell begins with a statistic:
‘Census Bureau: In 2035, there will be more people 65 and over than 18 and under. The fear in Washington is that we will have far too many elderly people supported by too few young people. As supported by Jonathan Rauch’s Happiness Curve, we need a re-thinking, a re-imagining of the second half of life.
In 1987 the labor participation rate of people 60 – 64 was 44%. In 2018, it was 57%.
For those 65 – 69 it was 20% in 1987 and over 33% in 2018.
As Kerry is going to talk about, the entrepreneurship numbers are even more striking and more important.
There is this grass roots movement. I like to call it “unretirement” The British like the term “Third Age” or “Third Act”. Also called “encore”
I always get the question, do those people need to work or do they want to work? The fact is, it’s both. People realize it is not possible to live off of their savings but they also realize it is not desirable.
We’re healthier than before, we’re better educated than before. At our core, human beings want to be useful, we want to be helpful. Rand Corporation did a study and found: after 2 years of retiring from a full time job, 40% of people went back to work. they missed colleagues and contributing.
How to retain workers instead of retiring workers.
In Hollywood, streaming has brought back writers who are 60+ into the industry.
Nonprofits provide an attractive path for many.
Mentorship: As a journalist, I visited a nonprofit organization of machinists called New Century Careers in Pittsburgh helping young people to qualify for apprenticeship programs. The machinist mentors were all in the 70’s and 80’s. They were making the American Dream possible for young people. Machinists in their 60’s are in such high demand that they are all working.
“Working” by Studs Terkel from the 1970’s points out that people need to have a purpose and feel they are leaving the world a better place.’
Kerry Hannon Never Too Old to Get Rich
Video 40:00 – 56:38
‘My decision to become an entrepreneur in my 40’s was about freedom. This is a global movement. We’re older. We’re bolder. It feels good to be your own boss.
Studies have shown that work keeps us healthier. “Rich” is not just about money in the bank, it can be about an inner richness.
In the book, I profiled 20 entrepreneurs. The first group of individuals started a business based on a hobby or a passion. Joan Sadler was a nurse but she was burned out from that. Her hobby was woodworking. She also loved horses. She was able to retire from nursing and create a business carving wood with horse themes and taking them to horse shows. She has a woodworking studio in her garage and a website. She gets some custom orders. She said “Kerry, I am so happy. I get to watch these beautiful horses walk by every day and everyone comes and says hello.” There used to be a common warning against starting a business from a hobby. But actually though they may be slow to get started, they can be successful over time because they know their customer.
The second group of entrepreneurs are people who started businesses with a junior partner. Senior Junior Partnerships. (45:19 on video) I absolutely love this dynamic. This partnership really has legs for this chapter that we’re all just discovering. When you can get a senior partner with their experience, perhaps the capital, their network, to join forces with someone who’s younger, who has that tech savvy perhaps, that energy level. You’re building a business for the future. It’s not necessarily a business like this is my retirement business, it’s a business that can last. It can move forward. It’s retiring to something. One of the businesses I profiled was a gentleman who was a big shot lawyer at Verizon. When he retired, he teamed up with his son-in-law who had been in the beverage business in Washington DC. They started a distillery making gin called Green Hat Gin. They had complementary skills and knowledge. The business is doing well, bumping into the millions now.
The third group are Social Entrepreneurs. (47:30 on video) They want to make a difference. They start businesses that have social impact. Another former nurse started Bernadette’s House in Washington D.C. area for helping young African American women. She’s had to move locations a few times but every day is filled with heart and love.
The next group are Women Entrepreneurs. (48:40 on video) My favorite group. Women entrepreneurs are the fastest growing group over 50. Some start as micro businesses, out of your house, but some are quite substantial. Ageism is alive and well in the job market for women over 50 or 60. Women are good at running their own businesses. They are very collaborative. They ask for help, they do their homework, they take their time, they’re patient, they don’t do rash things. There are a breadth of examples in the book. Starting a cookie company, financial planning business, environmentally safe paper company.
When I talk about the happiness ingredient to starting a business. Older entrepreneurs are usually more successful than young people starting business. What are the steps to succeeding:
No rash moves, do your homework
get credentials you need
Volunteer to get some experience
I want to council people you are not reinventing yourself. I call it redeploying skills that you already have
Kerry’s Fitness Program:
You have to get financially fit
You need to plan. It takes 3 – 5 years to get something going.
Pay down debts. Downsize. Move to a city that costs less
Positive vibe from nutritious eating and fitness
Maybe yoga or meditation, walking your dog. Something with space for you.
There will of course be set backs
Valuing yourself and what you have to offer
People over 50 have this. We’ve developed it with life’s experiences. That inner core.’
Question and Answer
57:00 on video
for Jonathan Rauch:
Eisenberg: ‘What about people who have a serious health problem or they have to take care of a parent with dementia or they lose their job. Does life really get better for everyone over 50? Talk to us about the reality of life.’
Rauch: ‘All lives are different. Many things influence our contentment in life. It took me two years to get my head around the concept that we are talking about an underlying relationship between the aging process and happiness but it’s never the only thing going on. It’s like walking uphill in midlife. A lot of people do just fine but that current, that gravity makes it harder, other things being equal. And pretty significantly harder. And you’re most at risk of feeling this undertow, this u-curve if other things in your life are going well and are pretty steady. You’re going along meeting your goals, but your satisfaction is going down. That seems wrong. Then you feel alarm. What’s wrong with me. Am I getting depressed. Do I need a psychiatrist? And you feel immoral, you feel ungrateful. That can become a self-feeding spiral. Ironically, these problems are most affecting high achievers. Your mileage will vary.’
Eisenberg to Farrell:
‘How big a paycheck can you expect at a non-profit?’
Farrell: ‘You’re going to be paid less in the non-profit world. However, there a couple of important caveats. You’ve been working for a General Mills or you’ve been working for a government agency and you go to work for a non-profit – you are going to get a big drop. Because if you think about most non-profits, the analogy should be the small business. Most non-profits don’t have an IT department, they don’t have a help desk, they don’t have human resources, they were founded by someone who is just incredibly driven or charismatic and they’re always barely alive. So they’re simply not going to pay you that much money. You’re going to have to figure out how to deal with your own computer. If you’re going into one of the larger non-profits then the gap narrows somewhat. But then that’s a more competitive market. You can run the numbers. If you do the more traditional model of ‘work really hard until you can retire at some age and start living off your savings’ versus ‘continuing to work and making a lot less money but being able to work for a longer period of time’ because you are enjoying what you are doing – your standard of living is essentially the same.’
Eisenberg to Hannon:
“I’m wondering if people can start businesses after 50 that can particularly help Americans as they age. Is there a way to play into and exploit the aging of America and start a business at the same time?”
Hannon: ‘I want to add to what I was saying earlier. I want to council people you are not reinventing yourself. I call it redeploying skills that you already have.’
‘To answer Rich’s question: What can people in their 40’s and 50’s and maybe early 60’s do for people in their 70’s and 80’s? It’s not a full blown entrepreneur, it’s more like hanging out your own shingle. I call these ‘jobs to ride the age wave’. In an earlier book that I wrote called “Great Jobs for 50 Plus” I have a whole section on these jobs.
Senior Fitness Trainer
Home Modification Pro for Aging in Place
Patient Advocate (booking appointments and dealing with doctors)
Financial Planner specializing in seniors
Value of Family Care Givers
Audience to Jonathan
‘What was the key to turning around your life?’
‘In my late 40’s I discovered the Happiness Curve literature. That gave me the explanation that there is nothing wrong with me. It was that I am gay. At was a little like what I went through in my 20’s. I realized this is a kind of being normal. There is nothing wrong with me. There is something wrong with a society that expects me to be different from how I am. A big part of the answer to midlife slump is to get the word out – there is nothing wrong with you. There is something wrong with a society that is not caring and supportive to you. And there’s something wrong with society that stigmatizes the difficulty of midlife as some sort of antisocial crisis. The images you saw. If you know someone – friend or family – who is having a slump. Please don’t make jokes about red sports cars.
1:06:36: The second thing that happened is that around the age of 50, things got much worse objectively. My mother died, my father got very sick. My job went away. I tried a startup that failed. Yet weirdly, always uncorrelated-ly, the fog of this strange dissatisfaction and gloom began to lift in my early 50’s. It was very gradual (it’s a curve, not a spike up).
The single biggest piece of advice is – remember – Time is on your side. You have 20, 30 maybe 40 more good years ahead of you. Other things being equal, your satisfaction will get better and better. And just knowing that helps you wait it out.’
Audience to Hannon
‘I am a social entrepreneur over 64 and I find it difficult to find statistics for other social entrepreneurs in my age group. It would be good if we could help each other.’
Hannon: ‘There are some good studies in the UK. In the US, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is usually one we always refer to and they are not tracking this.’
Farrell: ‘There’s the self employed 65 plus that the Department of Labor has. It’s true. There is a gap in the data. What Kerry was talking about with Boomers going into business with an adult child – it’s an invisible industry. At Case Western – Scott Shane. He’s written a book on entrepreneurship. It has the most complete compilation on entrepreneurship that I’ve seen. Is Entrepreneurship Dead?: The Truth About Startups in America.
Why aren’t there any questions in the 2020 Census about family caregiving. There was an article about this in Next Avenue.’
Rauch: “Late adulthood is invisible”
Audience: ‘What can you tell people going through midlife crisis to help them?”
Rauch: ‘Chapter 8 of my book the Happiness Curve. Five or six things to do:
Don’t allow yourself to get isolated
Presentness: Meditation. Try not to dwell on the future and the distant past
Interrupt the voices in your head – before the thought could complete –
Coaching – going out and getting help and support – this is a contentment disorder not a psychological problem, adjust expectations. In the helping professions it is now pretty well known. They should not prescribe anti-depressants
For those trying to help: Don’t make fun of them, help them through the transition.
Normalize, assure them it is normal and will get better’
Audience: Get out of your head and into the world. If you do something for someone else you feel better.
Decluttering. You’re making decisions about your life.
Farrell: intergenerational conversations about creativity and productivity.
audience: You used “successful aging” on a slide. I want to say that isn’t helpful to us.
Rauch: I just used it to describe that one study. I agree with you.
audience: ‘My name is Claire. I’m a film maker working on a film about positive models of aging.
Getting the word out about this positive view of aging is pretty big. When I looked at most of the sessions I was kind of bummed out. Humor about older adults is permitted on social media but if any protected group was substituted people would be appalled.’
Eisenberg: “I think ageism is the last ism” It comes up in politics.
Audience This Chair Rocks – a Manifesto Against Ageism by Ashton Applewhite.
Eisenberg: She was one of the first influencers selected in the annual Next Avenue Influencers in Aging.
Audience: What are the differences between men and women when it comes to work after 50?
Hannon: I write a lot about women and money
Particularly women who did step out of the workplace to raise a family. They’re often back in the workplace and at these ages, they’re rolling. Often their spouse is older so may be more looking to retire. Women in the workforce over 50 is a larger group than ever. Men identify more with their job, and their friends tend to be more from the workplace. Women tend to have much vaster networks. This section of our life is easier to navigate because we are not so identified with our workplace, so stepping in and out isn’t as hard. Whereas for men retirement is a very difficult adjustment. Women live longer and need to work longer for financial reasons. We must stay on our game and keep our skills up.
It’s like a patchwork quilt. Nothing is forever. I wrote a book called “What’s Next” a number of years ago. When I went back to talk to entrepreneurs that started a business when they were over the age of 50 about what they were doing, a third of them had moved onto something else. This is the time of life to do many different things. Nothing is forever. It’s not like our linear career. You’re not locked in.
Eisenberg: ‘There’s another book that I wrote about on Next Avenue about discontent in retirement. It’s by a professor at the University of Toronto and she did something unusual. She talked to people who weren’t happy in retirement not for financial reasons but because they weren’t prepared it. She talked to former CEO’s, former doctors, former home makers and former professors. The theme is that as adolescents, we prepare to be adults but there is nothing that prepares us for retirement. For life after full-time work when all our friends are still at work. We don’t prepare Americans for retirement.’
Retirement and Its Discontents: Why We Won’t Stop Working, Even if We Can by Michelle Pannor Silver
Farrell: “In the United States we put so much onus on the individual to figure this out. People need institutional exit ramps and on ramps to help them in their career in the education system, in the corporate system and organizations. Just as someone retired gets a 401K package – what about a phased retirement package? What about an encore career package? Making these paths, putting less responsibility on the individual and more on society and our economy to create it and make it easier for people to be engaged. One of the things we’re talking about in terms of entrepreneurship is one of the exciting aspects of our society over the last 20 years has been the rise of entrepreneurial ecosystems. The co-sharing work spaces, the incubators, the accelerators, the innovation districts, and yet if you notice all these places, even though a lot of the entrepreneurs are 50 and over – they’re not welcome. The advertising isn’t there. And so we need to create institutions that make it welcoming for people to rethink and reimagine the second half of life because no matter what transitions are incredibly hard.”
We hope to see you for the American Society on Aging (ASA) Aging in America 2020 Conference April 6-9, 2021 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego.
Several of the panelists are regular presenters for the Aging in America conferences. For more information please see the ASA site.
Richard Eisenberg noted there is an opportunity to nominate Influencers in Aging which are selected each year by Next Avenue.
These are the 12 selected for 2019. The nominating period for 2020 should be opening shortly.
ASA Virtual AiA20
American Society on Aging (ASA) is gradually introducing a Virtual Aging in America 2020.
CE Credits will be available for several of these course. Please see the expanding list here.