Episode #117 – Marc Miller interviews Chris Farrell about meaningful job opportunities for the second half of life.
In this episode, Marc interviews Chris Farrell, a senior economics contributor for Marketplace, American Public Media’s nationally syndicated public radio programs. Chris is an economics commentator for Minnesota Public Radio and an award-winning journalist. Chris is a regular contributor to PBS’s Next Avenue, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He has written for Bloomberg Businessweek, The New York Times, Kiplinger’s, and other publications. Marc hopes you enjoy this episode.
[1:13] Marc welcomes you to Episode 117 of the Repurpose Your Career podcast. Career Pivot brings you this podcast. CareerPivot.com is one of the very few websites dedicated to those of us in the second half of life and our careers. Please take a moment to check out the blog and the other resources delivered to you, free of charge.
[1:43] If you are enjoying this podcast, please share it with other like-minded souls. Subscribe on CareerPivot.com, iTunes, or any of the other apps that supply podcasts. Share it on social media or just tell your neighbors, and colleagues. The more people Marc can reach, the more he can help.
[2:05] Next week, Marc will be interviewing Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism.
[2:15] This week, Marc is interviewing Chris Farrell, author of Purpose and a Paycheck: Finding Meaning, Money, and Happiness in the Second Half of Life.
Now on to the podcast…
[2:28] Marc introduces Chris and welcomes him to the Repurpose Your Career podcast.
[3:10] Marc loves Chris’s previous book, Unretirement: How Baby Boomers are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and the Good Life and is very much looking forward to the new book. Chris explains the motivation behind his new book. He wants to reshape society’s view of the aging population.
[4:54] Marc agrees that we are aging very differently than our parents did. A lot of folks are now dealing with their parents and their kids. It’s a different world.
[5:20] We have very powerful stereotypes about the stages of life. What strikes Chris is that people lose their jobs or quit their jobs all the time. You may have kids and parents in your care. Even if your kids are launched, you’re always a parent.
[6:01] So we have this simple idea of how life evolves. Chris says, life is just a lot of ups, downs, twists, and turns and part of this rethinking of aging is just being much more realistic. If you are caregiving in your twenties for a baby, you’ll also be caregiving in your fifties for your aging parents.
[6:29] In Marc’s online community, there are a bunch of people in their late 60s, primarily guys, who still have kids in college, mainly because the Vietnam War era draft made people delay getting married and having kids. This means they have obligations to worry about that younger Boomers don’t have.
[7:18] Chris shares stories from the chapter, “The Myth of Creative Decline.” He had seen Matisse at MoMA. He says Matisse was at the height of his creativity between the ages of 74 and 84. Bruce Springsteen is still performing and writing new songs in his 60s.
[8:35] We’re beginning to realize that aging artists and performers are not just reliving their glory days, but creating new works of merit. The closer you look into the artistic community, you see so many people building on their experience and connecting their dots. Research shows we retain creativity in our own fields through our senior years.
[9:34] It’s fundamentally wrong to think creative abilities go away in the 60s and 70s.
[9:59] Marc tells of a recent experience in Ajijic. They recently had an art walk with 90 artists. Three-quarters of them were expats from Canada and the U.S. Almost all of them took up art in their 60s. Marc was blown away. There were paintings and other media. Many of the artists had learned their art from YouTube videos.
[10:48] Some took classes. Some went and studied with masters. They were able to do this in their 60s and 70s.
[11:01] There is a stereotype that people, as they age, do not adjust to new technology. The Boomer generation has worked with the IBM Selectric, word processors, PCs, mobile phones, iPads, Facebook, YouTube. Boomers are not resistant to technology if it is worth learning for them.
[12:22] Marc also notes that expats are by nature risk-takers, which extends to all areas of life including technology.
[12:48] Why are Boomers ideally suited to be entrepreneurs? His definition of entrepreneur includes self-employed. Chris notes that people in their 60s and 70s are better-educated than previous generations. Technology has really lowered the cost of starting a business. The office is your home or an inexpensive co-sharing workspace.
[14:20] Now, to start a business, you don’t drain your 401(k) or risk your retirement savings. (Don’t do that.) People are starting bootstrap businesses and marketing online.
[14:53] Chris mentions a story from Keith Richards’s autobiography, Life. When the Rolling Stones taped in London in the 1960s, studio time was so expensive that they recorded for half-an-hour. That was what they could afford. Today, for $2,000, somebody can have a beautiful studio in their garage.
[15:24] Entrepreneurship/self-employment, with the artisan/lifestyle economy, finding yourself an artisan/craft niche, is really exciting. It doesn’t take a lot of risk and it tends to allow for meaning, having fun, enjoyment, and a paycheck.
[15:49] Marc explains his recording setup in his closet in Mexico, padded with a sheet, a $60 microphone plugged into his MacBook Air, recording on Piezo for Mac for $19, and editing using Audacity, which is free. Ten years ago, this would not have been possible at this price.
[16:47] Young people are entering the tech industry on a shoestring. They want to build their first product, sell it, and go on to the next thing. Chris also notes that Boomer parents are going into business with their Millennial and Gen-X children. The parents have the experience and capital, and the children have savvy and hustle.
[18:27] Eventually the younger generation will inherit the business. Marc has had clients who have talked about this. The relationships Boomers have with their children is different than the relationships Boomers had with their parents. Marc tells an anecdote on his co-author Susan Lahey and her children.
[19:55] Chris says the multi-generational workplace is really underestimated. There is a consulting industry now, discrediting the benefits of four generations in one workspace. Chris objects to that.
[20:23] IBM did some good research surveying four generations. They found the generations shared a lot of values. All people want autonomy to exercise creativity. They want to be a valued member of a team and be treated with respect. They would like opportunities for advancement. Life experiences are different but not work values.
[21:22] The experienced worker brings an ability to connect the dots and tends to be calmer in a crisis and more deliberate when things are tense. There are crises in every organization. The younger ones bring energy, knowledge, and skill to the team but they don’t have that well of experience to draw on.
[22:06] When you bring the older and younger worker together it’s a very productive unit. The experienced worker also transfers intangible knowledge about process and procedure, that would never be written down in the organizational book.
[22:39] Marc recalls teaching at IBM 20 years ago about problem determination. He knew that if you have seen a problem in the same area before, you will solve it faster the next time. You can’t fake experience. You can’t speed it up. You just have to get it.
[23:04] Experience doesn’t mean you’re stuck in your ways. Or clinging to how it was down before. It’s about being able to connect the dots between what you’ve seen before and what is the situation now. The younger people are bringing new twists to the table — something to try a little differently.
[23:33] Multi-generational teams should be encouraged. Chris would like to see more organizations doing that.
[23:42] Marc is running a multi-generational workplace workshop in March, and you can listen to it in these three episodes: 111, 112, and 113. The generations echo back and forth in their behaviors. We either do as our parents told us or the exact opposite of it.
[24:20] Chris gives great examples in his book but there are barriers. Marc puts health insurance before age 65 at the top of the list, which was why he moved to Mexico. Social Security is next. What has to change in the U.S.?
[24:43] The Affordable Care Act was trying to address the needs of the most vulnerable population from 50 to 65. Medicare at 65 solves the problem for older people. Medicaid helps lower-income people.
[24:59] If you lose your job after 50, you may find a new job, but it may be at a small business that doesn’t offer health insurance.
[25:44] Chris is frustrated that instead of trying to correct the flaws in the ACA, it is tied up in Congressional battles. Chris would like to see it repaired.
[26:55] Marc and his wife spent $25,000 in 2017 on health insurance and healthcare and didn’t reach their deductible. Marc could afford it but wasn’t pleased. Now they are in Mexico. Mrs. Miller is a retired RN and she has been thrilled with the healthcare she has received from multiple care providers. All told, she spent $150 without insurance.
[27:35] Chris asserts that we do not have the best healthcare system in the world.
[27:50] What will it take to fix Social Security? Chris says it is more manageable than healthcare. Healthcare has so many problems that somebody is going to have to pay to fix.
[28:59] Chris says Social Security is “America’s retirement plan.” What we’re going to do is raise taxes to pay for it. Too many people are dependent on it. Congress should shore up the finances of Social Security and eventually, they will. Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, 80% of Americans want Social Security to be strong; we need to fix it.
[30:06] Existing 401(k)s are not effective for most Americans.
[30:41] We underestimate the importance of time. Today, a two-income couple is working about 25% more than our peers did in 1968. There is also pressure to keep up with technology, eat healthy, exercise, floss, and have a social life, and manage your money smartly over the next 30 years, and manage your healthcare until age 65.
[31:40] The average person can’t do it all and manage their retirement savings. Chris says, for most people, it makes no sense to do it themselves.
[31:55] Marc tells about doing his income taxes for 2017, digging through the insurance portal for information, and he was super confused — and he’s a really smart guy! What does the average person do?
[32:36] What about folks who can’t be entrepreneurs? Chris calls entrepreneurs the leading edge of social change. Not everybody is an entrepreneur. The bulk of Boomers are going for part-time work, flexible jobs, encore careers, not-for-profit jobs, education, social services, and other services.
[33:48] The question is, “What do I want to do next?” It will take experimentation to figure it out. Don’t think of yourself as a job title or an occupation. What are your skills and what can you really do? Chris tells a case study of a teacher skilled at dealing with different constituencies. She became involved in an economic development committee.
[35:08] Marc asks about a woman from Chris’s podcast who got certified by a quilting company as a teacher to teach quilting around the country. The ROI numbers worked out to do it. She can travel the country at her will for an income.
[37:11] Marc sees from his online community that everyone need their horizon broadened. There are incredible new possibilities.
[37:22] Chris has two final points. Have the attitude that this moment of life — whether in your 50s, 60s, or 70s — is a moment of opportunity. Be engaged. Find something that gives you meaning and money; purpose and a paycheck. That is an exciting venture. Write your own narrative, not the way the dominant society would write it for you.
[38:11] On the practical level, what’s really important to exploit these opportunities is to know your most valuable asset — it’s the network of people that you’ve met over the years. Tap into it to broaden your horizons. They know you. What do they think you should be doing?
[38:56] When you figure out what it is you want to do next, you’ll find that someone in your network is going to make the introduction that gets you that job or that opportunity that you’d like to explore.
[39:20] You may email Chris at CFarrell@gmail.com and get his book on Amazon or at Target.
[39:58] Marc thanks Chris for being on the Repurpose Your Career podcast.
[40:05] Marc hopes you enjoyed this episode. Marc always enjoys talking with Chris as he is an evangelist for those of us in the second half of life.
[40:14] Susan Lahey and Marc are working on the next edition of Repurpose Your Career, and Marc is looking for your help. Marc is forming a release team of readers who will get access to pre-release chapters of the book to provide feedback.
[40:26] You can be part of this team by going to CareerPivot.com/RYCTeam where you can sign up.
[40:34] When you sign up, you’ll receive the pre-release version of the chapters when they become available. What Marc asks in return is for you to provide feedback and be prepared to write a review on Amazon.com when the book is released.
[40:47] The CareerPivot.com/Community website has become a valuable resource for almost 50 members who are participating in the Beta phase of this project. Marc is currently recruiting new members for the next cohort.
[40:59] If you are interested in the endeavor and would like to be put on the waiting list, please go to CareerPivot.com/Community. When you sign up you’ll receive information about the community as it evolves.
[41:13] Those in the initial cohorts will get to set the direction for this endeavor. This is a paid membership community with group coaching and special content. More importantly, it’s a community where you can seek help. Go to CareerPivot.com/Community to learn more.
[41:37] Marc invites you to connect with him on LinkedIn.com/in/mrmiller. Just include in the connection request that you heard Marc on this podcast. You can look for Career Pivot on Facebook, LinkedIn, or @CareerPivot on Twitter.
[42:00] Please come back next week, when Marc will interview Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism.
[42:09] Marc thanks you for listening to the Repurpose Your Career podcast.
[42:14] You will find the show notes for this episode at CareerPivot.com/episode-117.
[42:23] Please hop over to CareerPivot.com and subscribe to get updates on this podcast and all the other happenings at Career Pivot. You can also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, the Google Podcasts app, Podbean, the Overcast app, or the Spotify app.Marc Miller
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