Turning Midlife Uncertainty into Midlife Opportunity

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Financial planners know that traditional retirement is a dying concept. As clients are living longer, healthier lives, a new phase of life is emerging—that time after ending a prolonged working phase and before truly slowing down. It’s a time when many middle- to late-age adults are focusing on making an impact, building purpose, and creating a legacy.

According to social innovator Marc Freedman, it’s the time for an encore career, and the organization he founded, Encore.org, is helping millions of adults make those encore careers not just wishful thoughts, but realities.

Freedman will be presenting at the Financial Planning Association’s Retreat 2016 at the Wigwam Resort in Phoenix, Ariz., April 25-28. Register before March 18 to get $100 off.

1. Encore.org is building a movement to tap into the skills and experience of those in midlife and beyond to improve communities and the world. What inspired you to create this movement?

The original inspiration was to provide more caring adults and human capital in the lives of young people who were growing up against the odds. I’d been involved in the first significant study that had been done on the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, and it showed tremendous benefits for young people who were matched with a mentor, but there were half as many kids on the waiting list for the program as were actually being served. And that raised the fundamental question about the untapped talent in society.

And that started this journey, because as soon as you start thinking about the untapped resources of talent in the country today and even more so in the future, it’s hard not to land on older people, so many of whom are looking for greater purpose. And they have a lifetime of experience and the benefits of even greater longevity. It seemed like there was an opportunity in the very specific sense of trying to improve the lives of kids, and at the same time improve the lives of older people who were involved themselves and oftentimes had a deep need to be needed.

So that was the beginning of this idea that there was a great twofer in engaging older people in ways that would build purpose and legacy, and an opportunity for people to live not just longer lives, but lives that continue to matter.

2. What role do you feel financial planners can play in the Encore movement?

An enormously important role.

Research we did last year showed that 4.5 million Americans are already in an encore career—a second act at the intersection of passion, purpose, and a paycheck—and that 21 million more give top priority to following in their footsteps.

And these encore careers, these second acts, last about a decade. So that’s 25 million people who could contribute something like 250 million years of talent to solving significant needs, and yet of the group that’s trying to go from aspiration to action, the 21 million, every time we poll them or do focus groups, the biggest barrier is not having the financial wherewithal to move from the freedom from work—that old retirement dream—to something that more closely approximates the freedom to work, to have greater latitude to do work that’s closer to their sense of purpose but maybe less lucrative than what they were doing earlier.

I think there’s an unacknowledged transition between midlife and this period that’s not retirement, but really another phase of life and work, and people are not well prepared for that transition. I think financial planners can help them do a much better job of being ready.

3. You will be speaking at FPA Retreat 2016 in April. What message do you hope the financial planners in attendance will take away from your session?

That the intersecting longevity and demographic revolutions are producing a new map of life— one with an entirely new period of productivity in what used to be the retirement years. And that’s an opportunity not just for individuals who are lucky enough to be at that phase today, but for younger generations who need to plan for a longer distance race than those of us in our 50s, 60s, and 70s today ever thought was possible.

And that ultimately, if the financial planning profession and other parts of society help this group realize their desire to continue to be productive, engaged, and living meaningful lives, that we’ll all benefit, and that we’ll have a richer, more productive society now and for generations to come.

Look for the Journal of Financial Planning’s full interview with Freedman in the April issue.

Schulaka Carly_resizedCarly Schulaka
Editor
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, CO

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