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Achieve Your Dreams In Retirement With Unretirement

Chris Farrell, Unretirement

With Chris Farrell, Economics Editor of Marketplace Money, Author of Right On The Money: Taking Control Of Your Personal Finances

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money, a nationally syndicated personal finance show produced by American Public Media.  Chris is also an Economics Correspondent for Marketplace and the Chief Economics Correspondent for American RadioWorks.  He has authored three books: Right on the Money: Taking Control of Your Personal Finances, Deflation: What Happens When Prices Fall, and Unretirement: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think about Work, Community, and the Good Life.  Chris also hosts an “unretirement podcast” on how to live a full life in retirement.

Unretirement Works Well for Better Educated, Healthier Retirees

Chris Farrell has a new take on retirement—he calls it “unretirement” and hosts a podcast with true stories, tips, and advice on how to live a fulfilling life in retirement.  He makes the point that today’s retiring workforce is better-educated and healthier than earlier generations of retirees and can, therefore, continue to earn an income well into the traditional retirement years and/or nurture life’s dreams that were put on hold while working full-time or fulfilling dependent obligations.

In conversation with Steve on unretirement, Chris shares stories of retirees who are doing things they are passionate about, while also supplementing their retirement incomes.  For instance, one of his recent interviewees, a retired woman named Sylvia, had been a long-time public relations and crisis management professional and also had a side-business helping sustainable agricultural firms with some of their marketing.  Then, upon retiring, she and her husband—both of whom loved the concept of stewardship—opened a small 80-acre sustainable farm in Wisconsin and turned their passion into a meaningful activity.  Something Steve and Chris jokingly agree they are not cut out for because they’d rather read the New York Times with a nice cup of coffee on a Sunday morning!

Chris cites another unretirement example of a full-time nanny who became a certified quilting instructor in her mid-50s, where she makes the same amount of money, gets to travel and give classes across the country, and is doing something she loves.

What If You’re Laid Off

Next, Steve asks Chris for advice to people who are over the age of 50 and have to deal with the shock of getting laid off.  Chris suggests unretirement by tapping into your network of friends and colleagues, people who know your strengths, weaknesses, and passions, so they can advise you on what to do next and offer referrals and leads to help get you started.  He also believes seniors should be open to taking on part-time work to meet near-term financial needs such as paying off debts, unpaid bills, or even mortgage payments or rent.

Finding Work In Fields Dominated By Younger Generations

In response to a listener’s question on how a 60-year-old can find work in a field that is dominated by young people, Chris says the traditional approach of sending out a resume isn’t likely to work.  Instead, he suggests tapping into your network because they don’t care about your age, they know you have something to offer, and they know your character.  He also suggests thinking about how you can parlay your skills into something else that younger generations have a hard time competing against.


In closing, Chris says a big part of unretirement planning is thinking about what you really want to do next.  He says retirees often find a lot of meaning in volunteering for causes they believe in, where they get to apply core skills such as marketing or finance that the organization could use, even if the money isn’t compelling.

So if you’re nearing retirement, consider stepping up your game and try unretirement instead!

Disclosure: The opinions expressed are those of the interviewee and not necessarily United Capital.  Interviewee is not a representative of United Capital. Investing involves risk and investors should carefully consider their own investment objectives and never rely on any single chart, graph or marketing piece to make decisions.  Content provided is intended for informational purposes only, is not a recommendation to buy or sell any securities, and should not be considered tax, legal, investment advice. Please contact your tax, legal, financial professional with questions about your specific needs and circumstances.  The information contained herein was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however their accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. All data are driven from publicly available information and has not been independently verified by United Capital.

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Steve Pomeranz: My next guest has spent much of his professional life reporting and writing on economics and helping people make the most of their money. He’s currently Senior Economics Contributor at Marketplace, which is American Public Media’s nationally syndicated public radio business show.

I really enjoy Chris’ thinking regarding the real business of retirement. He turns the doom-and-gloomers on their heads and really helps us understand what the real path is that anyone can take to live their one best life. His latest venture is his “Unretirement” podcast. You may remember or know him from his book, Unretirement, How Baby Boomers are Changing the Way We Think About Work, and we’ll give you the web address a little bit later in the show, but first I want to welcome Chris Farrell to our show. Hi, Chris.

Chris Farrell: Thank you for having me.

Steve Pomeranz: It’s my pleasure. Hey, I listen to the podcasts and really enjoy them. Tell us a few stories from the interviews and also some of the listeners’ questions that you have addressed.

Chris Farrell: Yeah, so the stories are, I think, really compelling, and it’s people rethinking, re-imagining the second half of life. They’re vibrant, they want to keep working, but not necessarily full time, although some of the people that we portrayed, they jump from one full-time job into another full-time job, but it’s just thinking about meaning and money that, as we get older, there’s this…still this need to earn an income. But you also…what you’re doing, you don’t just want to be working to pay the bills, and you don’t to do that at any time of your life, but particularly as you get older. It’s about “what’s my legacy, how do I make a difference.”

One of the people that we interviewed was Sylvia. Sylvia had been with a long-time public relations, crisis management, end-of-crisis management business and then, on the side, she had this business working with sustainable agricultural firms, helping them with some of their marketing. She and her husband started talking about “what do we want to do next,” and the concept of stewardship was really important to them. So they did what I think—and this is one of the fun things—I imagine you come across this. They found what they really love to do—and I can’t imagine anything worse—they became small farmers. And it’s an 80-acre farm in Wisconsin; it’s grass-fed beef; it’s sustainable. They built a house that is built into the land, and it uses hardly any energy. I mean, it’s really wonderful. They’ve taken that concept of stewardship really seriously.

The reason why I say it’s not for me is my idea of a nice Sunday is getting up in the morning, carrying a cup of coffee, reading the New York Times, and if you spend any time on a farm, you realize that this is a lot of work.

Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, it’s the same thing that I think when I walk into a restaurant and I see all of the work, and I know how much time restaurateurs spend in their business, and I go, “You know, I just could never want to do that,” but the people who have the passion for it, and owning a farm is a 24/7 proposition.

Chris Farrell: It is, and then we’ll be putting out soon a story. A woman that we met, she’s 58, she had been a professional nanny and doesn’t have a college education, but she said you make good money as a professional nanny. But, in her late 50’s, she was burned out and tired of it. It was hard on her body, and so it really opened my eyes. I never imagined, but she is becoming a quilting instructor, a certified quilting instructor.

Steve Pomeranz: Quilting?

Chris Farrell: She’ll make about the same amount of money as she did as a professional nanny. But part of what I like about what she is doing and looking ahead as she gets older is that quilting is in a boom, and she and her husband could travel around the country, and she’ll teach classes and— in her description—he’s going to go off fishing, and she’s going to go teach classes. This is their unretirement. They need to have an income. It’s something she loves doing. It’s this community that is growing. It’s all part of this maker’s community, this craft community. There’s a lot of cleverness out there about what people are thinking to do in the second half of life.

Steve Pomeranz: There’s independent thinking. There’s original thinking. What are some of the things that people should do if they’re over 50 and they get laid off? I mean, that’s a shock to the system.

Chris Farrell: It’s a real shock to the system. The first podcast was Tinay and she was unexpectedly laid off, as you said, at age 56. She had a lot of friends, and friends are important, and she had a wonderful friend who happened to own a restaurant and said, “Let’s go. Let’s get out of town.” They got in the car. They drove to Seattle where she had a vacation home, and this friend, when they got there, handed her the key to the home and said, “I’ll be back in three weeks. There’s several hundred bottles of wine in the apartment.”

She started thinking and regenerating herself, and so what she decided to become is a social entrepreneur working with people in the low income, particularly African-American communities, about gathering assets, so building some wealth so they could have some independent freedom. She’s on her journey. She’s not there yet. She got some additional education. She’s creating her own consulting firm, but the thing that I took away from my conversation with her were two things: One is she really tapped into her network of friends. “What do you think I should be doing? What do you think I would be good at? Do you have somebody that I should talk to, an information or interview?” Because the thing is, if you’re an older, experienced worker and you are unexpectedly laid off that’s, say, in your late 50’s or early 60’s, your most valuable asset is not your retirement savings plan, it’s not your home. Your most valuable asset is the network of people you know because they know who you are. They know what you can do. They don’t care what your age is. That was one of the things that she did that I thought was extremely important.

The other thing that she did is she said she like owed certain things, so, to pay some bills, she’s working at Trader Joe’s. She likes it and has a retirement savings plan, has a healthcare plan. She’s working there part-time. It’s helping her meet the bills. It’s not a long-term commitment, but she said, “You know, I needed to make some money in order to get closer to doing my dream.”

When I was in my early 50’s, if you said to me, “I’m going to be working in a grocery store,” which is what I did in high school, I’d be saying, “No, I’m not going to do that. I’m not that kind of person anymore,” and, now, what she’s doing is she’s saying, “You know what? It’s helped paying the bills. I like my colleagues. I have my dream, and so I’m making a little money, and I know where I’m going.”

I think it’s this combination of really trying to realize what it is you want to do next and then how do you get there.

Steve Pomeranz: My guest is Chris Farrell, and his latest venture is the “Unretirement” podcast based on the themes of his book, Unretirement, How Baby Boomers are Changing the Way We Think About Work.

One of your listeners asked the question, “How can a 60-year-old continue to find work in a field that is dominated by young people?”

Chris Farrell: This is something that a lot of us, as we age, we’re going to face more and more, and one of the things …and I’m curious what you think because one of the things that comes out of that is, if you try and go stay in your field or you try and walk to the door or you try and use your resume, all the kind of traditional ways that we think about getting a job, it’s going to be really hard.

Steve Pomeranz: Yeah.

Chris Farrell: You really need to do two things. One, as I said, is the network, and it’s tapping into your network because they don’t care about your age. They know you have something to offer, and they know your character. More than 50% of all jobs come through a network, that third degree of separation. I think the other thing is to think about ” how can I transfer my skills?”

Journalism is a declining business, but journalists know how to write. Journalists know how to tell a story. Museums—museums are a place where Storytelling is becoming an extremely important part of the museum industry. There’s all kinds of things to do whatever your skill is, in this industry that’s dominated by young people or any industry that may be declining and looking around and saying, “Okay, where else could I take my skill?”

Steve Pomeranz: I think you make a very good example in journalism. I think that’s a very good way because you have a talent. It’s a skill as well, of course, and a skill built out over many years, and this transfers to all of us who have done work for many years in the same field.

I’m a financial planner. I’ve had this radio show for over 15 years, so those skills are transferrable. If you’re going to compete directly with someone who’s younger, they’re not really going to have your skills. They’re going to have other skills, so you need to kind of do an end-around and figure out who you are and really kind of invent your own life in a sense.

Chris Farrell: That’s right, and I met some people like in this national planning industry, and they reached a point where they go down to a few favorite clients. I mean, they’re clients, but they’re people that they just really like, they enjoy, they’ve known for a long period of time. Then one person I met, that’s what they did. I think it paid a little bit of money, but not much, but they teach financial literacy at a center that’s mostly working with immigrants, newcomers to the country, and teaching about checking accounts and savings accounts and credit cards and all these kinds of things, and it’s a good life.

Steve Pomeranz: The bottom line is you want to discover your own second life, your own second career and the money part of it. You need to obviously change some things if you haven’t saved an appropriate amount of money. You need to re-tailor your life to fit your current situation, but you can have a very, very fulfilling life. Actually, sometimes, if all you’re thinking about is money your life and now you don’t have to do that anymore, it could be quite a relief and quite liberating.

Chris Farrell: It can be very liberating. One of the things that I learned as I’ve been talking to people is there is a strong desire for meaning and money or a purpose and a paycheck, but a lot of people, they reach their late 50’s, their early 60’s, and it’s like, “Well, what is that? What is it that I want to be doing?” I think this is a big part of retirement planning, thinking about and giving yourself the time to think about what is it that I want to do next.

Steve Pomeranz: Yeah.

Chris Farrell: One of the things that many people do that’s really fruitful, it doesn’t work for everybody, but just look at your volunteer activities and start looking at those volunteer activities and the people you’re meeting volunteering in a slightly different way. I believe in this cause. You wouldn’t be volunteering if you didn’t believe in the cause. “Would I like to work with this organization? Could I help them out? Do I have some skills?” not just being the volunteer, which is a wonderful thing to do, but to have some skills, marketing skills, finance skills, storytelling skills, that this organization could use. One way to sort of plan for your retirement is to look at your volunteering activities and say, “Wow, could I do this as a job?” You’re going to make less money, absolutely, no question about that, particularly if you want a flexible schedule or to go part-time, but you’ll still be making an income and, if you volunteer, you probably do believe in that cause or that issue.

Steve Pomeranz: Sure. My guest is Chris Farrell. Chris, what’s the best way for people to find your new podcast?

Chris Farrell: They can go to the website, Unretirement.fm, and that’s our website, or they can go to iTunes and just go to the podcast section of iTunes and type in “Unretirement” and it will pop up.

Steve Pomeranz: Okay. It’s a very good resource for all of you who are in this situation or starting to think in this way.

Chris, as always, thank you so much for joining us.

Chris Farrell: Thanks