In terms of adult development theory, turning 50 is typically a time in life when individuals rethink the direction their lives are taking, confront their own mortality, and dare to ask themselves, “Am I really happy?”
However, what distinguishes Baby Boomers from previous generations is that they wear their mid-life angst on their sleeves. Rather than indulging in a time of private reflection and silent suffering, Baby Boomers are forcing us to re-think what life at 50 and beyond could and should look like.
One thing is for sure, as they march en masse through middle age and into old-age, Boomers will also reject en masse any semblance of a stereotypical retirement lifestyle. And, herein lies the problem: Although Baby Boomers are crystal clear about what they don’t want at mid-life and beyond, they are having difficulty defining what they do want.
Rising to the challenge is a new breed of financial planner who is ready to help Boomers navigate a new life course. In fact, thought leader Bob Veres has long encouraged financial planners to embrace a new view of retirement and to help clients rethink how they prepare for and live in this stage of life. More than a decade ago, he wrote:
Today, many advisors have a clear recognition that retirement is a huge, dangerous transition, and that all-too-many people will unknowingly retire to lives of emptiness and meaninglessness.
Veres further explained that forward thinking financial advisors are no longer doing traditional retirement planning, but rather are “helping their clients transition from a job they dislike to meaningful work that they can do and enjoy as if it were play.” In fact, these advisors are at the forefront of a new trend that includes integrating financial planning and life planning—a “Wow, that makes sense!” approach to helping clients first clarify their values, priorities, and aspirations before addressing assets and net worth.
Rather than engaging in the traditional financial monologue focused on “more is better,” these unconventional financial planners ask their clients, “What will bring your life meaning and purpose—now and in the future?” Veres concluded:
Helping people move from work they dislike to work that is fulfilling and empowering is enormously valuable, and the bonus is that they can continue to do what they enjoy and escape the meaninglessness and emptiness of a retirement that puts them on the sidelines. They can cut back and still remain relevant. Can you put a value on this?
For the Baby Boomer disillusioned with the results of “using my life to make money,” the opposite mindset of “using my money to make a life” is both liberating and compelling. They come to see life after 50 as a second chance to grab the brass ring on the merry-go-round of life. For them, retirement looms on the horizon—not as a respite from work but as an opportunity to explore new interests, stretch their comfort zones, and to give back to their communities via paid or unpaid “work” that is both meaningful and important to them.