In terms of adult development theory, mid-life is typically a pivotal stage where 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 think about what life after 50 could and should look like.
One thing is for sure, as they march en masse toward their retirement years, Boomers will also reject en masse any semblance of the stereotypical retirement lifestyle. And, herein lies the problem: although Baby Boomers are crystal clear about what they don’t want for mid-life and beyond, they are having a hard time 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 his article “The Value of Planning,” Bob Veres 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.” Therefore, Veres explains, they are no longer doing traditional retirement planning, but rather “helping their clients transition from a job they dislike to meaningful work that they can do and enjoy as if it were play.”
These forward thinking professionals are pioneers in a trend of 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 the traditional financial conversation focused on “more is better,” these unconventional financial planners are asking their clients, “What will bring your life meaning and purpose—now and in the future?” Veres wrote:
“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 mind set 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 (most want to keep working), but as an opportunity to explore new interests, stretch their comfort zones and find unique ways to give of themselves to their families and communities.