TIME Business

Planning for Unretirement and Why It Pays Dividends to Work Longer

It pays to invest in your human capital, maintaining your skills and adding to your education

Several years ago I picked up a book published in 1920 by Simon Wilson Straus, president of the American Society for Thrift. His description of the popular image of thrift in History of the Thrift Movement in America still rings true nearly a century later. “Penny-counting, cheese-paring, money-hoarding practices were looked upon by the public as the ideals sought by those who tried to encourage thrift,” wrote Straus. “The man who practiced this virtue, it was felt, was he who hoarded his earnings to such an extent that he thrust aside every other consideration in order to keep from spending his pennies, his dimes, and his dollars.” Who wants to live a “cheese-paring” life? Sounds bad, doesn’t it?

But an emphasis on thrift doesn’t mean living cheaply– far from it. Thrift or frugality is really shorthand for an approach grounded in matching our money with our values. Straus defines thrift this way: “It is the thrift that recognizes that the finer things of life must be encouraged,” he writes. “The skilled workman, the artist, the musician, the landscape gardener, the designer of beautiful furniture, the members of the professions — all those, in fact, who, through the devotion of their abilities, contribute to the real betterment of mankind, must be given support through our judicious expenditures.”

Here’s how David Starr Jordan, founding president of Stanford University, defined thrift at the 1915 International Congress for Thrift in San Francisco. He told the assembled audience that thrift “does not involve stinginess, which is an abuse of thrift, nor does it require that each item of savings should be financial investments; the money that is spent on the education of one’s self or of one’s family, in travel, in music, in art, or in helpfulness to others, if it brings real returns in personal development or in a better understanding of the world we live in, is in accordance with the spirit of thrift.”

Who didn’t have a moment during the Great Recession of looking around their home or apartment, opening closets and drawers, gazing into garages and storage bins, and wondered, “Why did I buy that? Is this how I want to live? I’m paying off credit card debt for that?” The modern Mad Men have done a bang-up job equating the good life with owning lots of stuff paid for on an installment plan. Didn’t we always know this wasn’t quite right? By thinking through “What really matters to me?” the unretired movement will come up with far more sensible answers to the question “How much is enough?” than the financial services industry. Harry West, the former CEO of Continuum and current senior partner at Prophet, hit on the thrift mindset. In our conversation he remarked on the flexibility that comes with minimal expenses and debts. “When you talk to boomers, what you find is that freedom is really, really important. And you think about that because they grew up in the ’60s or were born in the ’60s, which was a time of freedom,” says West. “Freedom is a low overhead.” That expression should be a mantra for young and old workers alike.

The frugal mindset is spreading, thanks to growing awareness of sustainability. The term sustainability has many shades of meaning, but several themes have emerged in recent years. An awareness of global warming. The desire to cut down on waste. Concerns over the health of the environment. Worries about the vibrancy of local communities. My favorite definition of sustainability comes from the late actor and non-profit entrepreneur Paul Newman: “We are such spendthrifts with our lives,” said Newman. “The trick of living is to slip on and off the planet with the least fuss you can muster. I’m not running for sainthood. I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer, who puts back into the soil what he takes out.” Sustainability has gone mainstream and, for growing numbers of people, being frugal is green and being green is frugal.

There is nothing cheap or penny pinching behind the pursuit of judicious expenditures, thrift and sustainability. Instead, thrift is a mindset for trying to match your spending with your values. “In some ways, that what’s financial independence is. You don’t have to answer to anyone because you have enough,” says certified financial planner Ross Levin. “When I am working with clients as they get older or near the end of life, they talk about the things they wish they had done. They talk about their regrets, and the regrets always focus on experiences. It’s always something like, ‘I wish I had done more with the kids when they were younger.’ It’s never ‘I wish I had bought a Mercedes.'”

The urban scholar Richard Florida, in his book The Great Reset, looked at potential economic changes in the U.S. following the Great Recession. His bottom line forecast could have been addressed to aging workers. “The promise of the current Reset is the opportunity for a life made better not by ownership of real estate, appliances, cars, and all manner of material goods, but by greater flexibility and lower levels of debt, more time with family and friends, greater promise of personal development, and access to more and better experiences.”

Unretirement will change not only how an aging population thinks about old age but also how it plans the elder years. Over the past three decades the baby boom generation has been taught to equate planning for retirement with savvy investing. In essence, the retirement planning mantra has been stocks for the long haul, asset allocation and picking mutual funds. But for the typical Main Street boomer the equation has always been wrong and, deep down, we’ve always known we couldn’t rely on Wall Street’s lush return promises. The core of unretirement planning is jobs, and the new unretirement planning mantra is encore careers, networking, and delay filing for Social Security. “You should be looking for the kind of jobs you could do that are challenging and interesting and offer an acceptable income,” says Arthur Koff, the septuarian founder of Retired Brains. “The time to do it is while you’re working.”

Next Chapter in Kansas City, Kansas is housed in a small brick building reminiscent of a bank in a section of town that houses the courts. Karen Hostetler is director of Next Chapter. She turned 65 in 2013. Next Chapter is a small grassroots organization with a mission of helping older workers in transition toward unretirement. I met with Next Chapter activists Pat Brune, Cris Siebenlist and Hostetler in a conference room in the fall of 2013. It was a lively conversation and at one point planning for unretirement came up.

Siebenlist: “Frankly, not everyone will figure it out. They’ll do a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Other people will float around for awhile and say, Is this all there is?”

Hostetler: “You need to plan. It takes commitment to figure it out.”

Brune: “If I could change my transition to what I did, it would have been to be more intentional. I said yes to what came along.”

Hostetler: “Don’t jump into the first thing that comes along.”

Bruning: “I only see my intentions looking back. It’s only later that I see how the dots are connected.”

The work longer message means it pays to invest in your human capital, maintaining your skills and adding to your education. Maybe you’d like to stay at your current company, but put in fewer hours or shift over to a different division. If you want to move on, know your employer is likely to hand you a pink slip soon, or want to start your own business invest in researching your options, from hiring a career coach to investigating temp agencies to picking up a book like Marci Alboher’s The Encore Career Handbook: How To Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life.

Most importantly, invest in your networks of family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Scholars have documented that about half or more of all jobs come through informal channels–connections to friends, families and colleagues. You may also want to create new connections to ease the transition into the next stage of life.

Take this example from Ralph Warner, the founder of Nolo.com, the self-help legal guide business, and author of Get a Life: You Don’t Need A Million to Retire Well. Let’s say it’s a dream of yours to work on environmental causes in retirement, says Warner. The pressures of daily life stop you from getting engaged, however. You’ll get to it, tomorrow. Now you’re 65 or 70 years old. You head toward an environmental organization you admire and say, “Here I am. How can I help you? The answer is going to be probably not much,” says Warner. Maybe help out with the phones or mailings. “Now, take that same person who in their 40s or 50s gets involved with several local environmental groups and at age 70 is a respected senior person. They’re valued and they’re needed. They earned it.”

They’ve just won the aging boomer trifecta: an income, a community and a mission.

Don’t get me wrong: Saving is important. Max out your 401(k) and IRA. Create a well-diversified, low-fee retirement savings portfolio. Savings is your margin of safety because life has a way of upending well-thought-out plans. An unexpectedly ill parent. A divorced child moving back home with the kids. For Robert Lawrence, it was a detached retina.

Lawrence was a teacher at Jefferson Community and Technical College (now Kentucky Community and Technical College) in Louisville. He taught there for about 20 years, commuting up to 10 weeks every year to visit his partner in New York City. Lawrence planned on retiring at age 66. Just after his 64th birthday, he stopped by a colleague’s office for a brief “hello” and ended up listening to a long, detailed explanation why his colleague planned working until age 70. The conversation convinced Lawrence to hold off retirement for another six years.

That is, until two months later. His retina detached and several surgical repairs didn’t hold. He retired at age 65 in 2005, sold his home, downsized and moved into his partner’s condo in Jackson Heights, Queens. His partner, age 75, is a consulting engineer, often putting in 40 hour workweeks. “If it had not been for health reasons I certainly would have been working,” says Lawrence.

A surgeon in New York fixed his retina. Lawrence now volunteers at a hospice in Manhattan, visits with grieving caregivers after the death of a loved one, and helps out at his local church. With a comfortable pension and some savings he chose flexibility over pay. The reason: Lawrence and his partner are railroad “rare mileage” collectors. “We’re railroad fanatics,” he says. They ride the rails throughout the U.S., often seeking out obscure lines to collect their miles. “The only reason I did not seek out teaching in New York is my partner didn’t want me to because of these trips,” adds Lawrence. “He’s in command of his own time as a consultant. If you’re teaching, you’re not.”

When it comes to retirement planning, the goal should be to put your savings on auto-pilot as much as possible. Instead, spend your time creating opportunities for an income and meaning later in life. The return on the unretirement investment will dwarf anything you’ll get from picking a good mutual fund.

Chris Farrell is a contributing economics editor for Bloomberg Businessweek and senior economics contributor for public radio’s Marketplace Money, Marketplace, and Marketplace Morning Report. Excerpted from Unretirement, copyright 2014 by Chris Farrell. Reprinted by permission of Bloomsbury.

TIME psychology

Behind My Uncle’s Schizophrenia

What it's like to serve as a translator and tour guide for a veteran battling mental illness

My 69-year-old uncle Henry gazed into the jaws of the Natural History Museum’s biggest celebrity, Thomas the T. Rex, who was frozen in a silent roar.

I asked Henry, “How do you define danger?”

Henry answered, “Everything.”

I made a mental note. Later, I added the entry to the unique dictionary Henry and I are creating together. We call it a “thicktionary.” It documents the language of his mental illness. Other entries include Chicano, which means Americano, and alligator, which means you want to make friends with them but they have their own defensive mechanisms.

Henry, my oldest paternal uncle, has lived a life that’s constantly taken him in and out of danger – a life that has made me consider about what danger really means.

Even in my earliest memories of Henry, I feared the words that might come out of his mouth.

“Real estate on the moon,” he once started to say during a Christmas dinner at my grandma’s house in Whittier. An aunt yelled, “Shut up!”

My throat tightened. I wished my uncle would vanish.

After dinner, a cousin pulled me aside to whisper, “When we were driving home a couple of weeks ago, my mom pulled over ’cause she saw police shoving a homeless man. She started crying because it was…” Her finger pointed in the direction of Henry, who was wearing the same clothes he’d worn last Christmas, which smelled as if he’d worn them every day since.

He disappeared early from that dinner, riding his bike into the evening. Before driving us the 150 miles home to Santa Maria, my father went looking for Henry in Norwalk, where he and Henry grew up. With us kids looking on in the car, he found Henry camped out in front of a Wienerschnitzel near his childhood home, his possessions bundled and bungeed to a 10-speed that looked as worn as he did. My father parked, walked to Henry, and handed a pile of McDonald’s gift certificates to a man whose intelligence had so impressed the Army in 1967 that they enrolled him in officer candidate school in Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

When Henry’s draft letter came, he went to basic training, then for training in field artillery, and then to Northern Vietnam. Henry says the most dangerous part of Vietnam was that, “your ammunition might go off too early. You could be eradicated in full respects.” He felt a great responsibility for other people’s lives.

After Henry returned from the battlefield, he briefly attended college using G.I. Bill money. Then, he started avoiding baths. He started asking my father and his sisters if they, too, could hear the voices of the people he’d killed or hurt in Vietnam. He put his Bronze Stars in a coffee tin, carried it to the backyard, and held a funeral for his medals.

My aunt took Henry to the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Long Beach. The VA doctor diagnosed him with schizophrenia. Mental health organizations often cite schizophrenia as one of the most debilitating mental illnesses. It manifests through disorganized thoughts and perceptions. It reconstitutes reality, and a person with schizophrenia might see, or, more often, hear things that others do not. The language of schizophrenic people is particularly compelling. A schizophrenic might speak in constant poetry. Metaphors and other abstractions mire their speech, making their intent a beautiful mystery. While the doctor did not explicitly state that Henry’s tour of duty triggered his decline, it’s hard to see how war didn’t at least worsen something that’s often at least partly genetic.

In the years after his diagnosis, Henry experienced bouts of homelessness, but as he aged, he returned more and more to his childhood home in Norwalk. This tract home sat unoccupied after my grandmother remarried. Henry stuffed the house full of treasures salvaged from dumpsters or exchanged for pennies at swap meets. My father and brother used to drive three to four hours from Santa Maria to visit Henry every month.

In 2012, during an historic summer heat wave, Henry’s neighbor phoned my father after seeing Henry collapse in his front yard. I lived 20 minutes away so my father asked me to meet the social workers he called about Henry.

I met two male social workers on nearby train tracks—tracks my father and Henry played on as children. The social workers lectured me on Henry’s civil rights, stressing that it was unlikely that they could do anything for him. I nodded, silently cried, and walked them to the driveway. The color disappeared from their faces when they saw my dehydrated uncle, looking like a castaway, crouched on a strip of soiled carpet. Grime, including his own feces and urine, caked his clothes and person. He held a pair of rusty, yet sharp, shears at arms length. He aimed these at the men.

The social worker standing nearest to Henry unhooked his phone from its holster. He dialed and said, “I’m going to need a bus and back up.”

An ambulance drove Henry to a Long Beach hospital. I followed behind the gurney as paramedics wheeled Henry into the psychiatric unit. There, I helped him bathe and change into a gown, and placed his clothes and belongings in a plastic bag.

After about four hours, a doctor came. He shook hands with Henry and introduced himself, and then my uncle issued one of the perfectly crisp proclamations he occasionally makes: Henry Gurba. United States Army. Second Lieutenant. Artillery. I served in Vietnam.”

Then, he mumbled, “You look like Shatner.”

“What?” asked the doctor.

“My uncle says you look like William Shatner,” I said. “He’s complimenting you. You’re charismatic. Like Captain Kirk.”

I had unofficially become Henry’s translator.

Mostly I glean what he means through deductive reasoning. For example, Henry once pointed to empty wall space above his bed, where his calendar had been hanging, and said, “My chickens flew away. Have you seen them?” Each calendar month features a large, glossy hen photo. Chickens mark Henry’s concept of time.

“We’ll find your calendar,” I promised. We did.

Decoding his intent is a matter of listening, and looking, and keeping track of the other relationships in his “thicktionary.” But Henry needs more than translation.

Getting him proper care has been a battle. When my father went to the VA Santa Maria Clinic to ask how he could get medical care for Henry, a representative insisted Henry had to go to a VA hospital to seek it. When my father protested that Henry’s mental illness made that complicated, the representative insisted that Henry’s “military training would make it easy for him to navigate the system.” But aside from the initial diagnosis, the VA has done nothing to attend to his psychological needs.

Henry doesn’t necessarily want care from the VA either—though we family members know he’s entitled to it. He doesn’t trust the army or anything related to it. He once told my father, “They tried to kill me once. I’m not going to give them a second chance.” The only time we experienced timely attention was after we phoned Congresswoman Grace Napolitano’s office. The VA has also failed to place Henry in one of its nursing facilities, even though we requested it about a year ago. Medi-Cal, health insurance for low-income Californians, covers Henry’s care at the residential nursing facility where he lives now.

But of the dangers Henry has faced, the worst is loneliness. That’s why Henry knows the name of every resident, doctor, clerk, administrator, nurse, and orderly at his nursing facility, and when he sees them, he smiles and greets them. They smile back and greet him.

I moved to within five minutes of Henry in Long Beach and visit him at least twice a week. I take him to the Santa Monica Pier, Chinatown, the tar pits, and the zoo—places that evoke childhood memories or that have animals.

During our outings, Henry often talks to strangers and I watch, observing how once Henry’s words dip into the poetry of schizophrenia, listeners’ facial expressions shift. Their facial features conspire to say, “This dude is crazy.” They turn and walk away.

But my time with him has taught me that, with love—and by love, I don’t mean greeting-card sentiments but love founded on expansive curiosity— Henry can be understood. And one of the primary shifts in my understanding of Henry is that it’s easy to feel that he is a danger. It’s harder, but vastly more loving and real, to appreciate how for him, everything is dangerous.

Myriam Gurba is a teacher, artist, and writer. She wrote Dahlia Season, a novella and short story collection, and Wish You Were Me, a poetry collection. She writes an irregular arts and literature column at radarproductions.org. This piece first appeared at Zocalo Public Square.

 

TIME psychology

Hooray for the Mundane! Ordinary Memories Are the Best

Life's peak experiences sometimes pale in comparison to the routine business of living, a new study shows. That "what is ordinary now becomes more extraordinary in the future" can have some positive implications for our state of mind

Never mind those dreamy recollections of your fab trip to Rome or that perfect night out last Valentine’s Day. Want a memory with some real sizzle? How about that time last week you went out for a tuna sandwich with the guy in the next cubicle? Or that trip to the supermarket on Sunday? Hot stuff, eh?

Actually, yes. Ordinary memories, it turns out, may be a lot less ordinary than they seem—or at least a lot more memorable—according to a nifty new study published in the journal Psychological Science. And that can have some positive implications for our state of mind.

It’s not entirely surprising that the experiences we often think should have the greatest impact on us sometimes don’t. For one thing, we tend to expect too much of them. The first time you stand in the Colosseum or stare up at the Eiffel Tower is a gobsmacker alright, but while those moments nicely enhance your life, they typically don’t change them. What’s more, in the weeks and years that follow, we tend to re-run the memory loop of the experience over and over and over again. Like a song you hear too much, it finally becomes too familiar. To test how much we underestimate—yet genuinely appreciate—the appeal of our more mundane experiences, a group of researchers at Harvard University’s school of business devised a multi-part study.

In the first part, 106 undergraduate volunteers were asked to compile an online, nine-item time capsule that included such unremarkable items as an inside joke they share with somebody, a list of three songs they were currently listening to, a recent status update on Facebook, an excerpt from a final class paper and a few recollections of a recent social event. They sealed the virtual capsule at the beginning of summer and were asked to predict how interested they’d be, on a scale of 1 to 7, in rereading each item when they reopened it a few months later, and how surprised they thought they’d be by the details of the contents.

After the students did get that opportunity at the beginning of the fall semester, they used the same 1 to 7 scale to rate how meaningful and interesting they found the items. On item after item, the interest, curiosity and surprise they felt was significantly higher than what they had anticipated three months earlier.

In the second part of the study, a different pool of participants did something similar, but this time wrote about a recent conversation they had, rated it on whether it was an ordinary or extraordinary one (what they had for dinner the night before, say, compared to the news of a new romantic interest), and predicted again how interested they thought they’d be about reading the description a few months down the line. Here too, they wound up lowballing those predictions—finding themselves much more interested than they predicted they’d be. And significantly, the more mundane the conversation they described was, the wider the gap between their anticipated interest in it and their actual interest when they re-read the description.

The third part of the study replicated the second, but this time used only volunteers who did have a romantic partner, and asked them to describe and anticipate their later interest in an ordinary evening the two of them had spent on or before Feb. 8, 2013, and the one they’d spent one week later, on Feb. 14. Here too, the Valentine date did less well than the subjects expected compared to the surprise and pleasure they felt in reading about the routine date.

“What is ordinary now becomes more extraordinary in the future,” said lead researcher Ting Zhang, in a statement that accompanied the study’s release. “People find a lot of joy in rediscovering a music playlist from three months ago or an old joke with a neighbor, even if those things did not seem particularly meaningful in the moment.”

One way to correct this imbalance—to take more pleasure in the day-to-day, nothing-special business of living—is merely to try to be more cognizant of those moments as they go by. Another, say Zhang and her colleagues, is to document them more, either by writing them down or, in the social media era, by sharing them. But there are limits.

“[T]he 5,000 pictures from one’s ‘extraordinary’ wedding may be excessive,” the researchers write. The same is true, they warn, about photo-documenting every plate of food that’s set in front of you rather than just getting down to the pleasurable business of eating it—a practice that they say is leading to “an unhealthy narcissism” growing society-wide. Recording our lives for the biopics that are constantly playing out in our heads is fine, but sometimes that has to give way simply to living those lives.

TIME Business

5 Ways To Be an Airplane Aggravation

Passengers sit with their luggage while waiting to board a flight in the domestic terminal at Sydney Airport in Sydney, Aug. 27, 2014.
Passengers sit with their luggage while waiting to board a flight in the domestic terminal at Sydney Airport in Sydney, Aug. 27, 2014. Brendon Thorne—Bloomberg/Getty Images

There are more passengers than the seat recliners who ought to be tossed off flights—preferably at 10,000 feet

Another flight, another fight. This time, a Delta flight to West Palm Beach from New York was diverted to Jacksonville over another dispute about reclining seats. The war between the recliners and decliners has broken into the open as airline travel continues to get decidedly more angry. I’ve already pledged my flying allegiance to the decliners — I don’t go back and I don’t think the passenger in front of me ought to, either. And I’m more than a little cranky about it.

But let’s not stop here. There are more passengers than the seat recliners who ought to be tossed off flights — preferably at 10,000 ft. — although that’s a good place to start. The list of uncivil aviation offenses just begins with the people who insist on intruding on my personal space. Here are other things you can do to qualify as the complete airline a-hole:

1) In the lounge, hog all available outlets with your myriad devices — phone, tablet, laptop, and headphones — and then start talking loudly on your mobile. Because you’re so, so important, aren’t you. Ignore the dirty looks for everyone within 25 yards of you. Yes, we’re still staring at you.

2) Try to barge on the plane before your row is called. Just act stupid — it won’t be a reach — and proclaim complete surprise when you reach the agent. All of these people should go to the back of the line — uh-huh, just like grade school — but the gate agents seem to have given up the fight. Can’t say I blame them, but if the carriers are going to go through the trouble of sequential boarding, a little enforcement wouldn’t hurt. Except in France, where this is completely futile.

3) Bring an oversized rolling suitcase, a briefcase, plus a couple of shopping bags on board and get ticked off when you can’t fit it all in the overheads. Extra annoyance points for arriving late. Then, keep opening bins that are already full until stuff cascades onto another passenger. Then act frustrated because you have to pick up the stuff you just knocked over. Yes, this is yet another case where the carriers are the root cause. Since the airlines have added outrageous fees for checked baggage, people naturally want to bring their stuff on board. All of it. So passengers push the envelop with oversized bags and everything from guitars to cases of wine, slowing the boarding process and sowing hostility because there isn’t room for all their stuff.

4) Once seated, take as much room as you can. That’s right, use both armrests for yourself. Spread your feet out until you make contact with the passenger next to you. Of course you are going to recline your seat with saying anything — slam — right into the knees of the guy behind you.

5) Now, when the plane taxies to the gate, push your way back to where you stowed some of your stuff, and then push your way forward to get back to your seat. Then, try to beat the passengers across the row into the aisle, so you can leave the jet 15 seconds faster than them. And be sure to complain about something on your way out.

You’re never going to fly this airline again, you say? Great. Can you start today?

TIME

The New Job Every City Needs

Urban centers need to anticipate environmental disasters--not just clean them up. A resiliency officer can help

For the first time in human history, the majority of the world’s population (currently 7.1 billion) lives in urban settings. While urban living offers many attractions — employment opportunities, higher education, entertainment, health care, and public transportation – the changes we make to the natural landscape to accommodate and support our current population often makes us vulnerable to human and environmental threats. And when disasters strike urban areas, many lives are threatened and upended.

For instance, think about how we have built right up to shorelines in the New York City area and how quickly Hurricane Sandy flooded streets and subway terminals in 2012. Consider the way Hurricane Katrina overwhelmed the levee systems and devastated New Orleans in 2005. And the list of urban crises goes on: Fukushima, Japan (2011), the floods in Fort Lyons and Boulder, Colorado (2013), tornadoes in Moore, Oklahoma, and the deadly European (2003) and Chicago (1995) heat waves.

For all its attractive features, L.A., too, is vulnerable. Los Angeles is not only vulnerable to acute disasters like earthquakes and floods, but we also experience chronic hazards like air pollution and high temperatures. After all, the city is in a three-year drought and is vulnerable to 13 of the 16 federally-designated natural disasters. (The three we don’t have: volcanic eruption, snowstorms and tornadoes).

Strengthening our city is the motivation behind the recent announcement that Los Angeles will create the position of Chief Resilience Officer. L.A. is one of the first 32 cities to create such a position, as part of a campaign backed by the Rockefeller Foundation. The goal of the program is to build urban resiliency around the world by pursuing collaborations across government, private, and non-profit sectors to address complex human, environmental, and economic challenges.

In addition to the city’s emergency management departments – the fire department equipped with search and rescue capabilities, and a well-trained police force – to respond to acute disasters, L.A. needs one person to lead a city-wide effort to make the important and thoughtful decisions that will increase resiliency while reducing vulnerability to human and environmental threats in the future.

What does resilience mean in this context? The Worldwatch Institute, an environmental research organization, defines resilience as the ability of natural or human systems to survive in the face of great change. Resilient systems possess the ability to return to a state of equilibrium following a disturbance while non-resilient systems struggle to restore equilibrium or fail to recover altogether.

To work on both these strategies, the job of the Los Angeles Chief Resilience Officer requires several different types of skills: the local knowledge to know what risks the city faces; the technical capacity to do the planning; and the ability to bring together very different kinds of people – from scientists to politicians to media and neighborhood leaders.

By way of example, consider how the Chief Resilience Officer might confront repeated heat waves in the city. Before the heat wave, the CRO would work to redesign our city to minimize exposure – adding trees and green spaces that have cooling effects (L.A. River restoration plans, especially removing the concrete, would have benefits here); coordinating heat warnings with the National Weather Service also would be important. During the heat event, the city could provide cooling centers, water and aid stations, and health services to assist people in need. Post-heat wave, the CRO would work to return residents and the city to normal. Think how complex such work would be on this one subject – and then think about all the other threats Los Angeles faces.

The benefits of such work would go far beyond preparation and response to disaster. Resilience planning can create jobs for those engaged in the work, add to knowledge and science as the city gathers and analyzes data on its vulnerabilities, and improve education (in part by involving scholars and other experts in the work). Incorporating technology into these planning efforts could create easily available real-time, geo-referenced data regarding evacuation routes and hazards during a disaster through social media. And once we learn lessons on effective resiliency planning, we can share them with others. The Dutch, for instance, are experts in land reclamation and levees, and they provided their expertise to New Orleans officials dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

If the CRO is to succeed, people around Los Angeles will have to collaborate as never before, and many of us – at least in the academic sector — are eager to contribute to this work, and learn from it.

In fact, students in my USC program on GeoDesign­ — a first-of-its-kind major that brings together architecture, planning, and spatial sciences – have already started investigating how resilience can be engineered. And younger students, from kindergarten to high school, can be engaged as well, through class projects and field trips.

The appointment of a Chief Resilience Officer to Los Angeles is a demonstration of global leadership. It’s also timely because, unlike New Orleans or New York, LA has not experienced a major disaster recently. L.A. can get a head start on investing in critical infrastructure and services before we encounter the disasters that we know are on their way.

Darren Ruddell is assistant professor and director of undergraduate studies at the Spatial Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California. This piece first appeared on Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Education

Don’t Segregate My Special Needs Child

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andresr—Getty Images

But by not integrating children with mental illness into the general school population, we contribute to the ongoing stigma

This week, all my friends are posting Facebook and Instagram pictures of their adorable children, whose forced grins and too-neat clothes suggest that the kids aren’t quite as thrilled as their mothers about the inevitable return to school. But for parents of children who have a mental illness or a developmental disability like autism, back-to-school preparation feels more like manning a war room, complete with strategies, maps and complex diagrams. The enemy? Unfortunately, it’s likely to be the very people tasked with helping your child to succeed: his teachers and administrators.

If your child has behavioral symptoms associated with his or her diagnosis, it’s likely that you’ve experienced that painful phone call—probably right in the middle of an important work presentation–unleashing an arsenal of assessments and tests and meetings with teachers, counselors and administrators. The end product is likely either a Section 504 plan, named for that section of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, or the dreaded Individualized Education Program (IEP), which is essentially a contract with your child’s school to ensure that he or she receives a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) under The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Have I lost you with the acronyms yet? Even if you earned your Ph.D. in astrophysics, you may soon discover that getting an appropriate education for your special needs child is harder than rocket science. Parents are forced to become instant experts, not only in the complexities of their child’s condition, but also in disability rights. I hate to break this to you, but the school district is not your ally in this fight for your child’s education. Neither are the parents of so-called neurotypical children, who don’t understand why their children’s learning environment should be disrupted by your “weird kid” (yes, I have heard that phrase more than once about my bright, funny, sensitive boy).

Combine that already adversarial relationship between parents and schools with well-intentioned but misguided zero-tolerance policies, and you find school districts creating IEP solutions like the one they used for my child: pull-out programs for all children on behavioral IEPs, complete with padded isolation rooms. At first glance, this might seem like an ideal solution: the neurotypical kids get to learn without disruptions, and the students with mental illness and/or developmental disabilities have a safe environment with additional dedicated support from teaching assistants. And since it’s a contained program, it saves the district money in the short term—and we all know how thin most school districts are stretched.

But I would suggest there is an uglier word for this approach to education: segregation.

What is the logical consequence of taking 100 students with behavioral and emotional symptoms between the ages of 12 to 21, 95% of whom are male, and putting them together in a program that will not allow them to earn a high school diploma or to learn to interact with neurotypical peers?

In our society, too often the consequence is prison.

Zero-tolerance policies were developed in the wake of the 1999 Columbine shootings as a way to reassure parents that their children were safe in public school. Statistically speaking, they are safe, and they were safe before zero-tolerance policies too. Just like your chances of dying in an airplane crash are far less than the chances of dying in a car accident, we ascribe far more risk to the school environment than actually exists because of the media ever-presence of statistically rare mass shootings like Columbine or Newtown.

But by not integrating children with mental illness, which admittedly sometimes manifests through challenging behavioral symptoms like unpredictable rage, into the general school population, we are contributing to the ongoing stigma of mental illness. Worse, more often than not, we are condemning these children to prison.

Children like my son are not “bad” kids; in fact, with the right support and treatment plan, they can survive and thrive in public school, and beyond. As a society, we should be investing our resources in educating all of our kids. Early prevention and treatment can change the entire course of a child’s life. Instead of a life on the streets or in jail, a child with mental illness can graduate from college and have a successful career. This school year, I hope that parents, teachers, administrators and legislators will do the math. By complying with IDEA and providing appropriate education to all children, we can save money—and lives—down the road.

Liza Long is a mother, educator and author of The Price of Silence: A Mom’s Perspective on Mental Illness, from Hudson Street Press.

TIME Parenting

ADHD in Adulthood: To Prepare for a New Baby, I Had to Prepare My Mental Health

The author with his son Jack.
The author with his son Jack. Courtesy Timothy Denevi

Soon enough we’ll find ourselves short on sleep and patience—in anticipation I’ve been trying to make the necessary preparations

This fall I’m expecting the birth of my second child, a daughter. Over the past months she’s grown from the size of a kumquat, to the size of a banana, and recently achieved the esteemed gradation of cabbage. From what I can tell the final step is cantaloupe—and then, having triumphed through the full prenatal catalog of produce, Sylvia Denevi, the newest member of our family, will be here.

For now the focus is on preparation. My wife and I live in a suburb of Washington, D.C., with our seven-year-old son, Jack. Together we’ve begun to make the expected adjustments. The guest room is now a nursery. The garage has been searched and reorganized, its assortment of baby gear emerging again like relics from a previous life.

I see my preparation for Sylvia’s arrival as love: the first opportunity I have to tell her I love her, that she’s precious to me, that I’ll do whatever it takes to be the best father I can be. I’ve also been taking the steps to prepare myself, within the context of mental health, for the change that’s about to come.

Growing up in the 1980s and 90s, I was part of the first generation of Americans to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder. There was never really a question of whether or not I had ADHD, and after years of being the most active, over-sensitive, and impulsive person in the room—after a childhood of psychiatric and psychological treatments, some of which helped, others making things worse—I graduated from college and entered the workforce, at which point my personality no longer seemed as exaggerated and out-of-whack as it had once been. In the end I figured that whatever ADHD was, it was a part of the past.

That understanding changed when Jack was born. At the time I was 27. All at once I found myself surrounded by an enormous amount of conflict—the same kind I used to experience, growing up, when my behavior would drive the people around me crazy. It was uncanny: my wife would say something, and I’d overreact, and she’d say something else, and then I’d be shouting, and glaring, and shouting again. We argued constantly over the new demands: diaper changes, midnight feedings, who got to take a midday nap and who had to do the grocery shopping. Soon enough our lives began to resemble a ledger. I did this and you didn’t do that. My time is just as important than yours! You want to go to the gym for an hour but I can’t play softball tomorrow night? Instead of finding a way to share the new amount of work that was required of us, we spent hours fighting.

My wife is a scientist, thoughtful and logical, traits that have always fit well with my more energetic demeanor, and up until Jack was born our relationship was steady. But now it seemed as if our personalities had switched; at the end the day she’d be yelling at me and I’d turn sullen and depressed.

I felt overwhelmed. Like I couldn’t do the simplest things. It was as if I was underwater, gazing up toward a normal reality—one in which every other new parent seemed to deal well enough—while I was the abnormal one, a failure, once again a problem for the people who loved me. It was the most distant I’d felt from my wife since we’d been together.

“You’ve never been like this,” she told me. And while there were other variables involved—we’d moved across the country right after Jack was born, were at precarious points in our careers, and didn’t have extended family around to help—it was clear that if I didn’t act soon I’d run the risk of damaging my relationship with my family in a way that couldn’t easily be undone.

Eventually I went to see my family doctor, and then a psychiatrist. When I explained my moodiness and agitation they said the same thing: ADHD, even in adulthood, tends to make you much more sensitive than other people to your surrounding environment. If you’re constantly feeling restless and impulsive, you might react to demands in a disproportionate way—and there are few things more destabilizing than the birth of a child.

There wasn’t one thing I could do to magically make things better, they told me—that’s not how mental illness works. Instead, they recommended a series of steps. For the first time I started exercising regularly; I paid careful attention to my sleeping and eating habits; I even went on a low dosage of Adderall, which helped to make everything seem less drastic and overwhelming.

Eventually things improved, but not right away. It was a genuinely hard stretch for my wife and I—part of the reason, no doubt, we’ve waited a while to have another baby. But now, seven years later, as the summer turns to fall and Sylvia continues in her ascension through an aisle at the grocery store, we can take solace in the fact that we both have a much better idea of the changes to expect.

Soon enough we’ll find ourselves short on sleep. And time. And stamina. I’ll be less resilient in terms of mood and patience. In anticipation I’ve been trying to make the necessary preparations.

I started psychotherapy, visiting a psychologist regularly both by myself and with my wife. I’ve set up my exercise schedule with an emphasis on cardiovascular activities like running and tennis, the most beneficial to mental health. I’m trying to cut down on social events and alcohol—two things I very much enjoy. And I find myself making observations about my own sleeping and eating that are usually directed at seven-year-olds: Do you really think it’s a smart decision to start another television show this close to bedtime? If you’re sweating and your stomach already hurts, maybe that fifth piece of pizza isn’t the best decision…

I’ve also talked with my psychiatrist about the possibility of making a medication adjustment. (I hate being on medication anyway, and prefer to take as low as dose as possible.) The Adderall I’m on is the instant-release kind; my current approach is to take it ahead of time when I know I’m about to find myself in situations that are especially overwhelming or agitating—a birthday party for one of Jack’s friends at Chuck E. Cheese; driving through an unfamiliar snarl of D.C. traffic—but what happens when the foresight necessary for such an approach is already eroded by a lack of sleep and/or a screaming infant? I can try a time-release version, or a new medication.

One of the most difficult aspects of mental illness, especially within the context of parenthood, is finding a way, when it comes to your life and its influence on the people you love, to do more good than harm. In the end you can’t possibly predict what’s really coming: the moment in the future that will dislodge you from the balance you’ve worked so hard to achieve. It might be a random calamity, or one you’ve personally brought about. But the incredible truth is that it’s already on the way. And against such a prospect, what good can something like a therapist or exercise or a low-dosage pyschostimulant actually do?

This isn’t to dismiss the idea of effort. In fact it’s the opposite: imagining all the things that could go wrong or right for my family, I can’t help but find solace in action. I’m lucky that there are steps I can take, and that often enough they do tend to help. What matters is the act itself: an expression of love for the most important people in my life. After all, there are many ways to show how you feel; is it so terrible that one of mine happens to take the form of self-preparedness?

A few weeks ago, when Jack was looking through the toys in his closet and trying to guess which, if any, his future sister might enjoy, he turned to me and said, “Daddy, I have a question.”

I could tell by the line of his mouth that it was something he’d been considering for a while. “Yeah?”

“What do you think Sylvia will be like?”

Briefly the image of a pumpkin with very long eyelashes flashed into my mind, but in the next instant was something outside the parameters of size and shape: an emotion similar enough to anticipation. “A little like you,” I said. “And like Mommy. A little like me, too, I think.”

He nodded.

“That’s the exciting part,” I added. “Whoever she’s going to be, she’ll be herself.”

Hyper, by Timothy Denevi Courtesy Simon & Schuster

Timothy Denevi is the author of Hyper: A Personal History of ADHD, out this week from Simon & Schuster. He received his MFA in nonfiction from the University of Iowa. He lives near Washington, DC and teaches in the MFA program at George Mason University, where he’s a visiting writer.

TIME Opinion

Stop Blaming Jennifer Lawrence and Other Celebrities for Taking Nude Photos in the First Place

Jennifer Lawrence
Jennifer Lawrence Mike Coppola—Getty Images

If your reaction to the hack attack on celebrities is to blame them for taking nude photos, you're pointing the finger at the wrong person.

There have been a lot of reactions to the massive leak of nude photos of some of Hollywood’s biggest celebrities, including actress Jennifer Lawrence and model Kate Upton, after an anonymous user posted stolen images to image-sharing website 4chan. But one of the most mind-boggling reactions has come from the people who say, “If you don’t take nude photos, they can’t be stolen.”

This is not a fringe reaction. From Ricky Gervais to rapper RZA to many people across the internet, there seems to be a common idea that the horrible and humiliating invasion of these women’s privacy and the theft of their property is in some way their own fault. When Mary Elizabeth Winstead, one of the actresses who had naked images stolen, tweeted, “To those of you looking at photos I took with my husband years ago in the privacy of our home, hope you feel great about yourselves,” this was one of the responses she received: “‪@M_E_Winstead Stop posing nude on camera, dummy. Your husband not know what you look like nude? ‪#LessonLearned.”

Now, obviously, there is truth to this idea. A person can’t steal something that doesn’t exist. So if you don’t have nude photos, they can’t be stolen. Just like if you don’t have a car, it can’t be stolen. And if you don’t use a credit card, it can’t be compromised.

But that’s absurd, you might be saying. People need cars and they need to use credit cards, but no one needs to take nude photos of themselves. Despite the fact that neither cars, nor credit cards technically qualify as something we need, let’s parse this idea for a moment. In 2014, a huge part of our lives — working, shopping, socializing and dating — involves technology. From shopping history to credit card information to personal correspondence, digital devices store a stunning amount of personal and private information, making them an integral part of our culture. So it’s willfully naive to suggest that a person’s sex life should be kept wholly separate from that culture. Show me one person who can honestly say they’ve never taken or sent a suggestive photo, sext or email that they wouldn’t want splashed across the internet for millions to see, and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t use or understand modern technology.

Yet taking nude photos — or having a car or using a credit card — isn’t the problem here. The problem is the hacking and the stealing, in this case of something immensely private. And it’s not only a problem, it’s a crime. It’s true that posting naked photos of people without their consent is still largely a gray area, legally speaking, which is why so many revenge porn sites have exploded across the internet in recent years. But hacking and stealing photos is definitely a crime; just ask Christopher Chaney, the man currently serving a 10-year sentence for stealing and posting nude images of Scarlett Johansson and Mila Kunis, among others.

So why are people so quick to point the fingers of blame at the women who are victims of the hack? It’s likely because it’s easy — far easier than blaming a culture that nurtures this kind of misogynist attack — and also because it makes people feel safe. After all, if you’re not the kind of person who would take nude photos then you’re not the kind of person who has to worry about this kind of invasive crime, right? Yet that kind of thinking doesn’t get at the root of the problem (i.e. the hacker and protecting our devices from similar attacks) and it certainly won’t help you when it’s not celebrities who are being targeted and it’s not nude photos that are being stolen. And until people cut out the victim-blaming and focus on the real culprits, we’re all just a little bit more vulnerable.

TIME technology

Celebrity Nude Photo Hack Exposes Flaw In How We Think About Privacy and the Cloud

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Daniel Sambraus—Getty Images

We assume our data stored in the cloud is personal, but in reality it is interpersonal

The celebrity photo hacking scandal has once again put personal information privacy in the spotlight. Apple certainly has egg on their face for their failure to implement a simple level of security on their iCloud service. But some commentators, bloggers, and Twitter users are pointing fingers at the victims of the hack for keeping such photos to begin with. Do we all need to be Internet security experts to use an iPhone?

Extreme measures are not the answer. Instead, our current system of data privacy is based on a fundamental flaw. We are all supposed to be solely responsible for our personal information, but at the same time we are all part of a social network of family, friends and services with whom we are expected to share.

Our systems are set up to make us entirely responsible for safeguarding our data. We toggle innumerable privacy settings that are constantly being updated. We navigate many different online services and platforms, each with their own complications. We are told to back up our data to hard disks and clouds, and exhorted to change our passwords regularly.

At the same time, we are expected to share, share, share. Parents post photos of their kids online so that distant grandparents can follow along. Young travellers start blogs to record their adventures for friends back home. Even nude selfies are rarely taken for the subject’s enjoyment but are shared with their loved ones far away. Indeed, hacked actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead described her leaked photos as ones that “I took with my husband.”

A wide variety of technological services – not just iCloud but also Dropbox and Google Drive – have grown around this requirement for social sharing. Social mores have kept up with the trend. Now, grandparents join Facebook with the expectation that they’ll see photos of their grandchildren. To resist posting is to be a bad parent.

When you fail at this delicate balance of privacy and sharing, friends and strangers alike will line up to tell you that it’s your fault. But how can you keep control over a video of your kids when you post it for your parents? How can you stop a friend at a party from syncing a photo of you to iCloud and uploading it to Instagram, or auto-tagging you using facial recognition on Facebook or Picasa? And when a photo that you text to your friend with an iPhone now belongs both to your pal and to Apple, who is to blame when the photo leaks?

Security experts will claim that the solution to the current hack is better password protection. But even two-stage security – systems that ask for a personal fact about you like a birthdate or pet name in addition to a password – fails to account for the fact that most information about us is readily available online. Children’s names, graduation dates and old addresses are only a search term away.

An alternative view is emerging from a study I’m conducting with colleagues at Princeton University and Yahoo! labs. We are learning that our data systems ask us to be individually responsible but fail to account for how and why we share data with each other. They assume our data is personal, when in reality it is interpersonal. We are caught between opting out entirely and managing an impossible number of changing services with finesse. We do all this with our most important relationships at stake.

Let’s call this what it is: data is only “personal” when it is leaked. That’s why blaming the victims doesn’t help. The next time this happens, it won’t be the celebrities who are hacked for their photos: it will be their friends, their parents, their boyfriends and girlfriends. Everyone is vulnerable.

Keeping each other’s data safe is everyone’s responsibility. It’s time that our devices and services live up to it.

Janet Vertesi is assistant professor of sociology at Princeton University, where she is a faculty fellow at the Center for Information Technology Policy. She is a 2014 recipient of a Yahoo Faculty Research Engagement Program grant to study personal data privacy practices.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: September 2

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Teacher Standing in Front of a Class of Raised Hands Digital Vision.—Getty Images

1. As we approach the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps, President Obama should make good on his promise to expand this vital program.

By the Editorial Board of the New York Times

2. Journalists still believe they’re writing for the same old reasons, but the data shows they’re chasing clicks, changing the nature of their work.

By Angèle Christin at the Nieman Journalism Lab

3. A dangerous new trend of policing faculty speech at American universities is threatening academic freedom.

By David M. Perry in the Chronicle of Higher Education

4. “Infoladies” bring digital services – from filling online forms to collecting health data – to the people of Bangladesh, and could be expanded to serve many more.

By Syed Tashfin Chowdhury in Al Jazeera English

5. The new batteries coming from Tesla’s “Gigafactory” should remove the final barrier to mass-produced electric cars.

By Daniel Sparks in The Motley Fool

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

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