MONEY Second Career

How a 57-Year-Old On Her Second Career Launched a $10 Million Business

Im Ja Choi
Im Ja Choi (center, in white suit), founder of Penn Asian Senior Services, celebrates with clients at the opening of her agency's first adult day care facility, the Jubilee Center in Philadelphia. Courtesy Penn Asian Senior Services

Im Ja Choi saw a need for caregivers who speak foreign languages. So she started a non-profit that provides them.

After her mother was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2002, Im Ja Choi knew it was crucial to get her a home health aide once she was out of the hospital. But Choi was quickly frustrated by the difficulty of finding a caregiver in the Philadelphia area who spoke Korean, her mother’s native language. Choi quit her job as a bank vice president to take care of her mom until she found one—a process that took seven months.

That experience became the catalyst for Penn Asian Senior Services, a non-profit home health aide agency that Choi, now 65, launched in 2005 to serve the local immigrant community in Philadelphia. Today PASSi serves 455 clients and provides home care services in 11 languages. And with 400 workers workers on its payroll, it’s one of the largest Asian immigrant employers in the area. Annual revenue is about $10 million, and earlier this year the agency opened its first senior daycare center.

It’s an impressive outcome for someone who had never run a business. Choi, who emigrated to the U.S. from Korea after finishing college in 1971, had a 20-year career as a top real estate agent in Philadelphia. Then, after getting a master’s degree, she worked her way up to vice president at a local bank. But starting a business from scratch at age 57 was a wholly new challenge for Choi.

To cover initial operating costs, she took out took out a home equity line of credit for $55,000. “It took some convincing for my husband to agree,” says Choi. A long-time volunteer on Asian women’s issues, she used her local network to find public funding. She got a $50,000 grant from the county and won $900,000 in grants during the first three years of operation. “I had to learn how to write a grant application well, but it was my contacts in the community that really helped. I knew who the decision makers were,” says Choi.

She had enough savings to get by without salary for the first year and was able to repay her home loan within a few months of starting the business. She started drawing a small salary at the end of the first year, after budgeting for that income in her grant applications. “Every step of the way I was fighting for funding and looking for clients,” Choi says. When PASSi reached 175 clients, its revenue covered operating costs; in 2009 the agency began turning a profit.

Today Choi earns about $114,000 annually. It’s less than she pulled down as a banker but she feels much more satisfied by her work. “We provide a service that’s really needed,” she says. She saw proof of that with her mom. Despite a grim initial diagnosis, Choi’s mother lived another eight years, passing away in 2010 at age 93. Choi believes the culturally-based care she got was key to her long survival.

“I consider this job a privilege,” says Choi. “When you have a dream, you somehow make it come true. Now I feel like I am doing the things that I want to do.”

Im Ja Choi is a Purpose Prize Fellow. The Purpose Prize is a program operated by, a non-profit organization that recognizes social entrepreneurs over 60 who are launching second acts for the greater good.

MONEY working in retirement

How to Find Happiness in Your Second Career—and Earn Money Too

These days, the retirement-planning conversation goes something like this: How can I earn an income after my initial career and give back at the same time?

This article was originally published at

Cindy Lennartson is a 48-year-old library specialist at the University of Texas Libraries, in Austin. She has worked for a university library system for 25 years and is excited about retiring from there at 52 (when she can collect her pension) to start her next career. But she’s not quite sure how to do it.

After Lennartson read my inaugural column on rethinking retirement, “Why I’m Not Buying the Retirement Gloom,” she emailed me for insights on how she might make, and embrace, a life transition. I’ll offer them, as well as advice for others contemplating their move into “unretirement,” shortly.

The Lure of Trying Something New

To find out more about Lennartson’s situation and the future she envisions, I spoke with her. She told me that she’s a recently divorced mother of three who has loved her job and, until a few years ago, believed she’d retire at 62. But the lure of trying something new has convinced Lennartson to start reimagining her next chapter.

(MORE: Busting the Myths About Work in Retirement)

With her new plan of “retiring” at 52 when her children are out of the house, Lennartson said, she can use the next four years to find an encore career that will be meaningful and will come with a paycheck. “I’m rethinking the whole retirement thing — what else do I want to do,” she says. “I’m in the exploratory stage.”

Lennartson is far from alone. For more than three decades, the national conversation among people contemplating retirement was dominated by the haunting question: What is my number? Of course, the sum of savings we’ll need to live comfortably when we’re no longer working is disconcertingly uncertain. There’s no way of knowing what the market will return, let alone how much money will be enough to fund a lifestyle and medical bills.

The New Retirement Question

That’s why, these days, the retirement-planning conversation is increasingly focused on a different question: How can I earn an income after my initial career and give back at the same time?

Recent polls have found that most boomers expect to earn a paycheck during retirement. For example, 72% of pre-retirees age 50 and over just surveyed by Merrill Lynch and the Age Wave consulting firm said they want to work during the traditional retirement years. (You can read more about the survey in the Merrill Lynch report: Work in Retirement: Myths and Motivations, Career Reinventions and the New Retirement Workscape.)

What I found particularly striking in that survey was that many of the respondents said they see retirement “as a chance to try something new and even pursue careers dreams they were unable to explore during their pre-retirement years,” according to the report.

(MORE: Bright Spots and Challenges of Growing Older)

The Payback for Working in Retirement

The personal financial return from earning even a slim paycheck well into the traditional retirement years is big.

Your savings can continue compounding and you’ll live off your accumulated assets for a shorter period of time. A job can also allow you to delay filing for Social Security. Benefits are more than 75 percent higher if you start claiming at age 70 than at 63.

The difficult issue, as Lennartson has discovered, is figuring out what to do next — locating a paying gig that is also engaging.

Lennartson is smart to have a four-year exploration horizon and I encourage you to do the same. “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 septuagenarian founder of Retired Brains, an online job and advice portal. “The time to do it is while you’re working.”

(MORE: Change Careers With the ‘Sugar Grain’ Principle)

Why Planning Ahead Can Help

Making inroads before you retire can also help make you more valuable in retirement, as Jake Warner, the founder of, the self-help legal publisher explained to me.

“Let’s say someone thinks of themself as an environmentalist and dreams about working in environmental causes when they retire. But because of work, saving money, raising kids — all the pressures of daily life — they don’t get engaged,” said Warner. “Now they’re 70 and they have time. They head toward an environmental group they admire and say, ‘Here I am. How can I help you?’ The answer is going to be probably not much. Now, take that same person who gets involved with several local environmental groups in their 40s or 50s. At age 70, they’re valued and they’re needed. They earned it.”

The Librarian’s Encore Career

What might Lennartson do for her encore career? Well, she currently volunteers at a nonprofit, recording incarcerated fathers reading to their children and that’s an activity she finds deeply fulfilling. Perhaps there’s a paying job for her with the nonprofit or a similar endeavor.

Alternatively, since her undergraduate degree was in Spanish, she could try to land a job that would let her use her language skills.

Whatever she decides, a part-time gig would probably be best, since Lennartson wants the freedom to travel with her daughter, an activity they enjoy doing together.

Part of the equation revolves around her finances.

Running the Numbers

Lennartson had initially thought she would keep her house in retirement so her children would have a bedroom to come back to. Now, with her new next chapter mindset, she wonders if maybe just a couch is enough. A move into a smaller place would lower her expenses, giving her greater financial freedom.

Henry “Bud” Hebeler, founder of the retirement planning website, recommends Lennartson run the numbers to see how much downsizing will boost her cash flow. (That’s a useful site for anyone over 50 noodling a next act.) When she gets closer to making a shift, Lennartson could run her financial blueprint by a professional planner, he says.

As Lennartson is finding, transitions can be tricky and the process takes time. But they’re also liberating. “I feel like I am in college, so much is open to me,” says Lennartson. “It’s like I’m 21 or 22 once again,” she says. Now, that’s exciting.

Chris Farrell is economics editor for APM’s Marketplace Money, a syndicated personal finance program, and author of the forthcoming Unretirement: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and The Good Life. He will be writing on Unretirement twice a month, focusing on the personal finance and entrepreneurial start-up implications and the lessons people learn as they search for meaning and income. Tell Chris about your experiences so he can address your questions in future columns. Send your queries to him a His twitter address is @cfarrellecon.

MONEY working in retirement

Three Retirement Trends to Be Happy About

Marketers are trying to reinvent retirement, but the best choices are the same ones we've always had. And they're getting better.

Just about anyone over the age of 50 has seen the barrage of new labels for today’s post-retirement lifestyle: Retirement 2.0. Encore Careers. Next Act. Third Age. Not Your Parent’s Retirement.

Forget the marketing hype. When it comes to figuring out your retirement plan, here’s the best strategy: take a good look in the mirror. What you’ll see, if you’re really paying attention, is the definition of retirement that matters to you. And the good news is there’s more opportunity today to design the kind of retirement you want than ever before.

The more research I read, and the more experts I talk to, the more I’m convinced that nearly every kind of retirement option has been heavily road-tested by those who came before. There have always been people who continued to work during retirement—the most powerful and successful people, in fact, tend to never retire. They are having too much fun. Bill Gates will never really leave Microsoft. He continues to work longer hours “in retirement” than the rest of us do at our office jobs. Warren Buffett? They will have to pry a can of cherry coke out of his cold, cold, cold hands before he stops working.

You don’t have to be Warren Buffett, either. Plenty of ordinary people have reinvented their lives in their later years. Older people have always made great entrepreneurs as well as creative artists and inspirational leaders. Often, having a lot of money has nothing to do with the levels of engagement and enjoyment that older people derive from being busy. Sunset years? Hardly.

Continued work in your later years will make your lifestyle during whatever-you-want-to-call-retirement easier to afford—and more comfortable and enjoyable as well. Here are three key trends that should put a smile on your face when you look in the mirror:

Living longer. Yes, you need to make realistic allowances for health problems. But most of us should assume we will live two or three decades past age 65. Take a look at this 2011 life expectancy data from the National Center for Vital Statistics. As you can see, someone age 70 can expect to live to nearly 86, on average:

Age Remaining Life Expectancy (Yrs.)
40 40.6
45 36
50 31.5
55 27.2
60 23.1
65 19.2
70 15.5
75 12.1
80 9.1
85 6.5
90 4.6
95 3.2
100 2.3


Of course, average numbers disguise a lot of differences. People with college educations, who tend to earn more money, will live a lot longer than average life expectancy. So run the numbers as if you plan on lasting to age 100, and update your will to bequeath what’s left over if you don’t.

Improved healthcare. The quality of your medical care will be better than ever. Once the wrenching transition to Obamacare has moved into our rearview mirror—and it eventually will—what we’ll see in front of us is a huge shift toward wellness. Not only will our lives be longer but we live more of that time in good health. Yes, there eventually will be a fall-off into frailty. But increasingly that period won’t occur until just before our death. The technical phrase for this doesn’t sound pretty: compressed morbidity. But the trend is terrific. Better healthcare, more effective drugs and physically active lifestyles are a ticket to a higher quality of life in our later years.

Market power. As our society ages, older people are becoming a new mainstream group. Companies are shaping new products and sales pitches for us—they know that older people control the lion’s share of the nation’s wealth. So we’re likely to see a new wave of positive attention to older Americans. Of course, that’s what companies do to sell stuff. What’s important here is the growing visibility of older Americans, which will encourage a celebration of the diverse and interesting paths they have decided to follow in old age. And in turn, more older Americans will be encouraged try and succeed at lots of different things in their later lives. That will benefit all generations.

Philip Moeller is an expert on retirement, aging and health. He is an award-winning business journalist and a research fellow at the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College. Reach him at or @PhilMoeller on Twitter.

MONEY working in retirement

Don’t Buy Into the Retirement Gloom

Senior in the workplace
Thomas Barwick—Getty Images

In the emerging Unretirement movement, you are your best investment.

This story was originally published at Next Avenue.

Gray wave. Age wave. Geezer tsunami. (Pick your favorite — or most hated — euphemism.) Catchphrases like these capture the realization that we’re living longer and that older Americans make up a growing share of the population. As economist Laurence Kotlikoff and columnist Scott Burns say in The Coming Generational Storm: “The aging of America isn’t a temporary event. We are well into a change that is permanent, irreversible, and very long term.”

Living longer should be a trend worth celebrating. But many people believe that America’s boomers can’t afford retirement, let alone a decent retirement. They fear that aging boomers are inevitably hurtling toward a lower standard of living.

And here’s their evidence: We’ve just been through the worst downturn since the 1930s, decimating jobs and pensions. Retirement savings are slim. Surveys show that boomers aren’t spending much time planning for retirement. The prediction that the swelling tab for Social Security and other old-age entitlements will push the U.S. government and economy into a Greece-like collapse seems almost routine.

The Unretirement Movement

Don’t buy into the retirement gloom. I’m not.

Here’s why: The signs of a grassroots push to reinvent the last third of life are unmistakable. Call it the “Unretirement” movement — and it is a movement.

Unretirement starts with the insight that earning a paycheck well into the traditional retirement years will make a huge difference in our future living standards. You — and your skills and talents — are your best retirement investment. What’s more, if society taps into the talents and abilities of sixty-somethings and seventy-somethings, employers will benefit, the economy will be wealthier and funding entitlements will be much easier.

The Unretirement movement is built off a series of broad, mutually reinforcing changes in the economy and society that are transforming an aging workforce into a powerful economic asset. Boomers are the most educated generation in U.S. history and they’re healthier, on average, than previous generations. A century-long trend toward a declining average age of retirement has already reversed itself and — it’s safe to say — you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

“Many people aren’t slowing down in their 60s and 70s,” says Ross Levin, a certified financial planner and president of Accredited Investors in Edina, Minn. Adds Nicole Maestas, economist at the Rand Corp., the Santa Monica, Calif.-based think tank: “Yes, America has an aging population. The upside of that is a whole generation of people who are interested in anything but retirement.”

Your ‘Next Big Thing

Just ask Luanne Mullin, 60. She has done marketing for a dance company, opened a theater company and run a recording studio. These days, Mullin is a project manager at the University of California, San Francisco, overseeing the construction of scientific laboratories (she does mediation at the school on the side).

“I think there’s more and more of us at 60 who are saying, ‘OK, what’s my next career? What do I want to do that’s fulfilling?’” Mullin told me. “I’m all for what’s my next big thing.”Mullin loves her work, but she’s also wrestling with the same questions as many of her peers. “What is this aging thing?” she wonders. “Am I living fully? Is this the second half of life I dreamed of, or if not, how do I pull it together?”

When Unretirement is Tougher

For many in their 50s and 60s, the transition to Unretirement is much tougher — especially for those who are involuntarily unemployed, like Debbie Nowak.

She didn’t see the layoff coming. Nowak worked for more than 30 years in customer relations for the pensions and benefits department at Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., In November 2011, at 58, she lost her job there.

Nowak, who has a high school diploma, let herself grieve until the holidays were over. In the New Year, she got her severance, went on unemployment and began thinking about embracing something completely different from her old job. “I never thought of myself as a risk taker,” she says. “After 30 years, I thought I should take a risk.”

Nowak had a stained glass hobby, making window panes, mosaic trays, and other objects. That led her to the idea of working in the wood finishing and furniture-restoring business. Last year, she got a certificate from The National Institute for Wood Finishing at Dakota Community Technical College in Rosemount, Minn. To pay for it, Nowak took out a loan and the state chipped in from its displaced workers fund.

Today, she has a part-time job at small furniture-restoration company. “It’s a crap shoot, a risk I was willing to take,” says Nowak. “This is also a way to produce additional income in retirement.”

As Mullin and Nowak demonstrate, we’re living though a period of experimentation while redefining retirement. Many people are stumbling about, searching for an encore career, a part-time job or contract work that offers them meaning and an income.

Some find it extremely tough to get hired, cobbling together a job here and a contract there, assuming they’re healthy. Especially vulnerable are less-educated workers who never made much money or never had jobs with employer-sponsored retirement and health benefits.

How Society Will Change

The rise of Unretirement calls for a whole cluster of changes in how society rewards work, creates jobs, shares the wealth and deals with old age. Unretirement will affect where Americans live out their lives, too, as they seek communities and services equipped for them.

Taken altogether, boomers will construct a new vision of their retirement years, which will impact how younger generations will think about their careers.

“People tend to learn from examples or stories handed down from previous generations — but there are few stories to navigate the new context of old age and retirement for the baby boomers,” writes Joseph Coughlin, the infectiously enthusiastic head of MIT’s AgeLab, a multi-disciplinary center. “When there are no set rules you make them up. The future of old age will be improvised.”

Send Your Unretirement Questions

This blog aims to take a first draft at the Unretirement improv act. I’ll particularly focus on the personal finance and entrepreneurial start-up implications of the movement. I’ll talk about successes and failures, the impediments of age discrimination and the lessons people learn as they search for meaning and income in their next chapters.

Most of all, I hope to hear from you and find out about your experiences so I can address your questions in future columns. Send your queries to me at My twitter address is @cfarrellecon.

Peter Drucker, the late philosopher of management, noted that every once in a while, society crosses a major divide. “Within a few short decades, society rearranges itself — its worldview; its basic values; its social and political structure; its arts; its key institutions,” Drucker wrote in Post-Capitalist Society. “Fifty years later there is a new world.”

The transformation of retirement into Unretirement marks such a divide. Welcome to a revolution in the making.

Chris Farrell is economics editor for APM’s Marketplace Money, a syndicated personal finance program, and author of the forthcoming Unretirement: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and The Good Life. He will be writing on Unretirement twice a month.

Related Links:

‘Partial Retirement’ Is On the Rise

A Manual for Encore Careers


MONEY working in retirement

It’s Never Too Late For A Second Act

Baby boomer entrepreneurs in bakery
Small business owners working in bakery together. John Lund/Marc Romanelli—Getty Images/Blend Images

Do you have what it takes to be a boomer entrepreneur? Get ready: you're likely to change gears in unexpected ways.

Heading toward retirement, but you want to keep working? The best move is to find another job in your field, perhaps part-time or or as a consultant—right?

Maybe not. Sure, you’ve amassed tons of expertise in your industry after working in it for the past decade or two. But there’s a wider world out there. Many older Americans are opting for a completely different career after they leave their former jobs, according to a new Merrill Lynch survey on work and retirement.

Nearly 50% of retirees say they either have, or intend to, stay employed during their retirement, according to the survey. Not a surprise, given today’s meager 401(k) balances. But what’s striking is how many people ended up with brand new careers.Nearly 60% of working retirees are in jobs that are completely different from their pre-retirement work, with many in education and white-collar jobs, according to demographers Age Wave, who contributed to the study.

Working retirees also tend to be entrepreneurs. They are three times more likely than other workers age 50 and older to own their own business or be self-employed, according to the study, which gathered data on nearly 7,000 pre-retirees and retirees, both working and non-working. “Retirees often make for the best entrepreneurs. Many have decades of experience, business contacts and the financial means to start a successful business,” says Bill Hunter, director of personal retirement strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

While some retirees are working primarily for the income, more report doing it to stay busy and involved: 62% of working retirees say they work to stay mentally active, compared with 31% who say money is the top reason.

Busting another myth, most older entrepreneurs say age discrimination didn’t drive them to work for themselves: 82% of these “retire-preneurs” as Merrill Lynch is branding them, say they started their own business because they wanted to work on their own terms. Only 14% reported that they had to start their own company because they otherwise couldn’t find work.

“Working in retirement is often a chance to try something new or pursue a dream,” says Mary Beth Izard, a start-up consultant and author of BoomerPreneurs. If a brand-new second act appeals to you, start developing your plans now. Taking on a new career challenge in your retirement years isn’t easy, and a start-up venture can drain your nest egg fast.

Lay the groundwork in the five years before you plan to retire, says Izard. If you want to go into a new career, begin by taking classes, as well as working part-time or or as a volunteer for an organization involved in the field you are interested in. And if you go the entrepreneur route, starting researching the costs and income potential of that new business well before you start sinking money into it.

For more tips on embarking on an entreprenurial second act, click here.


MONEY retirement planning

Social Security is the Best Deal

Alicia Munnell, 71, professor of management, Boston College, © M. Cody Pickens Photography 2013

Social Security isn't going anywhere. And it's time to get smart about how to use it.

Choppy markets and rising health care costs needn’t stop you from having the money for the retirement you want. We asked five of the brightest minds in retirement planning for their big ideas to help you cruise through the obstacles.

Below, advice from our fifth expert, Alicia Munnell, one the nation’s leading retirement researchers.

Big idea: Social Security is the best deal going

Just nine years ago President George W. Bush was leading a push to allow workers to direct a portion of their Social Security taxes into a personal account. By doing so, the thinking went, you could earn higher returns by investing in the stock market compared with what you would receive with Social Security.

You don’t hear much about ideas like that these days. “Since the financial crisis, we have seen a sea change in how people view Social Security,” says Alicia Munnell, the head of Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research. “Social Security paid benefits, paid them on time, and they didn’t go down.”

Munnell is a former Clinton administration hand and was never a fan of Bush-style private accounts to begin with. It’s clear, though, that the politics have changed. While Munnell has argued for keeping Social Security mostly as is, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is calling to expand the program’s benefits instead.

Don’t hold your breath. But it’s a good bet that Social Security isn’t going anywhere. And Munnell says you should get smart about how you use it.

What Social Security calls the full retirement age is 66 for those born between 1943 and 1954. (It gradually moves up to 67 for those born later.) If you claim at 62, the earliest possible age, you’ll receive 25% less than at 66. But “full” retirement is just jargon left over from old Social Security rules that have since changed. Now, for each year you defer to age 70, your benefit keeps increasing until it is 76% more than if you start at 62.

“The best-kept secret in America is that the real full retirement age is 70,” says Munnell. Actually there may be an even better-kept one: Munnell’s group has shown that today’s low rates make waiting on Social Security a particularly good deal.

Basically, it beats the alternative investment. Each year you hold off from claiming is like buying an annuity: The money you give up now comes back to you later as extra lifetime income. For example, you can get 8% more inflation-adjusted pay if you wait until 67 instead of collecting at 66. That compares with a 5.4% real income from an annuity.


Work, if that works. Not everyone wants to work longer, but it makes waiting to collect easier. It can increase your payout further if more peak-earning years go into the benefits equation.

Use savings, carefully. You may be able to defer claiming for a year or two by tapping your portfolio for more income. “As long as you don’t overdo withdrawals, this strategy makes sense since you end up with higher lifetime benefits,” says Christine Fahlund, senior financial planner at T. Rowe Price. When waiting doesn’t work: If you can’t do without the cash. Or if you think you won’t live to 80, since in that case the extra income doesn’t add up to as much.

Couples have more options. The strategies get more complex for married couples, since one of you may qualify for spousal benefits or receive a payout as a surviving spouse. If you both don’t want to wait until age 70 to file, a calculator like the Social Security Benefits Evaluator at can help you decide which spouse should file and when. With the right strategy, you can get some income now as well as a higher benefit later.

Extending your career gracefully

Work is a bigger part of what used to be considered the retirement years: One-third of people 65 to 69 are in the labor force, up from 22% in 1990. More years of pay can help make it easier to reach your retirement goals, but what if you can’t keep your job as long as you’d like? Or you just hate it? Here are some strategies to manage the late phase of your career:

Use online tools to stay sharp. offers online courses on business skills such as online marketing or using software tools. You can also get tips on networking or transitioning to freelance. The site costs $25 a month.

Ask for flexibility. If you still like working but the hours and office politics are wearing thin, talk to your employer about telecommuting or going part-time on a trial basis. “Bosses are more willing to make accommodations than you might expect,” says career coach Bobbie Jo Hunter. Now is a good time to ask: Employers are still cautious about staffing up, but the improving economy gives them an incentive to hang on to experienced people.

Early in her career Alicia Munnell headed research at the Boston Federal Reserve. In 1993 she became an assistant Treasury secretary and later joined the Council of Economic Advisers. She then moved to Boston College, where she founded the Center for Retirement Research. Her 2004 book, Coming Up Short, was one of the first to sound the alarm about the flaws of 401(k) plans.

Click below to see more big ideas from some of the retirement-planning world’s sharpest minds:

Forget the 4% withdrawal rule: Wade Pfau, professor of retirement income, American College

You’ll spend less as you age: David Blanchett, director of research, Morningstar Investment Management

Plan to pay for future health costs: Carolyn McClanahan, president, Life Planning Partners

Plan for the critical first decade: Michael Kitces, partner and director of research, Pinnacle Advisory


MONEY retirement planning

Do Your Retirement Dreams Match Your Partner’s?

Your dream is nonstop travel; your spouse wants to stay put. You’d like to quit now; she’s not ready. Learn about eight retirement issues that can cause a rift, and how to get on the same page.

  • Where to live

    Thirty-four percent of retiring couples disagree about where or whether to move.

    According to a 2013 Hearts & Wallets survey, deciding where to settle down in retirement is one of the biggest areas of disconnect between couples. “Typically the question of where to live is wrapped up in bigger issues like the partners’ connection to the community and obligations to other family members,” says Catherine Frank, executive director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Asheville, N.C.

    Can’t agree on a location? Start with a compromise: a season or two renting in the area that one of you dreams of. If the rental works out, you might buy a second home, assuming you can truly afford it.

    Expect to pay about 1% of the home’s cost annually for maintenance, on top of insurance, utilities, and any homeowners association fees. And don’t forget to factor in the cost of transportation to and from the new property.

  • Part-time work

    Many employees suspect they’ll be happier if they don’t quit work cold-turkey, but few end up actually taking part-time jobs.

    In fact, only one-quarter of people ever work for pay in retirement, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. The benefit of downshifting to a part-time job you enjoy, however, is far greater than the extra spending money.

    Studying several hundred college professors who cut down their hours upon retiring but didn’t completely quit, researchers found that the greater the involvement in part-time work, the more likely the professors were satisfied with both their retirement and life in general.

    While you may like staying in the game, be aware that you’ll increase strife on the home front if you use your workload as an excuse to avoid taking out the garbage and picking up food at the grocery store. A separate study of retired physicians — 95% of them male — found that the increased time that the doctors spent on household chores in retirement was significantly associated with wives’ life satisfaction. Sometimes love is just about making dinner — and doing the dishes.

  • Staying healthy

    Health dips for both men and women in the first years of retirement, according to a study by University of Missouri sociology professor Angela Curl. The likely culprit: a decline in social connections and physical activity.

    You don’t need drastic measures to stay healthy. A daily 45-minute walk can improve your blood pressure and blood sugar levels, according to recent studies. Researchers have also found that you’ll be more likely to stick with the program if you’re paired with a buddy — say, the one you’re married to.

  • Family finances

    Spouses often end up splitting household responsibilities, but that can create big problems with money in retirement years. Only 43% of husbands, for example, are confident their wives can manage the family finances.

    Women share this lack of confidence, according to a 2013 Fidelity survey — a big problem, since they will likely outlive their husbands.

    “Men have tried to shelter women from those details,” says Boca Raton, Fla., planner Mari Adam. “But that ends up as a huge disservice.” Along with mundane details like account numbers and passwords, both of you should know all about your investments, savings, and insurance policies.

  • Syncing retirement

    How happy you are in retirement might depend on whether you and your partner stop working at the same time.

    University of Minnesota professor Phyllis Moen found that newly retired men were least satisfied when their wives kept working; wives with newly retired husbands also reported lower levels of marital satisfaction than those in two-income or two-retiree marriages.

    Fewer couples nowadays — especially those with multiyear age gaps — are willing or able to sync retirement. Many boomer women who temporarily exited the workforce when their kids were young are nearing their career peak, says Miriam Goodman, author of Too Much Togetherness: Surviving Retirement as a Couple — just as their husbands are ready to taper off.

    To get the timing right in your household, analyze the costs and benefits for each of you of staying in the workforce. Is one of you just shy of a pension? How big could your Social Security checks grow? Weigh those benefits against each spouse’s desire to retire.

    If you decide one of you should go first, start planning how the retired spouse will be occupied and what you’ll be doing together. “When one partner feels abandoned, that’s when resentment builds,” says Goodman. And take heart: Moen found that marital satisfaction rebounded a few years after both partners retired.

MONEY retirement planning

Take Retirement for a Test Drive

Test your retirement plan -- cut back your expenses and live on your retirement budget before you retire. Photo: AVAVA/Shutterstock

Before you call it quits, make sure your financial plans will actually work in the real world

By now you’ve probably thought about how you want to spend your time in retirement — perhaps a mix of travel, part-time work, and just plain kicking back. Question is, Will your dream lifestyle live up to your expectations? And, more important, can you afford it?

Rehearsing retirement can help. By trying out your plans ahead of time, you’ll have a better idea if they’ll work.

“I’ve found that clients who didn’t rehearse retirement often need a do-over, which can cost a lot of time and money,” says Mary Lacey Gibson, a financial planner in San Juan Bautista, Calif. “Many end up back at work.”

You’ll need to start the process early — perhaps three to five years out — so you can map out vacations and juggle work schedules. Plus, that will give you time to make any needed course corrections.

Here are the three key tests to run:

Live on your retirement budget. The standard rule of thumb suggests you can get by on 80% of your pre-retirement income — you’ll have fewer work-related expenses, and you will no longer be saving in your 401(k). Perhaps, but the only way to know is to try.

Use an online tool like T. Rowe Price’s retirement income calculator to project how much money you’ll have to spend. Then look over your expenses, separate must-haves from wants, and cut back by, say, 10% to 20% for a few months, or by whatever it takes to match your budget. This will give you a better idea of how well you can handle more meals at home or off-peak travel.

Plow the money you save into your retirement funds, or use it to pay down debts. “It’s best to start retirement with a clean balance sheet so you have cash to cover unexpected costs,” says T. Rowe Price financial planner Christine Fahlund.

Vacation in your new home. If you plan to move to a smaller condo or a dream locale, string together several weeks of vacation and rent a similar place. You may find that your favorite town is dreary in the off-season or that living in three rooms is a lot less appealing than your three-bedroom home.

If you expect to stay put, make sure your home is designed for easy maintenance and aging in place, with accessible entrances and grab bars. “Any big renovations should be done while you’re still working,” says Gibson.

Apply for your post-retirement gig. Your budget may hinge on doing consulting work. Get your name out there while you’re still on the job. “It helps to have expertise in a key niche,” says Phil Dyer, a financial adviser in Towson, Md. But no matter how much brand building you’ve done, you should test the waters too.

Meet with potential clients — your current employer may be a top prospect — to see how employable you are and what you could hope to earn. And if you’re considering a new field, do a dry run by volunteering or taking a part-time job. With a little practice, you’ll have a better shot at getting retirement right the first time.

MONEY working in retirement

Buying a Business After 50

Taking career risks isn't just for Millennials—Boomers seeking post-retirement jobs are jumping into entrepreneurship. Here's how to do it right.

As a regional director for Aflac insurance, Stephanie Ringer had built her Louisville sales team into one of the top in Kentucky. One of her secrets for keeping her staff motivated? Holding brainstorming sessions in a local meeting space called WorkShop. She found that the center — with its whiteboards, comfy couches, and crazy toys like hula hoops — fueled productive sessions. So when WorkShop’s owners put the business up for sale in 2007, Ringer, then 46, decided to buy it.

Family and friends were surprised at her willingness to take such a risky step at that point in her career. “Everyone said, ‘Are you sure this is a good idea?’ ” she recalls. “But I felt in my gut it was right.” With decades of leadership experience behind her, she was sure she could run a successful business.

Five years later Ringer has six employees and nearly $300,000 in annual revenue. While she drew only a $30,000 salary last year, she expects to earn $60,000 this year and clear six figures by 2013. Most important, she loves being the boss — or, as she calls herself, chief fun officer. “This is the best career move I’ve ever made,” she says.

When you think of today’s entrepreneurs, young hot-shots like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or Google’s Larry Page may be the faces that come to mind. But it’s baby boomers like Ringer who are striking out on their own at the fastest clip of any generation.

Americans 55 to 64 have launched more businesses than any other age group during the past decade, closely followed by those 45 to 54, reports the Kauffman Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to entrepreneurship.

For some, the change has been forced upon them by the tough job market. Others are taking the leap to escape boredom, become their own boss, pursue a passion — or simply in hopes of hitting it rich.

Whatever the motivation, entrepreneurs face a tough road. Half of businesses fail within the first five years, the U.S. Small Business Administration reports. Some research shows that boomerpreneurs have more staying power than younger folks, but the stakes are also higher: You have little time to recover from failure, you have higher living expenses to cover, you may have a family depending on your income, and though you’ve likely amassed more wealth, you’re closer to the time when you need to tap those assets.

So how can you beat the odds if you want to join the boomerpreneur boom? MONEY put that question to small-business experts and dozens of fiftysomething entrepreneurs for their best advice.

This is the first of three articles on how to become a boomerpreneur. This one will help you to see if you’ve got what it takes to own your own business and how to put time on your side. You can also get tips for changing your lifestyle, knowing the real costs of starting up a business and financing with caution.


After discovering shops in Europe dedicated to gourmet olive oils and vinegars, Jim Milligan dreamed of opening a similar store with tasting rooms. Then living outside the Twin Cities, he thought such a business would do well in a vacation destination like Traverse City, Mich., where he’d often spent time with his in-laws. Getting laid off at age 55 in 2007 from his position as a general manager at 3M gave him the push he needed.

Those first few years running Fustini’s — named for the Italian word for the stainless-steel containers used to store olive oil — were harder than he’d expected. Milligan put in 80-hour weeks. “I was on my feet a lot,” he says. Between hiring staff, managing inventory, and working the register, he was more mentally and physically taxed than ever before. But, he’s quick to add, “it’s been incredibly satisfying too.”

No matter what field you go into, you’ll probably find that owning a business requires more multitasking, risk taking, and stress management than your old job did.

In the beginning, at least, you’ll be CEO, secretary, and everything in between — expect long days on the job and sleepless nights ruminating over what-ifs.

“You have to consider your health, your stamina, your tolerance for risk, and whether this is something you really want to do at this stage of life,” says Colorado Springs financial planner Mary Alpers.

How to do it

Do a self-assessment. “Successful entrepreneurs are calculated-risk takers,” says Mary Beth Izard, startup consultant and author of “BoomerPreneurs”. Look back on your career to see how well that describes you: Have you set high goals for yourself? Are you fiercely competitive, always looking to what’s next? Have you thrived amid uncertainty? Do you enjoy making decisions? Are you quick to adapt? Most important, have you maintained your drive as you’ve aged?

If you can’t say yes to most of those questions, the entrepreneurial life isn’t for you. To be fair, not all businesses require the same amount of chutzpah. A freelance graphic designer won’t face the same pressures that a restaurateur with high overhead and a big staff does. “You can match a business with your risk tolerance,” suggests Izard.

Make sure you’re in love. Unless you’re 100% enthusiastic about your product or service, you’ll resent the time you put in. Passion, on the other hand, can sustain you through long hours and energize you in ways you haven’t experienced in years, says Lesa Mitchell, vice president at the Kauffman Foundation.

Should you be forced into entrepreneurship, look for a niche that motivates you. If you’re leaving a job, find ways to put your fervor to the test before quitting. Before opening a café, for example, shadow a restaurateur to see whether you’d like it as much as you think. Try out your idea in your spare time before launching it.


Marguerite Cole had long wanted to start her own business but figured she’d wait until age 60, when her home would be paid off. When a 2009 restructuring at Microsoft cost her her job as director of sales strategy, however, the then-47-year-old moved up her plan.

With only six months of severance and a monthly mortgage bill, she needed income fast. Since she had lots of contacts, she decided to launch a business-strategy consulting firm. Thanks to low overhead, “I’ve been able to pay myself a salary every month since starting,” says the Redmond, Wash., resident.

As Cole was acutely aware, older entrepreneurs don’t have the many years a twentysomething has to succeed, let alone recover from failure. So put in legwork to make sure your venture will be among the 50% that survive — and to ensure that you’ll be thriving soon. The average business takes three years to show a profit, the SBA reports. Shoot for under that average so that you don’t have to lean too heavily on your savings, says planner Alpers.

How to do it

Aim for a quick profit. Buying an existing company, as Stephanie Ringer did, will get you up and running faster than starting from scratch. Or aim for a business that’s not capital-intensive, à la Cole and the other 5 million boomers who are consultants, according to small-business services provider MBO Partners. Most start up with less than $5,000.

Have a more ambitious idea in mind? Run a break-even analysis — find help at — to see whether you’ll profit within three years.

Do what you know — or learn before you launch. “If you’re starting a business within your area of expertise, the likelihood of success will be higher,” says Izard. You’ll be able to leverage your network and years of experience.

Going boldly into new territory is especially risky in your fifties. But if you’re set on it, familiarize yourself with the field first: Get training, attend conferences, find a mentor. Or bring in a collaborator with the knowledge you lack.

Have a plan B. Even careful planning won’t guarantee results. Set a limit now on how long you’ll give the venture to meet your projections, based on your resources. Also think about what you’ll do if the business doesn’t survive. Go back to your old employer? Retire early? Stay connected with former bosses and colleagues in case you need them.

How Stephanie Ringer did it

Her strategy: Buy a business that’s up and running.

Worked for: Aflac, the insurance company, as a regional director.

Now runs: WorkShop, the Creative Workplace, a corporate meeting space designed to foster innovation.

Quote: “Believe in yourself, but also ask questions of people who have been there and done that.”

By the numbers

  • Year bought: 2007
  • Employees: 6
  • Startup costs: $64,000
  • Revenue in 2011: $300,000
  • Salary in 2011: 30,000


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