The Fourth Quarter

Oct
19

The Joy Of Change

by Christine

Two weeks ago I was in Jacksonville for my forty-fifth high school reunion. Yeah, can you believe it? Forty-five years. That number amazes me too. I had a wonderful time reconnecting with friends that I hadn't seen or talked to since our high school graduation. We discussed our careers, parents, children and grandchildren. While the conversations were brief due to the good turn out, I chatted with as many of our classmates as possible. 

I was surprised and pleased to learn the dominant emotion in the room was joy. The reunion was a joyful occasion but it was more than that. My classmates were sharing with me changes he or she had just made or were in the process of making.  Most were retiring from careers that had spanned thirty years and they were excited and energized by the next phase of their lives. One classmate had just returned from touring the Western part of the United States where she purchased several acres of land in Colorado. She was a life long resident of Florida but was now going to spend part of the year in Colorado. Another classmate was sharing his love for woodworking and how he was now going to be able to spend more time crafting furniture for his home, family, and friends. I believe this venture will eventually lead to second career for my friend. 

We hear so many negative stories about change and life after retirement that we become fearful and reticent about our future. The Fourth Quarter of life can be whatever you choose to make it. I have friends and colleagues that are holding on to jobs that they don't like, working with people they don't respect because the "job" is all they know. Retire is only a word that means to withdraw to or from a particular place. The word does not have to define who you are or your place in the world. The Dalai Lama said, "Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions." My question today is, where will you find joy?

Hugs,
C

May
12

Monday Musings

by Christine

Spring fever has a grip on me. The browns, blacks and whites of winter have been replaced with the primary colors of spring. Lemon yellow tulips, azure skies and spring green leaves lift my spirit and call to me to head out of doors.  After such a long, cold winter it's good to see the return of milder temperatures. I hope you forgive me for putting on hold our discussion of life in the Fourth Quarter while I share with you my Monday musings. 

Have you ever read a book whose ideas and characters stay with you for days or weeks after reading the last word? Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz is just such a novel for me. The book is a thriller that explores the stories that the heroine Grace Reinhart Sachs tells herself about her perfect husband, her perfect job and her perfect life. Korelitz brilliantly shows Grace's journey as she confront a terrifying truth putting an end to life, as she believed it to be. I highly recommend this book for anyone looking for a good read and engaging ideas. Should Have Know got me to thinking about the stories we tell ourselves. 

My company helps organizations tell stories to their key constituent to achieve a goal. Now a story isn't necessarily a falsehood; it's an account or a vision of a real or imaginary event. I love the work because I love telling stories.  I even volunteered one year to tell stories to elementary school children. Stories frame who we are and what we believe about ourselves. 

I do wonder about the stories that bombard us daily. TV shows about murder and mayhem, news reports about the heartache and disasters in the world that seem to have no solution or end and the constant narrative that success is celebrity and extreme wealth.  Is this who we believe we are now? Maybe the media are the modern day Brothers Grimm sharing cautionary folk tales that warn of us the evils of the world. But I do long for stories that bear witness to (wo)man's successes as individuals and as a group. I worry that we, like the fictional Grace Reinhart Sachs, are mono focused but unlike Grace, our stories are not about perfection but about a world is so horrific and despairing that it's deadening.  I believe we need stories that highlight the best in humans so that we can hold on to our humanity. 

What do you think? What stories are we telling each other as a nation? What stories do you tell yourself? Do they lift you up or tear you down? Let me know what you think about the stories we tell ourselves.

Hugs,
C

 

Apr
21

What Do Your Spending Habits Say About You?

by Christine

Boy! A month goes fast. How did it go with your spending log this past month?  Was it difficult to keep the log? Or was it the perfect tool for you to keep a record of your daily expenses. Now that you have recorded a month's expenses, you can analyze how you spend your money and what changes you can make to reach your Fourth Quarter goals. Are you spending your money like you thought? Were there any surprises? What did you learn about yourself?

How you spend your money says a great deal about what you value? If you spend $6.00 a day on a cup of coffee or $700.00 dollars a month on shoes, it could easily be said that you value coffee or that you value shoes. How you spend your money is a tangible expression of what you value in life. But understanding your motivation behind how you spend your money may not always be clear. Paying your mortgage doesn't necessarily mean you value the house you live in; it could mean that you value the security of owning your own home. Paying premium for coffee, shoes or other goods could say more about the lifestyle you value as opposed to the object themselves. 

Take time this week to look at your spending log and think about what your expenses say about you and what you value. Are you careless with money? Are you frugal with money? Do you profess certain values but spend you money contrary to those stated values? I'm taking about understanding "the why" of how you spend your money. When you understand your motivation, it becomes easier to set priorities when making changes. Take some time this week to sit quietly and think about how you send your money and what it says about you. 

Hugs,
C

 

 

Apr
18

Finding Balance: Living In The Moment And Planning For The Future

by Christine

Recently a family member asked for advice on how to balance living fully in the moment with planning for the future. This question brought to mind the days when my kids were still young and in school. More than one Sunday evening Matthew or Kathryn declared that a book report, a difficult to source poster board or a dozen cupcakes was due at school the following morning. My children were in school during the days when teachers believed it was the responsibility of the student to plan their work and communicate with their parents.  There were no weekly folders from the teacher or on-line student accounts with school calendars to help the parents monitor their child's schoolwork.

Each time, the hair-on-fire moment created by these pronouncements put me into a quandary. Do I stop every thing and edit and type the half finished book report, scour every store looking for that special poster board that can only be found in the local arts store that's not open on Sunday or stay up to midnight baking cupcakes. The other option was to calmly explain to the kids that part of the planning process was giving me notice and unfortunately it was too late to do what they needed done. They would suffer the consequence of a failing grade or the discomfort at spoiling a class party. I was never able to follow the second option, I would kick into gear to solve the late night challenge, yelling at my child the entire time. We hit the deadline but my home was not a calm and nurturing place during those episodes. This was definitely extreme living in the moment. 

I don't believe planning for the future is in conflict with living fully in the moment. Planning means putting into place a set of actions that have been thought through as a way to achieve your future goals. Have you taken the time and energy to think through what you want your future to look like and put a plan in place?  Each January I spend a dedicated amount of time putting together my goals for the coming year. This exercise helps me visualize what I want my life to look like and how I am going to achieve my goals. I work the plan during the year. I may change the plan depending on opportunities and challenges that come my way but having a plan takes some of the pressure off when looking towards the future. 

Planning for the future is not the same as obsessing about or worrying over the future. If you haven't developed a plan or aren't living your plan then the tension between living in the moment vs. the future maybe more about your lack of a satisfactory plan. If your energy is directed towards second guessing your plan or second guessing the future of the world then you will find it difficult to live in the moment. If you are feeling uneasy about being fully engaged in your life today and planning for the future, I encourage you to dig a little deeper. Worry steals joy from today and pays no returns in the future. 

Hugs,
C

Apr
14

Saving Money In The Fourth Quarter

by Christine

Do you put money into a retirement savings account? If you do, you are part of the 72% of Americans who are saving for retirement. The Capital One ShareBuilder's Financial Freedom Survey found people are saving on average 6.4 percent of their annual income for retirement. The survey sheds light on our attitudes toward savings and what we actually do. The report reveals Americans believe they should be saving closer to 12.1% but don't because of more immediate financial needs. 

When we were younger the vision of retirement was a mirage. It was an illusion; an imagined distant future that had nothing to do with us in the present. If we saved money at all, it was the minimum. We were spurred on to save money by employers who offered 401K programs with matching funds. By the time we had an inkling that we would actually reach retirement age, we had built lives that required 95% of our income to support it. 

If you want to retire or change your life during the Fourth Quarter then it will be necessary to learn to save money...even during the Fourth Quarter. Last week I wrote about U.S. Social Security Benefits and the concept of full retirement. Let's say you are currently 60 years old and your full retirement age is 67. You've made the decision to change your life at 67 so you can take advantage of the full benefits SS has to offer you. You now have 7 years to reorganize and save for that change. Your first response may be to think your world is built upon a bunch of assumptions that will be difficult to undo?  Yes, but to make a change, you must change. 

Financing your retirement or a life change during the Fourth Quarter is no longer a mirage or an abstract distant future. Launching a plan that allows you to finance the Fourth Quarter of your life starts the moment you recognize your desire to change. It will be easier to accomplish because you have something solid to work for. Think of it as the Red Zone in a football game. It's the last 20 yards before the end zone and a touchdown. 

Hugs,
C

Nugget: Anytime money is discussed anxiety increase. Check out my friend and fellow blogger, Kathy Gottberg's piece on 15 Ways Simple Living Relieves Anxiety & Reduces Stress. Life is about choices and tradeoffs and stressing about those choices and tradeoffs takes the joy out of life. 

Apr
07

Income In The Fourth Quarter: Social Security Benefits

by Christine

Happy Monday! It's been two weeks since I suggested you build a budget by tracking your expenses for a month. In another two weeks I will post about the next step of building your Fourth Quarter budget. Today I'm beginning a series of blogs about sources of income in the Fourth Quarter. This week it's Social Security. The debate rages in our country on the best way to administer the program and there are even those who question whether the program should exist. I'm going on the supposition that the program will continue to exist in a form similar to what we have today.

I am not an expert on the Social Security system but I am going to highlight a couple of key points to keep in mind as you start to plan for the Fourth Quarter. First, don't wait until six months before you want to retire or cut back on work to explore your benefits. The Social Security Administration has an easy to read and information packed website with the latest information on requirements and benefits. It also compiles "Your Social Security Statement"; this is your personal statement that has information like years worked, taxed social security earnings and estimates of payouts depending on age or other factors. You can set up an account with the SSA to view your SS Statement. Use these tools to plan at least 5 years out. 

Next, remember that full retirement age for people born between 1943-1954 is 66 and will gradually increase to 67 for people born in 1960 or later. You can retire as early as 62 but your monthly payout will be less. If you retire later your monthly benefits will be larger. If you enjoy your job and your health is good, it may be to your advantage to work until 66* or beyond. 

Third, you can work and still receive retirement benefits but your earning limits will be effected if you retire prior to full retirement age. What this means is if you retire at 62 instead of your full retirement age of 66, the amount of money you can earn and still receive social security benefits will be subject to limits. Once you reach full retirement you can keep on working, and your social security benefits will not be reduced no matter how much you earn. As you can see, the government is trying to entice workers to remain in the workforce until full retirement age. 

Finally, social security benefits are income. How much money you make in the Fourth Quarter dictates whether you pay taxes or not on your social security income. SSA reports that about 40% of the current beneficiaries pay taxes on their benefits. As you develop your plan or talk with your financial advisor, keep in mind that after a certain amount of income whether filing as an individual or joint SS income is taxable.

There's more information to be found on the SSA website to help you make decisions about when to retire and how to maximize your benefits. The Social Security Act was put into place by Franklin D. Roosevelt to offer old-age assistance as well as helping blind persons, dependent and crippled children. It was never intended to fully cover the living expense of those who were part of the program. As you plan for the Fourth Quarter, keep in mind that your social security benefits may not cover your living expenses. You may need to explore other sources of income to finance the Fourth Quarter.  

Hugs,
C

*66/67 is the current full retirement age. Congress continues to debate changes to the Social Security program so listen out for any changes. 

 

 

 

 

Mar
31

4 Things To Do To Find A New Job In The Fourth Quarter

by Christine

I'm not a professional career counselor or coach but I was asked recently what I thought were good jobs for people in the Fourth Quarter. My first response was to ask, what are you are trying to accomplish? Are you bored in your current job? Do you want to earn more money? Or do you want more free time? What is your reason for changing jobs? Once that is clear, I feel the Fourth Quarter workers have a couple advantages over the Second and Third Quarter workers. 

Just take a look on the web for steps to finding a new job, the advice centers mainly on developing skills and qualifications and customizing resumes or cover letters. Fourth Quarter workers have experience and knowledge that's been garnered by years of work and interacting with other people. They also know people within their chosen field. To maximize this life experience, I would encourage you to do four things.

First, Think Different(ly). Yes, that's a 1997 Apple advertising slogan but it pertains to job-hunting in the Fourth Quarter. To Think Different means not always accepting the  "prevailing wisdom". The concept that younger workers have a leg up because they have a knowledge of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or any other social media outlet is in my opinion wrong headed. Employers want people who are multi-skilled, reliable, proactive, dependable and self-disciplined. In short they need people who can get things done. If you have been employed for 25 plus years, you have gotten "things done". Stop thinking terms of what you lack and start thinking in terms of what you've gotten done and how. Don't look at your job title, look at your skills. 

Second, get out of your comfort zone both professionally and personally. If you are talking to the same 8 people day after day, you aren't learning about new and different opportunities. I am not saying dump your current business friends. I am encouraging you to intentionally increase your contacts both inside and outside your industry. At least once a week go to lunch with a different business contact. Volunteer, take a class or better yet teach a class or eat at the bar instead of in the restaurant. I hesitate sharing the "eat at the bar secret" because seating is limited.  I don't want to lose my place because for me, eating has becomes a communal activity again and I have met some very interesting people. The key here is to intentionally be open to new people. 

Third, talk to your clients. These folks have seen first hand the kind of job you can do. They may know of jobs with your competitor and be willing to put in a good word for you. Also, think about moving to the other side of the desk. My father was in transportation management for 35 years before the industry changed and the company he worked for ceased. His clients were the first to ask him to put his expertise to good use for them. 

And fourth, start your own business. This suggestion falls under the if I knew then what I know now category. I started a small business in 2005 and my only regret is I didn't do it sooner. The SBA reports that self-employment grew by 24% in the 65 plus age group. Most small businesses are owned by individuals 40 and older. Starting a small business is not the domain of the young as one may be lead to believe from all the buzz around the tech company start-ups. The business doesn't even have to be in your current field. Mark Furstenberg was a writer for the Washington Post who became a professional baker at 50 and opened Bread Furst a neighborhood bakery at 75. Age is not a requirement for opening a business. 

So what is a good job for the Fourth Quarter? It's one that draws upon the skills and passion of the person looking. I believe the right job is out there. It's just a matter of clarifying you skills, talking to friends and colleagues and taking the leap.

Hugs,
C

 

 

Mar
28

The Little Blue Box Or A Recipe App?

by Christine


[After a little spring cleaning]

Walking the end of life journey with my mom was arduous and long. I put multiple aspects of my life on hold so that when death finally came, I returned home anxious to get back to normal. What I've come to realize is the feeling of normal takes a backseat to grief, which takes time to experience and move through. The thought that I was going to return home to pick-up where I left off before mom's passing and that I was going to organize all the family photos and mom's recipes too, makes me smile.  The old Southern phrase, bless her heart, comes to mind. That translates into "she means well but she doesn't have the sense God gave her".

I write of this because I have many friends who are walking the same journey with their parents right now. I offer up my experience as one who is on the other side of the intense sadness and grief that comes from losing a parent. My friends, one-day life will feel normal again, you will think of your parents with a glad heart and not with overwhelming worry and sadness. Also you will be able to organize the family photos and recipes without tears. 

Julia and I have started to gather and exchange mom's recipes. The little blue box that held all mom's hand written recipe cards sits on my desk but my sister and I prefer using a recipe app. There are multiple reasons why this works for me including but not limited to the fact my handwriting looks like the scribbling of an overworked doctor and my kitchen window is already cluttered with too many keepsakes. The main reason I like using a recipe app is that it is easy to share and edit.  Julia enters the recipes she has and then emails them to me; I do the same. We chose the same app so the exchange is seamless. We purchased The Recipe Box about 18 months ago but since then the recipe organizing business has exploded.

There are apps and on-line services that will help you not only organize your recipes but also suggest menus based on what you currently have in your refrigerator or suggest wine pairings. The cost varies depending on what you are looking to accomplish. There's even a free recipe app marketed by Whole Foods for the budget conscious. Do you cook? How do you organize your recipes? Do you share your recipes with family and friends? If you are already using a recipe app or on-line service, what do you recommend?

Regards,
C


[Before a little spring cleaning]

 

Mar
24

Are You A Dreamer?

by Christine

My dream was to play the piano like Nicky Hopkins. I started lessons in junior high school even paying the $6.50 fee to my piano teacher out of my baby-sitting money.  I practiced a few times a week on the old piano in our garage but I never got beyond beginners status. After my divorce I made the decision to once again take up lessons and learn to play the piano. I purchased a black gloss upright piano, hired a teacher and practiced whenever my schedule allowed. Again, I didn't make much headway.

During the 10 years I owned that piano I moved it four times. Do you know the cost of moving a piano up and down stairs? When I moved it out of state and up and down stairs it was even more money. Finally I had to admit two things. I wasn't willing to work as hard as I needed to work to master the piano and I was spending a whole lot of money on a daydream I wasn't willing to dedicate time to realize. I found a good home for my piano and let go of the fantasy. 

Surprisingly I was not sad or melancholy about my decision. Letting go allowed me to direct my talents and resources in another, more productive direction. William Shakespeare's line from Hamlet, "This above all: to thine own self be true" is often quoted but before you can be true to yourself, you must know thyself. Sometimes that means taking a hard look at what your actions say about your dedication to a plan. The Fourth Quarter is the time to shed the illusion and embrace your talents and desires.  Where are you willing to spend your time? What dreams do you want to truly realize by dedicating time and money to them? What 800-pound piano are you lugging around?

Hugs,
C

Mar
19

Four Reasons To Change Jobs In The Fourth Quarter

by Christine


[United States Botanic Garden]

I've been blogging about retirement over the last couple of weeks and given my research and your comments, it's clear not everyone is going to cease working. (Cease working is the dictionary meaning of the word retirement.) Many people will continue to work because they want to work but others will continue to work because they need the money. The drive to work whether for personal fulfillment or for financial reasons is as important in the Fourth Quarter as it is in the Second or Third Quarter of life.

Tension develops when need or desire to change jobs is viewed under the lens of age. Job change at any time of life can be disquieting but for many it becomes particularly so in the Fourth Quarter. But you need to ask yourself why you want or need to make a change. All job changes can be analyzed from this simple precept: What are you moving away from or what are you moving towards? Are you leaving something that doesn't work for you anymore or are you going towards something better? Nothing may be wrong with your current job but a new job offers more money, a different challenge or additional perks. If you feel the need to move away from a job, you need to know why and address those issues in your job search. Whether you aren't making enough money, the people you work with are driving you crazy or you are bored with the work, it's important to understand why you feel the need for change. 

Here are four reasons to make a change in the Fourth Quarter:

1. Your Industry has changed. My father was 19 years old when he started out in trucking. I will resist the urge to give you a history lesson on transportation in America but my dad joined the industry at the perfect time. Eisenhower's Interstate Highway System and the phenomenal growth in America after World War II meant that my father was able to grow personally and professionally with the industry. He found fulfilling work that allowed him to travel the world and make an excellent living. In 1980, the Federal Government re-regulated the industry and the world that my father, his company and other motor carriers operated in ceased to exist. He had spent 40 years working for a company he loved in a thriving industry but the business changed and he had to change too. What is the state of your industry? Is it in a growth mode or is it constricting? Are traditional competitors falling away while smaller companies are springing up? The reason your job may feel harder is that it is harder because the rules have changed. If you decide a seismic shift has occurred in your industry, you will need to decide whether you want to play the game by the new rules or make a change.  

2. Your co-workers are getting younger.  I have a contractor friend who said he never wins a bid if the client is in his or her 30s. He doesn't understand why because the quality of his work is superior and his pricing reasonable. I love working with intergenerational groups and in my job it is a necessity. My experience balanced against their energy keeps the projects vibrant and engaging. But I am also a realist because age can be a distancing factor. I look back on my career when I was the young person and remember when I had all the answers. How annoying!  What the young lack in experience, they make up for in other areas. I also acknowledge sometimes I am viewed more as a peer of their mother instead of a really cool co-worker.  If you find it difficult to work for or with someone younger than you, it's probably time for a change. Though at a certain point everyone will be younger so maybe you need to think through why you aren't working well with those younger than you. Is it just certain individuals or the whole age group?

3. Your Health. Are you sick all the time? Is the job driving your health into the ground? This can happen at anytime in life but in the Fourth Quarter we tend to link it to age. Maybe it has nothing to do with age; maybe you are just over the job. 

4. You need a change. That's right, you've been doing this work for 20 or 30 years and you just want to do something else. But the voice in your head says making a change in the Fourth Quarter is irresponsible. If you need or want to work for the next 10 to 20 years, why not do something challenging and invigorating?   

A winning football coach may find the strategies used in the first three quarter ineffectual in the fourth quarter but he doesn't "stay" the course in hopes that the game will miraculously turn around. He changes strategies and develops a new game plan. You can do the same once you understand what is not working for you.

Hugs,
C

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