by Phyllis Moen (2016, Oxford University Press)
Book Review by Joe Casey
The “one -job career” is history. Many baby boomers are interested in second careers or other creative ways to reinvent themselves in mid to later life. Yet, the vast majority of books on retirement focus on financial planning. Some attempt to provide a comprehensive manual on how to retire. This book is quite different. Phyllis Moen, a professor at the University of Minnesota, offers a tour of the big picture issues around retirement and provides smart prescriptions for individuals, families, and institutions on how to navigate and improve the future.
Your Retirement Template is Obsolete
Moen’s primary thesis is that powerful forces of change continue to reshape the worlds of work and retirement. In her view, the world we live in today is highly dynamic. Yet the policies, laws, and practices for retirement were set in a much earlier and simpler time when the single-employer model prevailed, careers were more linear and most of the workforce was male. As technology and demographic shifts swiftly march on, there is greater diversity in the ways that people live and work and a broader range of life choices and paths. That diversity conflicts with the institutional structure that remains rooted in the static assumptions and rigid models of the past. It’s creating significant gaps between what people need today and what’s available to them. Standardized One Size Fits All policies conflict with the demand today for more customized approaches. And spotlighting the concept of linked lives, Moen notes that these gaps create serious consequences, not only for individuals but for families, communities, organizations, and society as a whole.
Improvise Your Way to a Great Retirement
First and foremost, people today want a wide range of options, greater flexibility, and the ability to customize their own lives in retirement. The glacial pace of institutional change has led Baby Boomers to look for innovative ways to take control of their life planning and design the retirement they want. With personal stories and profiles, Moen highlights examples of how various Baby Boomers are improvising their way to the retirement they want. You’ll find their experiences enlightening and they may inspire your own thinking and ideas.
In addition, Moen posits recommendations for much needed and long overdue policy changes. In fact, she calls on Baby Boomers, and especially those who hold powerful roles, to advocate for change.
Don’t let the subtitle fool you. While much of the book is about Baby Boomers, Moen consistently notes the similar – and unique – challenges that Millennials face. Whether you’re a Baby Boomer nearing retirement or a Millennial pursuing FIRE, you’ll benefit by this meticulously researched and insightful book.
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