What are the keys to happiness in retirement? It goes beyond financial security. And if you want to retire happy, what should you focus on? Our guest today is Dr. Barbara O’Neill, author of Flipping the Switch: Your Guide to Happiness and Financial Security in Later Life. Although she is not a fan of the word retirement, she’s researched what it takes to make one of life’s transitions and retire happy.
I discuss with Dr. O’Neill:
- The story of her next chapter (so far) after leaving Rutgers University
- How the pandemic will impact retirement, short-term and longer-term
- What areas people are the most – and least – prepared for in later life
- Why she doesn’t like the R-word – and what she prefers to use instead
- Why letting go and looking forward are both important – and how they can be challenging in life’s transitions
- What she thinks are some of the most challenging switches to flip
- What she’s learned in navigating her own life transition
- Her alternative approach to FIRE (FIND)
- When people should begin to start planning for life after full-time work
She joins us from Florida.
Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D, CFP®, CRPC®, AFC, CHC, CFEd, CFCS, CPFFE, is the author of Flipping the Switch: Your Guide to Happiness and Financial Security in Later Life.
As the owner/CEO of Money Talk: Financial Planning Seminars and Publications, Dr. Barbara O’Neill, CFP®, AFC®, CRPC®, writes, speaks, and reviews content about personal finance. A Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University, after 41 years of service as a Rutgers Cooperative Extension educator and personal finance specialist, Dr. O’Neill has written over 160 articles for academic publications and received more than 35 national awards and over $1.2 million in grants to support her financial education programs and research.
Employed by Rutgers since 1978, she provided national leadership for the Cooperative Extension programs Investing For Your Future and Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ for over a decade. Part of her work time is bought out to provide personal finance training for military family service professionals (for the eXtension Military Families Learning Network) and for New Jersey financial educators as part of a state Department of Education contract.
She is also the author of two trade books, Saving On a Shoestring and Investing On A Shoestring, and co-author of Money Talk: A Financial Guide for Women.
She is a certified financial planner (CFP®), chartered retirement planning counselor (CRPC®), accredited financial counselor (AFC), certified housing counselor (CHC), and certified financial educator (CFEd). She also holds the CFCS (certified in family and consumer sciences) and CPFEE (certified personal and family finance educator) credentials from the American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences (AAFCS).
Dr. O’Neill received her Ph.D. in family financial management from Virginia Tech, a master’s degree in consumer economics from Cornell University, and a bachelor’s degree in home economics education from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Oneonta. She has received over three dozen awards for personal or program excellence, including a 2016 AAFCS Distinguished Service Award, and over $1 million in grants and contract funding to support her financial education programs and research. In 2003, she served as president of the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE).
From 1996-2000, Dr. O’Neill directed the five-year MONEY 2000™ Cooperative Extension savings and debt reduction campaign in the 1990s that resulted in over $20 million of documented economic impact nationwide. In addition, she has delivered almost 300 national/regional conference presentations throughout her career and over 70 webinars for eXtension, AAFCS, and other professional organizations. In addition to being an AAFCS board member from 2016-2019, she serves as Academic Editor of the Financial Planning Association’s Journal of Financial Planning. Dr. O’Neill is an avid Twitter user and tweets personal finance information and research findings using the handle @moneytalk1.
On FIND (Financial Independence New Directions) versus FIRE
“Well, FIRE is fine – Financial Independence Retire Early. And the biggest proponents of that are people who are trying to exit the workforce in their early forties and mid-forties. And it’s gotten a lot of attention. I actually watched that documentary film that was produced a few years ago, called Playing With Fire. All I can think of is: [if] you exit the workforce at 40 or 50, you’re going to have all those same Flip Switches that I wrote about in my book that people often face when they’re a bit older. And I’m thinking: What are you going to do with the next 50, possibly 60 years of your life, if you truly use the word retire or you really ‘kind of’ retire? And in fact, many of the leading proponents of FIRE are people who have just transitioned to self-employment pretty much like I have. So I just think FIND as a whole better acronym because it’s Financial Independence New Directions – and you get to choose those directions.”
On Abrupt Transitions
“When you’ve been in a career pattern, let’s say for…40 years. And then all of a sudden, you’re not. It’s kind of like jumping off a cliff – and you’re going to this unknown place. Whether you call it retirement or you call it leaving Rutgers or whatever it is, it’s a different place than you had before. So anything that’s new and uncertain can often be stressful… and that’s like anything in life. I think also as you leave a career and you’re in the later stages of your life, you’re also thinking about mortality [and] possibly thinking about doing things for the last time. Have I gone to Broadway in New York City for the last time? I don’t know the answer to that question I may have. So you think about those things.”
On Creating a New Structure
“… I found, when I was researching the book, there’s that whole concept of having some big rocks in your day. If you remember the Stephen Covey analogy, you put the big rocks into the jar first, and then you kind of put the sand in the small rocks around it. Well, what works out pretty well for people when they’re trying to structure their days in later life is to have some big rocks. And again, it doesn’t have to be work. It could be volunteer work, it could be caregiving for grandchildren. It can be whatever brings you joy and happiness, but it’s also something that’s going to take a lot of your time. Because I wrote in the book that when you leave a full-time job, you’ve got to fill that 2,500 hours a year. That’s a lot of hours to fill and having some things that you really enjoy doing that can kind of anchor your days will be really important.”
On Other People’s Social Clocks
“…People have this tendency to impose what researchers call a Social Clock on other people. And a Social Clock is a perception of what people should do at a certain age. So people will talk to maybe a son and daughter-in-law who were married and maybe they’re in their early thirties. And it’s like, Well, when are you going to give me your grandchild?’ They’re imposing their Social Clock on their children and that’s not right. And neither is saying to somebody at a certain age, Well, when are you going to retire? or How come you haven’t retired yet?”
For More on Dr. Barbara O’Neill
Follow on Twitter: @moneytalk1
Mentioned in This Episode
Stephen Covey’s Big Rocks (Highly recommend – I’ve used this for years … very helpful)
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