Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Knocked down by the financial hurricane? Get up and reboot!

The financial crisis that toppled major Wall Street banks and snarled credit markets around the world has also taken a toll on nest eggs, forcing people to rethink when - and even if - their savings will allow them to retire.

More than half of people surveyed in an Associated Press-GfK poll released Wednesday said they worry that they will have to work longer because the value of their retirement savings has declined.

Associated Press, Oct. 1, 2008

Talk about an inconvenient truth. I know the feeling. I watched the monster eat a giant hole in my IRA in September.

There is unanimous agreement that we have a crisis on our hands. And even though linguists and scholars have debunked the popular notion that the Chinese word for crisis (weiji) incorporates the words for both “danger” and “opportunity,” thinking Americans have to be hoping they can find the opportunity in this danger.

So where’s the opportunity in our current crisis? I believe it is in rethinking the old notion of “retirement” as a period of rest and relaxation, and instead deciding that this is the time to reboot oneself into period of extended productive contribution.

It might be continuing in the same line of work, starting a new business, consulting, or taking up an “encore career” in a socially meaningful (and paid) role in such fields as education, health care or community work. has been promoting the idea of working beyond the so-called “normal retirement years” for reasons other than financial emergency. But a financial emergency definitely gets your attention. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, “Nothing focuses the mind like losing your life savings.”

Fifty-five percent of people surveyed for the AP-GfK poll said they were worried that the financial crisis would reduce their savings and force them to postpone retirement. The poll, conducted Sept. 27-30, was based on phone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,160 adults. It had a margin of error of 2.9 percent.

In a previous blog (July 31, 2008) I wrote about the new book, Working Longer: The Solution to the Retirement Income Challenge. The premise of that book is that even without a financial crisis, many people will have to work longer than they thought they would just to maintain their standard of living. With a crisis, the number is undoubtedly larger. can help. I invite you to click over to the site ( and check out the possibilities. There are dozens and dozens of ways to reinvent yourself. And if you’ve already done it, tell us your story so we can share it with others. Look for the heading, “Submit your story” for the easy steps to follow.