Unretirement: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community and the Good Life

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My newest book is on the economics of an aging workforce: Unretirement: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community and the Good Life. The publication date is Labor Day, 2014 (Bloomsbury).

Americans are living longer, on average. You would think longer life expectancy is cause for celebration. Yet dire jeremiads about the downside of living longer—especially with the leading edge of the baby boom generation filing for Social Security and Medicare benefits—are commonplace.

What fuels widespread fears isn’t really aging, but retirement. The catchphrase “America can’t afford to grow old” that echoes from Senate hearing rooms to neighborhood conversations is really a statement that “seniors can’t afford retirement, let alone a decent retirement.” Rather than savor the good life during their elder years, popular discussions concentrate on how near-and-future retirees of America face the prospect of eking out an existence like a “battered kettle at the heel” in William Butler Yeats’ bleak image.

I don’t buy the gloomy predictions. Instead, an aging population will leave behind the traditional image of retirement, the last third of life defined by saying goodbye to the workplace forever, picking up stakes for the Sunbelt and enjoying years of leisure. We’re at the early stages of a long, difficult transition toward a different vision of the elder years, less a model of disengagement from work and neighborhood to one of continuing engagement in work and community.

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,” wrote Drucker in Post-Capitalist Society. “Fifty years later there is a new world.”

The real beneficiaries from the boomer unretirement experiment are workers. Unretirement will affect how they view their jobs and careers, their expectations about the mix of work and leisure, engagement and meaning throughout a lifetime. “Older workers are going to change the workforce as profoundly as women did,” says Deborah E. Banda, senior advisor, AARP Education and Outreach. “The changes they are making in the work place will benefit all generations, not just older workers.” Laura Carstensen, head of Stanford University’s Center on Longevity, agrees: “I think young people will benefit enormously from the transition of working longer.”

Amazon

The New Frugality: How to Consume Less, Save More, and Live Better

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The New Frugality: How to Consume Less, Save More, and Live Better links frugality or thrift with the broader sustainability movement. Frugality is not about being cheap; it’s about being mindful with your money. I show how putting your core values at the center of saving, spending and giving decisions are good for the planet and your finances. The sustainability message of conservative consumerism and the habit of creating a financial margin of safety will feed off, reinforce and draw energy from each other. “[The New Frugality] is full of information about how to manage money wisely…The book has a lot to like, including the storytelling style and such tips on saving and sustainability as to share books with friends.” (Washington Post)

Amazon

Deflation: What Happens When Prices Fall

41CsHqs1qELDeflation: What Happens When Prices Fall, is an engaging explanation of a phenomenon that strikes fear in the heart of economists everywhere. I argue that deflation is the modern condition. An underlying deflationary price trend stems from the combination of heightened international competition, rapid technological advances (think Amazon) and a shared anti-inflation ideology among central bankers. How fearful should we be about deflation? It depends on why the overall price trend is falling. Bad deflations stems from a “demand shock” in a highly indebted economy, say, a housing market implosion (the Great Recession) or collapsed banking system (the Great Depression). The downward spiral of debt deflation is ominous.

Deflation isn’t always bad, however. Sometimes, mild deflation can signal a vigorous, creative healthy economy. Good deflation stems from a positive supply shock, say, a string of major innovations that combine to push down costs and prices while opening up new markets and opportunities. Productivity-driven deflation was common during the last part of the nineteenth century. “A highly readable and insightful work…clear exposition of a complex topic.”(Library Journal)

In Right on the Money!: Taking Control of Your Personal Finances

In Right on the Money!: Taking Control of Your Personal Finances, I draw on the challenges of real-life families to introduce the basics of budgeting, buying a car and paying for college. I avoid lectures and bromides that are a staple of the genre in favor of a conversation that features a sensible and practical ways to achieve long-term goals. I like the point of view about managing money, but the rules on 401(k)s and other products I mention have changed since it was published.