201: The Future of Phased Retirement with Anna Rappaport
Anna Rappaport has been researching, writing about, and responding to the changing demographics of our society for over 30 years. With a unique focus on the future of benefits and the implications of an aging workforce. She is widely recognized as an expert in the business, policy and retirement communities and is an award-winning actuary, futurist, executive and trailblazer.
For over 30 years, Anna Rappaport has been researching, writing about and shaping responses to the changing demographics of our society. Focusing on the future of benefits and implications of an aging workforce, she is widely recognized in the business, policy and retirement communities.
Anna’s article Reboot, Retire, or Rewire caught my eye recently when it was featured by Michael Kitces. In it, she explores what the future of phased retirement looks like and the many different directions that people are moving in, and reminds us that having a balanced “life portfolio” is worthwhile and important.
Today, Anna joins the podcast to talk about why retirement can’t be a permanent vacation, what the future of “traditional” retirement might look like, and what the last 16 years have been like for Anna, who has enjoyed a deeply satisfying phased retirement when she retired in 2004.
In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
- Why it’s so important to have activities you deem worthwhile in retirement - and why this can be a mixture of work, volunteering, consulting, or something else entirely.
- Why the things you once did to relax stop being relaxing if they’re all you do.
- How Anna defines phased retirement - and how she’s balanced speaking, writing, research, art, and caregiving as an active 80 year old.
- The four components of a life portfolio, how to prioritize them, and how to check in on them over time.
- What Anna did to build a brand for herself after leaving her full-time position.
- How the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted phased retirement - and resources available for retirees.
- Tips for getting disinterested spouses interested in the planning process.
- "Once the thing that you used to think about as vacation is what you normally do every day, it's not vacation anymore." - Anna Rappaport
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Casey Weade: Anna, welcome to the podcast.
Anna Rappaport: Thank you, Casey.
Casey Weade: Well, Anna, I'm excited to have someone here with maybe the longest bio of anyone that I've had the pleasure of getting together with. I've been really excited about everything that I've read, all the research that you've done, all of the life experiences that you've had, I think we're going to be able to have quite a conversation here today.
Anna Rappaport: Great. So, you want me to start out with a little bit about what I'm doing now? Or how should we get started?
Casey Weade: Well, what I would like to do is go to – well, one, you were referred to me by David Littell, which has been one of our top downloaded podcasts. He is one that you worked with as well in the Retirement Income Certified Professional designation program. I know you were featured there when I went through my certification. And then, I actually found that I had included one of your articles in our weekend reading for retiree series prior to actually meeting David, prior to actually being introduced to you, I had already been introduced to you. I just didn't catch your name until David brought it up, but I said, “Oh, I know who that is.”
And it was an article that was in Michael Kitces Nerd’s Eye View. Michael Kitces is my favorite retirement researcher. I read everything that comes out there on his blog. A lot of those articles end up in our weekend reading. The article there that I want to start with was one that you had titled Reboot, Rewire or Retire? Personal Experiences with Phased Retirement and Managing a Life Portfolio. This article had a wealth of knowledge to bring to the table, but first, I just want to hit on the title, Reboot, Rewire or Retire? that we have so many different words for retirement, it seems like these days, what do these three things mean to you? Can you compare and contrast that reboot, rewire, or retire?
Anna Rappaport: Well, yes, I can talk a little bit about that. For many years before, I'm age 80 now, but before leaving full-time work as a consultant with William M. Mercer, I was thinking about how people get into phased retirement. How do you move from full-time work to doing something else? And I had a number of conversations with mostly professional women, but people in all different areas about what they were thinking about it from a personal point of view, as well as during my time at Mercer employers. And then, traditional phased retirement for many people was doing the same thing, cut down a little bit, but I found out that people wanted to do a lot of different things.
One of my friends, actually, at one of our roundtables introduced the words reboot, rewire, or retire, and that just appealed to me and I've used it a lot since, but I think the idea is that most, particularly professional people, but not only people in all walks of life, when they move out of full-time work, they want to have some kind of purposeful activity, and if they don't, they're sorry a little while later. Reboot is the idea of maybe thinking about going off in a different direction, doing some things to find a different direction, reboot and rewire. Retire more is stopping, but you can do this in lots of different ways, and that terminology just seems to appeal to people because it makes them think, Hey, there are a lot of different options out there. It's not just I stop or I keep doing what I was doing before, it could be I do something entirely different, it could be I do something that's based on the talents and skills that I already had, the knowledge that I already had. Even though today, no matter what kind of knowledge we have, things change so fast. We have to keep refreshing. You have to keep refreshing, if you don't, you're going to be left out. So, people make a variety of choices, and some build on those old skill, some going in entirely different directions.
Casey Weade: And to me, it sounds reboot, I think of restarting my computer, right? So, I'm restarting my computer, I'm rebooting. And if I'm rebooting, I still end up with the same computer, I still end up maybe even along the same lines as what I was doing before, but I've kind of just had this little reset. So, to me that sounds like pulling some of those previous experiences into a new phase of retirement that sounds like traditional phased retirement to me, maybe consulting or maybe going part-time work. We're just doing the same thing, but a little bit differently. Rewire, to me, sounds like, well, I'm just rewiring everything, I'm going to go in a completely new direction, but I'm not going to stop. Retirement sounds like more of a traditional form of retirement.
Anna Rappaport: I think that sounds very reasonable. And the extent to which people go in different directions, I mean, there's just so many different examples. You find people that were doing some kind of professional work, and then they decided, maybe not right now with COVID-19, but they decided to do things like start a bed and breakfast or do something entirely different, but it’s consulting using your skills that a lot of people do. I'm in Florida, and some people happen to be fairly near the theme parks. They decided they want to work in the theme park a few hours a week, and it gives them some social engagement, something to do.
I think it's important to do something that you feel is worthwhile. I mean, if there's criteria for me, it's feeling that it's worthwhile. I think it also matters a lot, whether you need to be making money, or whether the purpose of your working is because I need to make so much money, or whether you need to be doing something that feeds your soul, but the economic issues are different. So, for a lot of the actuaries that I know, they do a lot of volunteer work for the profession, or they may do a little bit of consulting, but they're not doing things that are aimed at making a certain amount of money. So, there's lots of different choices. Some people decide they want to be on board, and if that's the direction people want to go in, that's fine, but there, you need to be really careful to it because in order to be successful going on board, you have a variety of things you need to do, you need to find out, just like when you're trying to get a job, you need to find out what the rules are and work at it specifically. Some things are much easier to do than others.
Casey Weade: You said that one cannot vacation all the time, but isn't that what most people think of retirement? Some of the things you're talking about, there's reboot, rewire, I think this is the changing phase of retirement, but traditionally, it was kind of vacation all the time and to most, I go, man, I vacation for a couple of weeks, so I never got bored, I really enjoyed it. So, why can't one vacation all the time?
Anna Rappaport: Okay, for me, this is a really important question. And I think you can't vacation all the time because I believe vacation is a break from what you normally do. And once the thing that you use to think about is vacation is what you normally do every day, it's not vacation anymore, and you still need a break, you still need to go away. And some of the people that I know that are basically just home or doing recreational activities and don't have any particular activity, they still need to go on vacation and have a break and do something different. And if you just take the thing that, Oh, this is the thing I did to relax, this would be wonderful, I can do it all the time now.
My anecdotal experience is that that will work very well for a while, but six months or a year later, it'll be like this was really fun when I did it as a break from what I normally do, it's not a break anymore, it's what I do all the time. And then it gets boring. And that's the reason to it, if you're in a community of some sort, if you don't do anything else, you may be able to volunteer and organize activities in the community. There are some things like that, but the things that enabled you to unwind and relax and made you feel good because they were just fun to do. When you start doing them every day, I think there's a real danger that it's not a break and stops being fun at some point.
Casey Weade: I think this is the real power of a phased retirement from what I've seen. You start to get a feel for what those intermittent breaks actually feel like, or what more time off actually feels like away from some of those traditional activities of your work life, and you kind of get an idea of what you actually want your traditional retirement to look like at some point in the future. You've used this term phased retirement a couple times. So, for those out there that have never heard of phased retirement, they're not exactly sure what that means, maybe it seems a little nebulous, can you define that for us?
Anna Rappaport: Well, I can try to give you my definition, but I can first of all, say that there's no generally agreed upon definition, and it depends a little bit on what side of the fence you're sitting on. If you're an employer, I think when you think about phased retirement, you're thinking about that person who was an employee working for you for a longer period of time, working on a reduced schedule with the idea of eventually moving out and you only also think about that employee, thinking about, okay, we need to make sure that the intellectual capital is reasonably preserved, we need to train people. So, somebody that the phased retiree may be mentoring, they may have important relationships to the company, they may work to preserve them, but also offer some continuity and introduce new people.
If you're an individual, I think it's any path that you take this kind of purposeful path between full-time engagement in the labor force and full-time exit from either work, volunteer work and various purposeful activities. So, it's that path. Now, if you happen to be someone that's working on retirement plans, and you're thinking about it as a retirement actuary, you may think about it involving partial payment of pensions. I think about it much more broadly as this any kind of path, but there's no clear definition. And furthermore, there is no clear definition today between who is retired and who is working because you see people that say, Well, I'm retired, but then they tell you about the work they're doing. And as an example, if you're the US military, or you are in the military, you work a certain number of years as a military person, then you will become a military retiree, and you can go out and get another job. So, defining whose retiree phase retirement, all these things, there's no clear accepted definition that's used universally.
Casey Weade: So, it’s going to be a reboot or a rewire kind of what it sounds like.
Anna Rappaport: It could be. I think it's really important as an act of passion, when you get towards the end of the year, every year, that you're able to say at the end of the year, if somebody says to you, what did you do that was important this year? What did you accomplish? And that you have an answer that's, I did something I think was important, I accomplished something I feel good about it. And what's that's going to be is very different. For some people, they spend a lot of time with their families, and families become very important. Some people continue to work in their fields, they do a variety of different things, but I think it's important to have that sense of purpose and accomplishment. I cleaned up my house in the morning, and I went and sat on the beach all day. I think that doesn't give you a good sense of accomplishment after a while. It's not very satisfactory from my perspective. Some people are happy with that.
Casey Weade: So, you just turned 80, and you retired back in 2004 after 28 years with Mercer. What have the last 16 years looked like as a phased retirement for you? What was your phased retirement? And what phase are you in today?
Anna Rappaport: Well, for me, it's been a really exciting phased retirement. First of all, I'm also an artist, as well as being an actuary. And if you went back to four or five years before I retired, if you go back to like, in my 50s, early 60s, I probably thought, oh, I'm going to really pay a lot of attention to my art, I'm really going to focus on my art, and I do pay some attention to my art, but it's been really built around passion about certain important issues. I'm very interested in creating better opportunities for people like myself, and getting our society to pay more attention to how to create opportunities for people, very interested in women's retirement. I'm very interested in retirement risk. I've been very involved in the Society of Actuaries Research. So, it's a kind of complicated story.
My phased retirement has involved a combination of different things which gets me to the idea of the life portfolio, which is that, well, you can have just one thing, but I think you're much better off not to have just one thing, have a variety of things that you like to do and that you can do and I think that way, if you get tired of one, you've got some others that are right there that you can keep on with or you can substitute, but also if some of them require physical skills or other skills that you might lose over time, then things that you could keep doing if you're limited in some way that's like a form of insurance for it, but my life portfolio, I've stayed very active in the actuarial profession.
I was president of Society of Actuaries in ’97, ‘98, before I retired, but I have been chaired of the committee on Post-Retirement Needs and Risks of the Society since it was formed just a couple of years after I was president, and I’ve done a tremendous amount of research that I've been involved in. I've also worked on a variety of other things for the actuary profession. I'm on the board of WISER, the Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement; the Advisory Board of the Pension Research Council. I write and speak a lot. I don't provide paid consulting services to individuals to provide individual advice, but I provide advice to a lot of friends, and I have been doing consulting for organizations. I'd say much more of the early phases of this and not much now, primarily, I just do some research but Anna Rappaport Consulting, I've done some consulting over the years, a variety of interesting projects and clients. I've done speaking, I've done writing, I publish a lot, which is why you ran into me. I've run workshops on this subject of phased retirement or figuring out next steps. I've also been active with my art, I would say the last few years. I’m also a caregiver, so I have to balance some caregiving and family responsibilities with this.
So, I'm balancing now speaking, writing, a little bit of research, my art, and caregiving. And I want to keep going as long as I can, I think, it keeps me alive. I'd also mentioned we talked about earlier, right now, I'm in Florida, and we usually snowbird, so this year, we've just been in Florida all year. Now, I take the mornings, I usually go down to the pool, do water aerobics in the mornings, then in the afternoon, I do various kinds of professional work.
Casey Weade: Well, Anna, I want to point something out. One, I want to highlight this recurring theme that I've heard from different guests. George Schofield talked about having a lot of ponies on the track, and always making sure that you have all these different activities, this wide range of activities in case, all of a sudden, you can't do one, you also have all these other outlets that you can reach out to. Marianne Oehser called it a happiness portfolio. You call it a life portfolio. And I think that's a really important aspect is to have multiple things in multiple outlets that you are going into retirement continuing to build upon, but I know there's some out there that are going, how does Anna have time for all of these different things?
We want to have all these different activities. We want to have this full and robust life. However, how do you have time to sit on the beach? How do you have time today to not end up being that retiree that goes, I'm so busy today, I’m more busy today than I was when I was working, and I don't have time for anything?
Anna Rappaport: Well, I would say first of all, you need to know yourself and you need to be able to say no to projects. And you need to be able to also say, if you're going to do something, “Yeah, I'll do it, but I'm pretty busy right now. How about if I do it next month or in January or February?” So, I think if you know your own situation and limitations, you can agree to as much as you want, you can kind of pace it out.
Casey Weade: You could have a daily schedule. Do you follow a daily schedule? Or is it just kind of impromptu?
Anna Rappaport: It’s in between that. I would say on a weekly basis, I try to leave my mornings available to go to the pool and do my exercise, get my social engagement pretty much. I have a couple of other things that happen weekly, that I could change or not change, but then the afternoons, I would tend to do professional work. And some of it will be in the form of Zoom meetings or giving a talk like today, some of it is writing. Occasionally, I’ll have a couple of days that are very schedule packed, but usually, I have some discretion in the schedule. And I try to finish my stuff before the last-minute deadlines, I rarely get to the last-minute deadline. So, I have some flexibility there. So, I'd say I have a moderate level of schedule, but compared to the schedule of a full-time working person, it's a loose schedule with general idea about when things happen.
Casey Weade: I like that. We have an idea of what we want to do, we have this general idea, but we have a lot of flexibility built into that. And when it came to your life portfolio, in the article, you said it consists of four components, health, people, places, and pursuits in that order. Is there a ranking there, because it was 1, 2, 3, 4, health, people, places, pursuits? Was that meant to be a ranking? Or did it just so happen to get numbered that way?
Anna Rappaport: Okay.
Casey Weade: Should we rank?
Anna Rappaport: The life portfolio is something that the idea that I've been talking about for a long time, the article with Michael Kitces that you mentioned, Michael Kitces helped me organize it into the four quadrants. And I would say, the ranking depends a little bit on you and the personalities that you are and on your life situation. If your health situation is under reasonable control, you certainly care about that and maintain it, but it's not the kind of top of your mind, it's not the thing that you're like, Oh, I really gotta focus on this. On the other hand, if you have an illness, or if you have a problem, it might be the thing that's the first thing you have to take care of because it's so important.
I would say to me, in a lot of ways, the pursuit has been the thing that I've really focused on a lot. People is a very important issue, and the people thing has been kind of turned upside down in a lot of ways by COVID-19 because of social engagement, which could be through the pursuits. The forms of social engagement are so different. Now, it's mostly remote and over the computer rather than seeing people face to face. For example, one of the things that I really had looked forward to in the summer was when I went north was drawing with the group that I draw with all the time, I love them, and it's so great for me, Well, I didn't go north, but I wouldn't have been drawing with them anyway because they weren't together, but on the other hand, we had weekly events doing it online. So, I think, depending on your own personality and things you're doing, the people thing they just sort of fall into place with the pursuits, or you may have to really work at it.
And family is that, of course, an important part of that issue. The places thing has also been sort of turned upside down by COVID-19. For some people, travel is a hugely important part of retirement, and they might even be thinking in their pursuits, depending on what they want to do. Not just travel, I'm going to go on vacation for a month, but I'd really like to go to another country for a few months and work on a project. And depending on what you're doing, there might be a way to do that. I certainly know people that have worked on social benefits systems, or certainly teachers that have done this. There are a variety of ways to do that. So, I would say the right order probably depends on your own personal situation, and that some of these may be sort of in place or sort of easy for you. And some of them may be hard, and what's it going to be hard? Again, it depends on the situation.
Casey Weade: And do those four components change or vary from person to person? It sounds like there's a lot in there. People could include family, could include friends. Places could include where you're at today and where you want to go. So, they're pretty broad. Or is it always the same four?
Anna Rappaport: Well, okay, I started out some thinking about in terms of the same four, that everybody has the issue of a money portfolio. And assuming that you had the money part, more or less pretty much in line, then you have the life portfolio. And this was a reasonable way to separate it. And you say this, everybody had the same four. This is a set of categories that I think works for most people, but you could, I am sure, find three or four other people that are good at thinking through issues that would say, well, let's define the categories in a different way. So, is there something magic about the way these four are defined? No, but to me, they make sense, and they make pretty much sense to everybody.
I'd also say, let's think about places for a minute. Let's say you have a parent that is really needing your help, and you're limited away from traveling away because of that parent. And I've seen a lot of retirees end up spending a lot of time helping family and particularly caring for parents, and something that they didn't really plan on happening, and then, they get retired and within a year or two, they're in the caregiving business, but I think COVID-19 has placed limited people tremendously. So, the four general components, I think, always make sense but very different ways that they may go together.
Casey Weade: How often do you check back in with these four areas and make sure that you're staying balanced in these four most important areas of your life portfolio? And ultimately, how do you measure success? Are you doing a good job or not?
Anna Rappaport: Well, I kind of check in on myself, I would say, an absolute minimum of once a year, but I think about things a lot. So, three or four times a year, but it’s not…
Casey Weade: Maybe three or four times a day.
Anna Rappaport: No not, three or four times a day, but periodically, and it's not a big follow-up process. For me, the thing I've checked up on the most has been the pursuits thing that I've checked on that a lot. I probably could spend some more time on some of the others, but I think you set some goals, and you look at what you've accomplished, and you measure success. I have a particular situation, too, and that I for a while, wondered about these things, as all this stuff that I'm doing, this professional work, does anybody really care? You could kind of think, well, are we doing this for a good purpose? But then, I was very fortunate in the last few years to win some big awards, which really told me that, yes, people do care. And that was a wonderful measure of success, but a lot of people won't have it.
So, I think you need to look at it and say, well, is it creating value? You need to look at the health stuff. Am I satisfied with what I'm doing? Can I keep track? I'd like to say likewise, on the places and travel, you might have a goal of, well, I have a list of 20 places I'd like to travel to. Well, I know that while I'm younger and healthier, I can probably do more. So, let's go for three a year or something like that. You have different ways of doing that. I don't think there is a set format that, for example, if you're talking about investment management and investment goals…
Casey Weade: Yeah, you know, right. So, you got this investment portfolio, we know for winning or not, we have benchmarks to see it's much more nebulous, yeah.
Anna Rappaport: Well, I think it is. I mean, I think that the investment thing, there are a variety of people that have very well-organized systems. I don't know that there's a well-organized, commonly accepted system that people would use for this, but to me, it's that question at the end of the year. Can you talk about some things to accomplish that you're happy about? And I think if you go through a period, too, of feeling unhappy continuously for several months, I'd really revisit.
Casey Weade: Time to check in.
Anna Rappaport: What about this? It's time to figure this out again.
Casey Weade: Yeah. And I have to do that with myself from time to time. And I haven't been feeling just 100% lately, I mean, what's going on? Well, if I go back and check in with my values, and make sure each one of those buckets are full, I find, well, yeah, I could do a little bit better in each one of these areas. And it sounds like just a regular check in and just being cognizant of what you're feeling in any given moment.
Anna Rappaport: Right. And I would say that, if you're not able to figure it out for yourself, I mean, there's a variety of things that you might want to do there. I think there are probably some life coaches or advisors, depending on what you're looking at, that would work with you. And certainly, in health, there are some medical professionals. There are also groups, for example, there is a group for women called Project Renewment, where there are discussion groups that meet regularly. I don't happen to belong to that or participate in them, but just like there's support groups for various illnesses. There are various organizations that provide groups that kind of support each other.
And I think having a little circle of friends that you can talk to is also a good thing, but it's not like investment management, there's a sort of formal, well-recognized thing. And if you do these things to write an investment policy statement, and you do these things to check it out, you’re satisfying your fiduciary liability, and here you go, it's not like that.
Casey Weade: Yeah, something that we need to revisit on a regular basis, but there's not a set in stone way that we need to do that. There are a couple other items in this article before we move on to the next topic that I don't even know how to throw them in here, but I thought they really stood out to me. And I thought that there's many that could get some benefits out of just this concept in and of itself. One was the concept of building a brand for yourself in retirement. And we talked about building a brand for a company or a business, or maybe even yourself while you're in business, what's it look like to build a brand for yourself in retirement? And why might that be important?
Anna Rappaport: Okay, if you think about career planning, and when I started working, I don't think people start to talk about career planning, we're talking about a long time ago, but today, if you're a young person, and you get out of college, and you're in a good situation, you think about career planning, you think about brand and marketing yourself. I think, in terms of retirement, if you want opportunity, particularly if you want some sort of professional opportunities or volunteer opportunities, the substance for being on a board or any of these things, you need to be able to tell people, “Hello, this is who I am.” A little bit about your background and your talent, but this is what I can do for you. And I think it's really important.
And when I started out as a phased retiree and left full-time work, I have a website, I need a brochure, I decided what kinds of things that Anna Rapoport Consulting that I would be willing to do and which ones I wouldn't be willing to do, but I think it's important to have that little elevator speech about what you're interested in because then you can tell people and ask people, and you get asked to do things and you get the opportunities because of networking, because of building a brand. And sometimes, you can just volunteer and say, “Here I am,” but by and large, there are many things that you can do, but they don't just randomly appear in front of you, you have to look for them.
Casey Weade: It reminds of my 93-year-old grandfather. Every time we get together for lunch, he brings his resume with him. It sounds like having a resume, right? And he continues to stay busy because he always has that resume on him, but you've taken in a step further. With technology today, we can do things like easily build a website, or we can go to GoDaddy.com and just set up a website that is right after our name, CaseyWeade.com or AnnaRappaport.com, or build a brochure. Those are some of the neat things that technology has delivered. There's another thing that you do that I thought was quite unique, that was sending out update letters.
Anna Rappaport: Well, yeah, I was actually just going to mention that. And when I left Mercer, and I didn't really know when I left Mercer, were people going to be interested in my expertise? Were people going to be interested in working with me, because I’d worked for this leader in my business? I have this reputation but at the same time, the reputation was partly the reputation of the firm and partly me. So, I wanted to have my own story, and I want to continue to have my credibility, but I found that sending update letters to people I knew, and I have a list of about 150 people that I was sending update letters to, and I have not sent one for the last few years, but I sent a number out after I retired from Mercer, and I got comments back, people, I enjoyed the letter, or I’m really interested.
And the update letter I would send out would be a little bit about, hello, and I got to be interested to know what I've been doing. I've been working on this issue, I've written this, I've done some speeches. And by the way, right now, if you happen to come across any of these things, I'm interested in doing X. And these were paper letters, and they were paper letters, already at a time when paper letters were kind of old fashioned. And I think they got noticed in part because they were different, but it really told people that even though I was still retired, I was still there, I managed to serve on ERISA Advisory Council, Department of Labor, from 2010 to 2012. And I'd retired from Mercer at the end of 2004. That was a really interesting opportunity.
The other thing is I've been really crazy about, I talked about this issue of people having opportunities later in life. One of the things that drives me crazy about this is that the public policymakers could do things to help, but they don't care. And another issue that I was very crazy about for several years and tried to do a lot, and I'm still crazy about it, but I've kind of given up in terms of spending a lot of time on it right now is disability on retirement. Well, most of the time, while I was working, there were a lot of defined benefit plans, and most of those had some disability provisions built in. So, if you ended up getting disabled, long-term disabled while you were working, you kept earning pension credits. That was the typical thing in these plans.
Well, as plans have shifted from defined benefit to defined contribution, that disability protection was lost, and it wasn't really recognized, and people didn't even think about it. So, I was out running around, carrying flags about that for quite a while. It's still a big problem, but it's been really hard, but we did do a very nice project with the ERISA Advisory Council there, but actually, the whole issue of how much risk is borne by employers and by institutional arrangements and how much has shifted to the individual. It's gone the wrong way in the last few years. So, I'm passionate about these issues. And the letters were a good thing. And for people that are trying to maintain a professional presence and have a mailing list, I recommend doing some form of that.
And another little variation on that that I did is I went to Washington for a variety of things over a number of years. I haven't been going, well, of course, not this year, but I haven't been going to speak out the last couple of years, but I would just organize that straight dinners when I went to Washington. So, I might contact 30 or 40 people and say, I'm coming to town, would you be interested in getting together? I get four or five, six, seven, eight people. And that way I get in touch with the people. I’d see if we'd have fun. So, there's a variety of things you can do to, it's like marketing yourself. I mean, the thing is that the fact that you're a phased retiree doesn't take away the need to market yourself, it just changes how you might do it. And if you don't do it, you probably will be giving up some opportunities, and that might be okay or not.
Casey Weade: Yeah, and some of these things have changed to maybe since the pandemic and that leads me into a good question we had from one of our weekend reading subscribers, Roy Placido said, “What are the most popular methods for becoming a phased retiree? And how has the pandemic impacted those choices?”
Anna Rappaport: Well, the pandemic may have made a huge– I'm actually watching this because I don't know about what has been going on, but the pandemic, you've had a huge increase in the number of people working at home. And I think what you're also getting in the pandemic is some jobs are getting restructured. So, employers might be more willing to continue to use the same people as phased retirees working from home, if they're working with people from home anyway. So, the methods of becoming a phased retiree, the first one would be, if you're interested in it and you'd have a regular full-time job, find out whether your employer might have an opportunity. There are very few employers that have formal phased retirement programs. There are some types of businesses, for example, hospitals with nursing retail banks were some of the people, the customer facing people in the bank, part-time work is part of the deal. And while they may not have a phased retirement program, they may have a part-time opportunity. So, find out what's available from your employer. And I would say there are few formal programs, there are quite a few businesses that have some part-time opportunities.
There are also a fair number of people that work out individual arrangements that are negotiated one on one, and there's no data about those, but that I would say, if you're interested in that, start there. Then, if that doesn't work, if you're in some kind of a field where there's a possibility of contract work, you can think about that, and that might be a good route for you. If you're in a profession that has professional organizations, such as you’re a lawyer, you're a doctor, you're an actuary, you may want to do something with a professional organization. A lot of actuaries do stuff with their professional organizations,
Casey Weade: Would that be contract work?
Anna Rappaport: It might be volunteer work or contract work. I would say, it would be more often volunteer work, but it could be contract work or combination. I know people that have combinations. Then, depending on the contracts you've had before, you may have some consulting opportunities. So, if you want to have some consulting opportunities, you have to think about how to set that up, and how do you tell people what you're doing? You need to think about what are the requirements to get your work peer reviewed. Are there licenses that are involved or not, depending on what you're going to do? And for example, for years is that anything that requires being up to date on the law, I'm not doing it anymore, I’ve made a cutoff point for that.
So, you have to think about what you say, if you're interested in consulting work, you need to talk to a few people, and you may find something some people have a former employer that may not be the one before they retired, or somebody they used to work with that was a co-worker, but they'll find a little bit of consulting work. There are some temp agencies that really specialize in phased retirees. There's something called RetirementJobs.com, which is one of a number of specialized businesses. That RetirementJobs.com, if those personal contacts didn't get you someplace, they've got over a million people on there, they have job seekers, they have jobs they make matches.
There is a special organization for, I believe, human resource professionals and insurance professionals called WAHVE that places phased retirees working at home vintage– I don't remember the exact what all that stands for, but there's YourEncore.org, which is not for profit, has RAPS. There's Your Encore, which are certain types of professionals, and that was started. They have a number of different areas now, professional areas, but that was started by Procter & Gamble, I believe, Eli Lilly, and Boeing with the three companies that years ago started that, but there's specialized organizations. So, there's a variety of paths to finding these retirement opportunities. And I would say networking is just as important as it was before. You need to think about the direction you want to go into. Some people who just want something to do, too, they go and work at Walgreens.
Casey Weade: Well, number one on your list there was engaging your employer and seeing if they have an option, but being that there aren't a lot of employers offering formal phased retirement programs, some may be uncomfortable approaching their HR person or their boss, or whoever their superior is, and having that conversation.
Anna Rappaport: You may not be willing to have that conversation until you retire because maybe absolutely, because if you give them a hint, they might be okay, you're out of here. So, you have to make a decision whether that's a smart thing to do or not.
Casey Weade: And so, it sounds like there is some real danger in having that conversation. So, I want to transition, because I know you have serious interest in women's retirement, and we've got about 15 minutes left here, and I want to make sure we hit on women's retirement. I know this is really a passionate issue for you. And I want to kick this off. I think we can kick this off with another weekend reading subscriber question that we had from Cindy Williams saying, “I know in general, women outlive their husbands. How do we best plan for higher taxes and smaller Social Security checks? Do you have retirement planning advice for when one spouse passes, then income and tax brackets change?” I don't think we need to deliver specific financial advice here, but I just want to address that issue of in general women outliving their husbands, you shared a statistic 75% of women over the age of 85 are widowed, 13% are married.
Anna Rappaport: Yeah, well, first of all, Society of Actuaries has done a very interesting research quite a lot on people aged 85 and over. And I would say that research offers insights to think about in planning. Society of Actuaries also has a series of decision briefs for people who are nearing retirement, and some of them focus on issues relating to widowhood. The Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement also has some resources. I think the first thing I might say, too, as a general thing, when you make a plan, it's really important to make the plan that work for the couple as a couple, but also, it'll work if things don't work out if you're divorced, or if you become widowed, because the couple is likely to turn into one. So, you want to make sure to provide for that.
I had a conversation with someone by chance recently, a man horrified me, a former public safety officer, and he said, “Oh, I took the single life annuity.” Our people know that they get more income, they take single life annuities and don't protect their spouses. If you're in a couple of situations, you have a chance of joint and survivor benefits, that's usually the right thing to do, but arranging the finances to protect, that's important, but I think also arranging the life portfolio so that you have things to do. I have a good friend, who has been widowed now for a number of years, and is doing pretty well, but one of the first things that she said two or three years later is that she had done almost everything with her husband. In fact, I have another friend who is the same thing.
So, doing things, while you want to do things together as a couple, but don't do everything together as a couple. Do a few things that are on your own, so you have some things that are left. So, I would say there are lots of good resources. If you do some other things to worry about in terms of women, women do generally live longer. We talked about disability briefly before. Disability protection is really important and for married couples, when they're working disability protection on the husband as well as the wife, because if one of them gets disabled, that tends to wreck up the retirement resources for the couple, and it’s usually the survivor that ends up ending in trouble because of it. So, I would say disability protection is a really important thing.
The question of how rapidly you spend down your money, you don't spend it down, that's important. A little-known fact, too, for women, first of all, this is a question about decision to marry and decision to do it, if you get divorced after 10 years, then if you don't remarry, depending on the relative earnings of the husband and wife, the survivor gets benefits based on that prior person's earnings, or may if the other person was the higher earning. If you get divorced after nine and a half years, nothing, it's a cliff at 10 years. And there are many people, it doesn't matter, but there are other people that this is a critically important issue. Paying attention to all the Social Security provisions and how they work differently for couples, that's a really important thing. One of the decision briefs in Society of Actuaries is about Social Security, lots of good, WISER materials for women, Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement.
Casey Weade: Well, we'll make sure we get all those links that we've talked about right there, the show notes. Quite often, we're working with either a husband or a wife when it comes to the financial planning, and sometimes it's a challenge to get both husband and wife in the same room, and then when we do, sometimes we have one of the two spouses, believe it or not, recently was sitting in the conference room, playing video games on her phone, while we're doing financial planning with the husband, and I'm sitting there going, how do we get her involved? Yeah, and sometimes it's the other way around. Sometimes it's the husband, and really, if it's the husband, I'm not that concerned because the odds are, the woman is going to be the one that's going to be taking over the financial planning someday. It's more important she's on board than the husband, but if you have a disinterested spouse, are there any strategies that that couple could use or an advisor could use to get everybody engaged in that planning process?
Anna Rappaport: Well, I'm going to tell you a couple of stories and also mention another project that I've recently been on that kind of the edge job. There is a new research report from the Society of Actuaries jointly with the Stanford Center on Longevity and University of Minnesota called Advanced Planning for Changes in Financial Capability. And that's actually not about getting the spouse involved so much as it is heavily about being involved with getting also adult children involved, but this is a research report that was done that looks at this question of how do you have a conversation in advance about the possibility that you're going to need help in managing your finances going forward? And how do you position the messages?
And if you position the messages, at least according to this research, if you position the messages to negatively, that is going to turn people off, they don't want to get involved, but if you position them more along, well, unexpected things can happen, and you protect against fire because your house can burn down, well, you got fire insurance. So, think about something that might happen as protection, like insurance to get people involved, but I would say there are several interesting strategies that we talked about there in terms of how you frame the discussion. Another thing that I think is quite valuable in framing some of these discussions is storytelling. A lot of people, if you tell people statistics, statistics are not very meaningful, they don't identify with them.
Casey Weade: You and I love statistics, but not everybody's like that.
Anna Rappaport: But, and I had personal experience in terms of getting people interested in the women's retirement issues, I had case study that I used in the numbers of speeches, and I gave it various names, but the case studies sort of walk through the story of a woman who first, she was married, and then she was widowed. And then after she was widowed, she went to senior housing to an independent living, and then she got Parkinson's. And then she had to go to assisted living and then switched to nursing home, but the story traced through a variety of things that happened, and how she lost the ability to use the phone and communicate. And when I would tell the story, then people would come up to me and say, “Well, how did you know about my Aunt Sally?” Well, it wasn't your Aunt Sally, it was my mom, or at least part of it was my mom. The story was built with a composite of different people, but people that I knew the story of, but I think when you tell a story, then people are able to link to it, or a story of a situation where I know somebody who was widowed a couple of times and left without money and thought, it was in situations where there was money there, thought she was getting money, I know of a different situation.
But if you can tell a story in a way that the first thing I always said, oh my god, this could happen to me, that helps to engage people. I think framing of the messages is really important. And this report I mentioned, there's some very nice advice in there about message framing to help get people engaged, but it's very hard if somebody is just disinterested, and it can be very worrisome because there are actually so many stories of women who think everything is fine, and then they either get divorced or they're widowed, and it's not fine at all, and they have no idea where to start, but some people, they don't want to be involved.
Casey Weade: Yeah, we quite often find with a couple, right? The one that's really interested in the financial planning process is going to connect more with the statistics, and then they want to share the statistics to the other spouse that's really going to connect more with the story, their right brain or left brain, we have to make sure adapting that in order to get the other party really interested.
Anna Rappaport: The other thing I would say is that, and this is a sort of extension of the story issue, if there's something that happened with someone close to you or in your family, that opens up a receptivity to knowing more about the situation.
Casey Weade: Well, I've got a couple of general questions that I'd like to wrap up with, as we approach our hard stuff. And one is what is the strangest personal financial practice that you have had, that you use today or have used maybe in the past?
Anna Rappaport: The strangest financial practice?
Casey Weade: Yeah, what do you do that's kind of weird when it comes to your finances?
Anna Rappaport: I'm not sure I have any particular weird thing to say? One thing that I would say that's different from I think what people think about in terms of planning, is that I think if you track your personal assets, and if they're growing well, that that can be kind of a substitute for doing a lot of very careful budgeting in terms of, if the bottom line at the end is progressing in a good way, you don't necessarily have to worry about every little dot, every little eye and dot and so forth.
Casey Weade: Sometimes we just make it too hard, right? We just make the whole planning process and spending process and budgeting process too hard on ourselves. I love how simple that is.
Anna Rappaport: I will tell you one other simple idea. I've had conversations with people about a variety of things, a test about should I do this? Should I redo my kitchen? Should I move to a bigger house? Should I do this? Well, I can afford it. Will it make your life better? And my general reaction would be if it's not going to really make your life better, don't bother. And another question I would ask, which is a little bit funny, and this is based on a real conversation I had with a person. You can afford it, but besides, will it make your life better? Will it limit the options you might have? Yes, you're making a lot of money right now, but you might want to do something a little different. The next less money later on, will it limit the options you have? If you do this, will you limit your other options? So, I think those are some questions that you can ask that aren't requiring a lot of mathematics.
Casey Weade: I think that's just gold. My final question is about the title of the podcast itself. I want to know what Retire with Purpose means to you.
Anna Rappaport: Well, to me Retire with Purpose is that, and I'm back to the pursuits as much, I'm back to the life portfolio in the pursuits, but Retire with Purpose means that you have a life that's meaningful, and that you can say, I did something that I thought was important and valuable year by year, and it's a way of thinking about how do you have a good life, and if you're personally identified. So, it's that sense of internal satisfaction. It’s good because it makes me feel that I did something important and valuable, and one of the things about being retired, is that when you're working for somebody, and you're talking about that performance review, which we talked about you using their criteria for the performance review, when you retired, you can use your own criteria for the performance review.
Casey Weade: Well said. I really enjoyed that. It's a great point to end on here. And I just can't wait to see what you do next. So, thanks for joining us here, and until next time,
Anna Rappaport: Okay, thank you, Casey. It's been a pleasure.