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Like many books targeted to mid-life professionals, Marc Freedman addresses retirees who are physically and financially in a position to make choices. He makes an appealing yet dangerous assumption: Older people will be drawn to opportunities where they can make a contribution. They're more concerned with contributing than earning. They're cooperative, not competitive.

To be sure, many people over 40, 50 or 60 are eager to help. Many want to be teachers, nurses and social workers. But some of us are just not suited to the helping professions. And some of us actually believe that, no matter how old we are, we want to get paid based on contribution. We want to get raises, rewards, promotions and perks.

One reason so many mid-life career changers end up self-employed is that there's no other way to follow the profit motive. I recently met a lawyer who finished law school in his late 40's. Now in his early 60's, he has always worked for himself and done very well in a niche specialty. If he tried to work for a law firm, he'd be lucky to get hired as a part-time paralegal.

Along with the nurses and teachers, Freedman introduces us to a former teacher who now works as a greeter at Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, these stories reassure potential employers: "See, older people don't care about money or status."

Freedman provides a list of resources. Instead I would encourage mid-life career changers to seek one-to-one consulting from career coaches or else undertaken their own programs. If you're considering a business, go to the SBA or take entrepreneurship classes.

Towards the end of the book, Freedman identifies elements of the infrastructure (taxes, health insurance and more) that no longer make sense and actually harm older workers. He quotes statistics showing that older workers use health care "1.4 to 2.2 times" as much as younger workers. It's not clear what orders of magnitude are associated with those numbers. I buy my own health insurance (you can always choose to opt out of an employer's system) and pay very little because I have a big deductible. I've reviewed several books, here on amazon, that encourage everyone to take a skeptical look at those "essential" medical tests.

Bottom Line: Encore features some very impressive baby boomers who have made significant changes in their lives. Those who want to work for money fulfilling social responsibilities by donating to worthy causes, will have to look elsewhere.
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on June 7, 2007
How times have changed! When I was a mere youth back in the 1940s and 50s, all that the "old folks" talked about was how they would retire someday, draw their Social Security, and spend their time idly pursuing idle pursuits. Of course, most of them expected to be gone from planet Earth sometime within their sixties. Things are different now, of course, and the game of life in regards to retirement has radically changed. And this is the main thrust of Marc Freedman's "Encore." Now that people are living longer and healthier, and some are being forced into retirement at an earlier age, and many (if not most) of these retirees are still physically and mentally capable of working and contributing to the body-politic, and, moreover, they don't want to sit around in the rocking chair waiting for the grim reaper, the question is: what are we going to do with them now? Or better, what are they going to do with themselves?

This is an important issue, not only for the so-called "baby boomers" as Freedman's book mainly emphasizes, but, in my view, it is also an important issue for those of us who are "pre-boomers." After all, I am (all too rapidly, I might say) approaching my biblically-sanctioned three score and ten and, yet, yet I don't consider myself as "retired." After all, what really is "retirement"? Retired from what? Retired when? Does the traditional concept of "retirement" actually have any meaning today? In fact, I and many of my personal colleagues have never retired, strictly speaking, although we now work in different capacities from what we did previously. Freedman proposes the idea of the "Encore Society," that is, as the subtitle of his book states, "Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life."

The author of "Encore," who is the founder and CEO of Civic Ventures and spearheaded the creation of Experience Corps, wrestles with the entire problem of retirement as it was conceived in the past and how it might be redefined in contemporary society and our current and future economic marketplace. Let no one doubt it; the whole picture of "retirement" is undergoing a fundamental modification. And that is why this book can be so valuable to readers that may be approaching the time of retirement decision-making. While many are dreading a confrontation with the issue of freedom "from" work, Freedman offers the alternative of freedom "to" work.

A special highlight of "Encore" is the author's inclusion of true stories of people who have chosen not to retire from working itself, but to change careers and many times for the better, particularly for work that is personally meaningful and self-satisfying. Here are the practical hints and tips for the transformation that millions of our baby boomers may want to or have to make. This book is an interesting read and presents much valuable information and advice.
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on July 12, 2007
In sharp juxtaposition to "The Golden Years" legend embraced by our parents' generation - the housing industry-inspired mythology that serves up retirement as a time for carefree, unending play - Marc Freedman suggests something else: "If graying continues to mean only playing, it will mean paying...

"We can't afford a leisure class that makes up one-fourth of the population."

In his new book, Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life, Freedman asks: "How could the best thing that has ever happened to us as individuals - the dramatic extension of life and health - amount to the worst thing that has happened to us as a nation?"

To encapsulate what he means by "the worst thing," Freedman identifies eight factors contributing to a gathering "perfect storm," the first four of which are darkly ominous.

First, Freedman drives home a message being carried by many thought-leaders today: inexorable demographics. By 2030, 25% of all U.S. residents will be 60 and older. Never before in the history of the nation, or for that matter, Western society, will so many people have reached the 7th decade of life.

Second, not only is the nation growing older; Americans are living longer. By mid-century, average life expectancy in the longest-lived countries may exceed the century mark. According to my analysis of census bureau statistics, by 2065 our nation will be home to at least 2.1 million centenarians.

Third, huge numbers of aging adults and increasing longevity imply that many will face the prospect of financing 30 or more years in retirement. Aside from the wealthiest of the generation, few Boomers have saved enough for so many years without added income. My research has disclosed that roughly 25% of the Boomer generation is technically broke today, with net assets of $10,000 or less.

Fourth, the retirement safety nets relied upon by our parents -- Social Security and Medicare -- are in severe danger of collapse. I have had an opportunity to hear disconcerting presentations by David Walker, Comptroller General of the United States. The total future unfunded liability of the U.S. government, including entitlement programs, is $46.4 trillion. Unimaginable national debt will inexorably lead to disastrous consequences for our economy, for us, and even for our children's children.

One way to think of an encore is as repetition, a repeated musical performance for example. Marc Freedman is in one sense calling on Boomers to repeat their careers again for perhaps shorter stints after the time of traditional retirement. This paradigm shift can go a long way in quelling the storm by increasing the number of years we are making instead of just consuming money.

But the book title has another, much larger implication. It is important that we realize something is greater at stake then just keeping Boomers busy, longer.

If that's all we need, then probably the so-called "bridge jobs" would be sufficient. These are the myriad retail and customer service jobs, such as Wal-Mart greeters, that employers are eager to fill with over-qualified Boomers at low wages. These McJobs also answer the yearning for "busyness," a sense that all's right with the world because we're busy, busy, busy.

Freedman isn't just suggesting an encore in a literal sense. If you haven't guessed by now, he is calling on his generation "to a gathering movement whose larger purpose is to solve the greatest problems facing humanity today."

Many books are now being published about the Boomer generation and what the aging of this segment means to the economy, to the healthcare system and to the future of aging. Some of these books simply rehash similar concepts and insights.

Marc Freedman's Encore offers a fresh approach by not only identifying potential problems of population aging but also creating a coherent vision for how we can transform "the problems" into unparalleled opportunities for businesses, nonprofit organizations and our society as a whole. It's a clarion call to a generation and an optimistic portrayal of how Boomers can make our "long, strange trip" even better.
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on June 28, 2007
Like an earlier book by Marc Freedman that I've read, I think the best part of his new book may be when he tells us of the history of retirement in America. In this case, it's Chapter Two, entitled, "Inventing the Golden Years."

Freedman really can tell a story. He takes us back to the era when there were no pensions and no Social Security. Workers worked until they dropped and/or they lived in poverty. Older people suffered greatly during the Great Depression.

But by 1940, the New Deal brought Social Security and a base of income for life to retired Americans.

Then, Freedman tells us of another milestone: He takes us to 1949 and the negotiations between the powerful autoworkers union and the Ford Motor Company. The union was demanding $100 per month in guaranteed pension income, and it got it for workers who put in 30 or more years. This would be in addition to Social Security.

By the end of WWII, retirement incomes got even better, as the post-war economy allowed for more generous pensions. And the companies wanted the older workers to move on, so they could replace them with younger workers at lower salaries.

But retirement lacked a psychological foundation, a reason for being. This is where the financial services companies came into the picture. Life insurance companies began to promote the idea that it was in retirement that life was at its best. "It was the chance for a second childhood, an endless vacation," said the marketers.

And by 1960, Del Webb entered the scene with the original Sun City in Arizona, attracting 100,000 at the opening weekend of the development. It is Webb that is attributed with inventing the term the "Golden Years." Soon, half of the residents of Arizona aged sixty-five and older lived in gated communities, like Sun City.

And this image was so good that it translated into the goal of "early" retirement for many other workers. The percentage of men in the workplace at age 65 dropped like a lead balloon. Says Freedman, "The older population had become the nation's true leisure class."

Like I said, Freedman can tell a story. And, it is a good one, one that is being lived to the hilt today by tens of millions of Americans, living the new American dream: Retirement.

But this last sentence is from me, not Freedman. No, Freedman spends the rest of the book trying to convince us that a life of endless leisure and a lack of responsibility is bad for individuals and for society.

You see, Freedman's thing is to make a case that those who seek "encore careers" instead of a life of leisure are the models that older folks should follow. He uses simplistic arguments and examples to degrade traditional retirement and lots of psychobabble to tell us that there is something "new" out there that is reinventing retirement. Golfing is his symbol of what cannot possibly be sustained as meaningful in retirement, for example.

In short, Freedman "turns" on retirement with a vengeance and, in my opinion, doesn't even try to fight fair. He just declares himself the winner. For example, he says, "...retirement, once a powerful version of the American dream, has been distorted into something that no longer works for most individuals - or for the nation." At one point, he even labels traditional retirement as "grotesque." And he claims that Boomers are "going to work longer than their parents did," using the fraudulent claim that "Four out of five Boomers consistently tell researchers that they expect to work well into what used to be known as the retirement years." Don't bet on that one, folks.

Friedman's heroes are his "Encore Pioneers." These folks, he says, are "Eschewing retirement in either traditional or reinvented forms, they are instead opting for work." He gives us profiles of people who he tells us represent such "pioneers." And these people are truly impressive. They are hard-working, dedicated older people who are to be admired. But who says that most Boomers will follow their lead? Even Friedman in one section admits that it is too early to tell how many Boomers will go this way, but then adds, "even a very small percentage would be a very big number."

But what if it were to turn out to be about 15%? If so, that would be about the same number as have been working full-time at age 65 or older for decades! If that turns out to be the case, then what is all the fuss about "encore careers?" And what is all this talk about something being "new" under the sun?

And here is where I begin to really dislike Freedman and his goals. He starts to make claims that older folks are going to have to go in his direction whether they like it or not. "We can't afford a leisure class that makes up one-fourth of the population," he says. And, in reference to extended life expectancies, he says, "Neither individual budgets nor the national budget can support three- or four-decade retirements."

He suggests that Social Security benefits be adjusted to "prod individuals to work longer." And he says, "Just as we pay farmers not to grow crops, we've made it worthwhile for people to stop working." How is that for a scary statement? Is he suggesting that the "we" guys should be in charge of reducing retiree benefits so that many, if not most, would have no choice but to return to work? That sounds like an evil "Big Brother" concept to me. I'll want no part of it.

And, get this: Freedman admits that many are totally burned out at the end of their working lives by the work they have done. They are exhausted. So, he says that these folks are allowed to take a "break before moving on to the next phase of engagement." Isn't that nice of him.

But, here, I think, is a major flaw in his thesis: He tries to convince us that most folks, after they catch their breath on their post-primary-career-working-life "break," will be more than ready to reinvent themselves in their "encore career" that will provide them with more purpose and meaning in their lives.

But is this based in reality? In my experience, it's not. I find that once retirees make it through the transition into retirement, and once they find that their finances pay the bills, about the last thing in the world most are eager to do is to rejoin the workforce - in any capacity. They will volunteer. They will do things for other people. But given the choice, they will much prefer to stay retired than rejoin the workforce, full- or part-time. They've been there; they've done that!

And I've seen studies that have followed up on people who said that they would be working in retirement, only to find that about half never get around to it at all, and most who did do not stay with it long, especially if they find they really don't need the extra money.

But to boost his argument, Freedman tells us stories of people who have retired, but hated it. Sure, we all know this can happen. The question is whether it happens to a significant number. I don't think it does. I think it is a minority.

He also tells us of publications that have run articles and special sections telling us why it is better to work than retire. I've read many of these. I've also read "The Joy of Not Working," by Ernie Zelinski, and "Get a Life," by Ralph Warner, both of which give solid counter arguments to the work-is-better-than-retirement crowd.

Friedman's vision involves waves of Baby Boomers "inventing a new phase of work." He sees this as potentially transforming the nature of work in America and even having the potential for creating "a society that works better for all of us." A major problem, however, is that this is coming from a guy who really does not play fair. We get occasional insights into an author with a vision of having people go in his direction whether they like it or not.

And Freedman has a deep-seated problem with the traditional retirement lifestyle, in the same way that AARP has. He really cannot acknowledge the traditional retirement lifestyle as being the best fit for the majority of retirees. For him, it is not to be mentioned, as if it does not exist. (Try to find the word "retirement" in an AARP publications. It is avoided like the plague. )

Freedman is too committed to his thesis to give up easy. I'm sure that he will be around a long time. But I fail to see that he is good for or even relevant to most of us who choose a traditional retirement lifestyle, based on the merits pointed out to us by the financial services companies. And if Baby Boomers turn out in retirement to be as independent and self-centered and skeptical of authority as they are said to be in their working lives, how in the world does Freedman think they will follow him like some kind of a prophet?

I don't see this happening. I think Freedman's vision is much to do about nothing. I don't see him leading any parades. I think, for the most part, he's a false prophet.
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on July 2, 2007
Freedman offers an important perspective for those Americans approaching retirement or second careers. But his analysis and stories may prove as important for those of us at earlier life stages.

I'm in my early thirties. My generation will face enormous fiscal challenges as a result of the demographic shift Freedman discusses - this much is clear. Yet Freedman's book is important to me and my peers in several other respects: we are helping our parents make a transition from a first career that has shaped their identity for decades into something new and engaged and fulfilling; and we ourselves need a new lens through which to preview our own lives-to-come and frame our career and life decisions now. As Freedman suggests, a new life map - and the societal supports to allow it - is needed for all of us.

I especially appreciate that Freedman's astute observations and lively, humane storytelling offer up a hopeful shift, and one full of promise for all of us. The book helps me look forward to my next career(s) and allows me to relax into knowing that there is ample time and no shortage of exciting social challenges to tackle.

Lastly, we are seeing a significant demographic shift globally and I would hope to see Freedman, a first-rate social entrepreneur, lead a global movement to reframe retirement, linking with actors in India, Brazil, Europe, and so on. This book speaks to a historical moment of global significance and opportunity. I absolutely welcome this book and would encourage others of my generation to dig in. We've got quite a big and joyful project ahead of us.
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on June 15, 2007
Most of what you read about the aging of America suggests that this event is likely to be a disaster, especially a financial disaster. Marc Freedman has a fresh approach and a big idea about how the aging of the boomer generation may actually be an occasion for great new personal and professional adventures that produces huge results for society. Freedman sees a future that is better for individuals, for communities and for the nation. He foresees a new phase of work, which he calls the Encore Career, in which people who have finished their midlife careers engage in work that benefits society.

If you like the thinking of creative optimists like John Gardner, Sargent Shriver, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harris Wofford, you will love Marc Freedman. And if you like good writing and good storytelling, you will love Encore: Finding Works that Matters in the Second Half of Life.
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on June 1, 2007
"Encore: Finding Work that Matters in the Second Half of Life" will change the way everyone thinks about two very important stages of life that, before this book, did not co-exist as happy bedfellows - aging and work. Marc Freedman is a visionary thinker who dispels the idea that the Boomer age wave will bankrupt the country and he also gives us the option and a road map to spearhead an alternate universe very much of our own making. Many older people (and younger for that matter) do not envision "retirement" as they did before - gone are the days of the window overlooking the golf course as our best and only plan. For millions who hope for a better way to work, volunteer, make change and continue to grow and contribute as they enter and pass through the "third act of life"- at ages 50-75 and more - this book is a lifesaver. I had the great good fortune to interview Marc on our radio show, EXPERIENCE TALKS ([...]), the other day and here is all I have to say - bravo, Marc, bravo.
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on July 2, 2007
For the past dozen years or so, my chief passion has been to study, write about, and talk about the challenges and unbounded opportunities awarded current generations by the gift of longevity--the 20-30 added years of active adulthood awaiting our rapidly maturing and longer-lived society.

My inspiration has been drawn from such serious scholars and forebearers as Robert Butler, Peter Drucker, and John Gardner. And it's blended with some small wisdom gained in more than 25 years of post-midlife experience.

Today, I've discovered a new hero to follow in the heritage of Gardner, Drucker, and Butler: social enterprise innovator and author Marc Freedman. He brings to the scene fresh energy and invention, plus a novel approach and subtle but forceful strategy for resolving the confounding and persistent challenges of learning how to live well and beneficially for an extra generation.

His ideas are consistent with the theme, spirit, and content of his latest book: Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life.

This visionary volume is an uncommonly thoughtful and bold endorsement of keeping the eldest third of our more durable population active, alert, healthy, productive,and essentially self-supporting over the course of a new and socially beneficial working age that begins after midlife.

Here's my quick take on Marc's plan.

It is built on the clear understanding that folks nearing, at, or beyond midlife represent a significant resource of experience, savvy, mature vision, and human vitality. Prospectively, their continued engagement and involvement in America's work life can provide our nation and our people with an incalculable advantage in coping with the demands of leadership and partnership in a global community.

(Longer work lives, by Freedman's reckoning, are a certainty for current generations--especially for baby boomers.)

The opening gambit in his plan is a relatively straightforward, three-phase investigation of added career options appropriate to an extended work life.
1.Identify those who enjoy and are committed to their current work. Ask them to confirm their chances or options for staying on the job.
2.Help others explore and evaluate as accurately as possible their short term and long term working options and opportunities.
3.Broaden the inquiry to include a search for criteria that will clearly show what factors most strongly influence new career choices.

The Encore book is basic to this process. It is packed with clear, concise testimony, advice, instruction, resources, and references for "finding work that matters."

It also calls for a reawakening of our individual zest for making an inimitable imprint on the lives of those around us and the world in which we live.

Happily, it's also a good read. Try it, you'll like it.

Carl Atkinson
San Rafael, California
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on July 3, 2007
I picked this book up because my mother is a volunteer with Experience Corps in Philadelphia and it's eye opening. It seems like such a simple idea, but what an insight -- brilliant! The potential of this wave of boomers changing the world is a powerful vision for the future, and Freedman does an outstanding job capturing this nascent movement.

Freedman's book is a quick, interesting read that packs a punch. It's the perfect gift for a boomer who is thinking about what to do with the rest of their life.

I particularly enjoyed the compelling stories of the pioneers who are igniting the powder keg. I wholeheartedly recommend this book!
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on July 5, 2007
Marc Freedman converts our ageing population from a potential problem into a great opportunity in a thoughtful and inspiring fashion. Non-profit and public sector executives will be facing increasing talent short-falls and Encore offers great advice on one of the primary places where we ought to be looking.

Max Stier, President & CEO, Partnership for Public Service
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