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Avoiding Ostrich Syndrome


Denial Doesn’t Make the Issues Go Away for Retirees

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From choosing to relocate or age in place, to providing for future health contingencies, older adults have decisions to make as they step into their seniority. “Ostrich syndrome” — sticking your head in the sand and hoping you’ll never have to face such issues, or will deal with them “when the time comes” — isn’t a viable answer, because if someone doesn’t plan for their needs, the decision will likely be made for them down the road, often not in the manner they would have preferred.

Senior Retirement Planning

A 2013 Merrill Lynch Retirement Study, conducted in partnership with Age Wave, surveyed more than 6300 adults 45 and older to determine their expectations regarding their later years. It’s probably no surprise that the biggest worry, cited by 72 percent, is health care problems, followed by almost half (47%) who think they will run out of money to live comfortably, and 45% who are seeking help finding the best place to live during retirement. Yet more than half (52%) also expect to provide financial, housing and educational support to adult children! Clearly, a reality check is in order.

Besides learning about reverse mortgage as a possible solution for their financial and housing needs, seniors can explore a number of creative work options.

In Creating A Second Act That Matters, author Kerry Hannon shares that “planning to continue working is fast becoming the pillar of retirement planning.”

The best jobs for the 50-plus crowd? Hannon recommends:

  • Healthcare/patient advocate
  • Home modification pro (for aging in place)
  • Senior fitness trainer
  • Move manager
  • Dietician/nutritionist
  • Retirement coach
  • Financial planner

(These also sound like excellent business connections for reverse mortgage professionals.)

Encore entrepreneur Jan Hively, PhD, goes a step further and suggests elders adapt to a world without jobs through flexicurity. This intriguing term, now in use in the European Union, refers to “an integrated strategy for enhancing both flexibility and security in the labor market. Flexicurity attempts to reconcile an employer’s need for a flexible workforce with a worker’s need for protection from long periods of unemployment. These principles emphasize flexible and reliable contractual arrangements and comprehensive lifelong learning strategies.”

One apparent truth is that working beyond the arbitrary retirement age of 65 helps keep people vibrant, fit and engaged. Centenarian Hy Goodman has been working for the same company for 72 years! While the New Jersey lighting retailer is unusual in being able to retain a loyal employee for so long, Mr. Goodman has kept up with changing times. Having worked with four generations of the family business, he acknowledges that today, “It’s a different era. Back [then], we did everything from selling to sweeping the floors. You would have to unload trucks and set up displays. Boy, did we have some great displays. Today there is so much technology involved with the business; it’s not as hands-on. Today you look at a computer to see if you have stock on something. Back then we used to just know what we had in inventory.”

But while he happily recalls the early days, Mr. Goodman also says he “doesn’t look back.” He advises, “Be happy for what you have,” and “just keep looking forward.” Clearly, he’s no ostrich.

How can you support your senior clients and prospects to take flight (symbolically speaking) in the second half, rather than sticking their heads in the sand?


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  1. This message befits our industry; we need to hear it, not just those we serve. After four years of hearing how fixed rate HECMs would destroy the MMI Fund, we as an industry stuck our heads in the ground and hoped that home “appreciation” would take care of the problem.

    As major lenders left the industry we were content to grab more market share rather than expanding our markets. Yes, that was not true of all lenders but the ones who led in that direction are exactly the lenders who left the industry.

    Today we have major lenders who are once again trying to lead the industry in expanding our market but here we sit not knowing the parameters of the dominant product we will be pushing five weeks from now. How odd is that?

    Rather than attacking the problem of high defaults, we fought over whether fireside chats with softball questions, required monthly deposits toward property charges, or some other novel idea should be used rather than hard nosed financial assessment. So today rather than commanding financial assessment, we sit with our heads in the sand waiting for FHA to issue their mandate.

    Sometimes it is one’s inaction that brings the greatest harm. That is true not just of seniors but whole industries as well. (We are not alone in this regard but that does not make us any better off.)

  2. Thanks for your insightful comment, The Cynic! Informed action is usually far better than inaction.

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