We interviewed Jim Firman, President and CEO of the National Council on Aging (NCOA) about Aging Mastery. Watch his interview here.
Thanks to modern medicine, people are living longer, more capable lives well past retirement. The average number of years we live between retirement and passing has increased significantly, but many of us are not prepared for the extensive amount of time we are now given.
Helping people deal with this 'gift of time' is one of the main focuses for Jim Firman, the CEO of the National Council on Aging. Firman, a baby boomer himself, is deeply concerned with the financial issues that come with this increase in retirement years. Driven by this issue, Firman has worked to connect people with financial, physical, and mental health information, helping seniors and retirees get the education and support they need.
Our conversation with Jim covered topics such as life transitions, benefits for seniors, and how people can enjoy their retirement without being financially burdened.
Firman gave us some numbers that put this new paradigm into perspective. When Firman’s grandfather retired at 65, he could expect roughly five years of strong health followed by five or six years of steady decline. Today, if a man retires at 65, he can expect 18 to 20 years of good health. For women, this number is about 20 to 25 years. No one would trade out these additional years, but we now have the challenge of dealing with this extra time.
Firman told us that the biggest concern he sees among retirees and baby boomers is financial worry. According to his numbers, roughly 60% to 80% of all people over 60 are experiencing some form of trouble with their finances or will experience trouble in the near future. This means only a small percentage of the retired population will cruise through their later years without financial issues.
To address this issue, Firman and his team created BenefitsCheckUp.org, a website that helps seniors and retirees find available benefits. In most cases, it’s not an issue of finding benefits, but finding the right benefits. Firman told us that in any given community there could be one hundred different benefits available to seniors; benefits that come through the federal, state, and local governments, as well as through private organizations.
But sorting through all of these benefits can be confusing and even intimidating, which is why BenefitsCheckUp was created. This site allows you to fill out a brief questionnaire, then receive a report on benefits that are available to you in your specific area. It’s a quick and easy way to find your benefits and, according to Firman, people absolutely love it.
One of the more interesting thoughts that Firman brought to our attention during the conversation was the concept of life changes and how there really are no institutions or systems that help us with the retirement transition. Think about all the different institutions and organizations you were a part of as a child. This inevitably included school for some or all of your childhood, and possibly college and even graduate school. Beyond formal classroom education, there was sports, the YMCA, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, local groups, and countless other organizations. What was the goal of these institutions? At the core level, these are all intended to help you prepare for the transition from childhood to adulthood.
But there are no organizations of this type for the transition from careers, parenting, and working life into empty nests and retirement. We are just left on our own. To meet this challenge, Firman and his team are developing curriculum that prepares people for the next stage of their lives, including retirement and being an empty nester. The goal of these programs is to prepare people for various transitions, creating, in some small form, a population better equipped to deal with the challenges of aging.
How have you or someone you loved handled the financial concerns that come with retirement? How have you educated yourself to become better equipped to deal with a new transition? What benefits, either through public or private organizations, have brought the greatest benefit to your life?
Sorting through all of these issues is a major concern for baby boomers, retirees, senior citizens, and, of course, their families. But thanks to support, resources, and advice from experts like Jim Firman, we are confident that more people will be fully equipped to handle these challenges.
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