Personal Finance

Nasdaq Reads: George Schofield, "How Do I Get There From Here?"

George Schofield Nasdaq Reads October 2017
GEORGE H. SCHOFIELD, PH .D., is a developmental psychologist, speaker, and writer who advises individual, couple, and family clients on retirement, career planning, and life crafting after age 50.

He is also an organizational psychologist who advises businesses that provide services and goods to people approaching and after 50 on their emerging needs and solutions. Schofield is a working entrepreneur, and active volunteer who travels and spends time with his seven grandchildren.

He was recently named as Next Avenue Top 50 Influencers in Aging.

His latest book profiled here is "How Do I Get There From Here? Planning for Retirement When the Old Rules No Longer Apply."

Q: How did you come up with the book concept?

As a developmental and organizational psychologist, I’ve always looked at how adults develop as they live their lives in terms of their careers, their personal lives, and their identities as they age. From my study and observation, I’ve come to realize that age truly is no longer a number. It’s a combination of active intent and having the resources, including health, to choose who we want to be. I determined to apply this concept to the subject of retirement and investing. I wanted to write a book about how someone age 50 turns into fabulous 85 year-old. I wanted to write a book which acknowledges that life is no longer so linear and requires paying ongoing attention.

For example, in the U.S., as soon as we talk about aging (getting older) we talk about the elderly and very late life. Intentionally or not, as a society we often ignore the period between 50 and 70 – other than as a time to prepare for retirement. 50 to 70 is age period that is the onramp into our extended future. I truly believe that the lives we lead, the people we associate with, and the decisions we make during that timeframe sets the quality-of-life tone for the remainder of our lives.

Most of us grew up believing that life would naturally and organically progress from childhood to education to work and family to retirement. However, retirement is no longer either affordable or preferable for many of us. It certainly isn’t a life stage any more. Individual choices are being made rather than all of us proceeding with the old 4 stage model. We have to begin to rethink how we view “retirement,” especially given that the average person today post retirement at age 65 could live to be 100. That is 35 years. This is a very long time period, a lifetime for some, that requires everyone age 50 or more to make a personal determination and plan how they will afford, engage and create their new life over several decades. It looks much more like an incremental life plan than like a retirement plan for many. This will be especially difficult since today, many people don’t have pensions and Medicare and Social Security funding are in question.

Q: You talk about Continuous Change vs Discontinuous Change, Can you elaborate?

Today, the old rules have changed. Our images, terminology and metaphors and examples have utterly failed to keep up with our emerging discontinuous reality.

Continuous change has dominated for many people in the 50 to 70 year-old age range – continuous change and continuous improvement. What is continuous change?

  1. You can see it coming
  2. It has some form of the familiar
  3. Since you’ve experienced, you can break down the issues and know how to deal with it, mostly thru problem solving.
  4. As an individual, you can use past experiences to predict the future

However, we are quickly seeing a shift to discontinuous change as dominant. Continuous change is still with us, too, but it is no longer dominant. You can no longer with assurance choose what paths to take long term; the familiar will no longer be the driver, and new, discontinuous issues will not be solvable with past experience or familiar problem solving. Also, remember, discontinuous change brings discontinuous opportunities. Many of us have to learn how to see them because we are so comfortable with the familiar, continuous ones.

For example, students of today will continually have to update their credentials and their education – this is how we will and should deal with discontinuous change. It requires a different set of tools that we don’t even know yet. What you major in will no longer determine for the rest of your life what your profession is or who you will work for.

Q: Can you provide our readers with a quick tour of the “New Normal” with regards to the concept of discontinuous change?

The “old normal” is very familiar and built around continuous change and continuous improvement -- we can see events and changes coming well before they arrive. Everything is a bit familiar and we can problem solve it when we don’t understand it and we can use our experience to solve it. We can plan long term with reasonable assurance. Success is perfect execution on plan and arriving at the pre-determined place. Therefore, we can depend upon quick, binary labels like blue collar/white collar, married/unmarried, or conservative/liberal as adequate foundations for our thinking.

The “New Normal” in a world of discontinuous change will be unexpected or unforeseen circumstances. This will be the new norm -- discontinuous change becomes the predominant force of change. Examples will be company divisions being sold and the employees

How Do I Get There From Here Nasdaq Reads October 2017
don’t go with it or also what we are seeing reflected in growing trend of “grey divorce.” Or living much longer than originally expected, and, thus, having to have the finances, ability to generate income, active engagement, and excellent energy and health for much longer periods of time. Or discovering many of the people, long term friends and colleagues who we still care about, have failed to make the necessary changes in their own lives and are, therefore, much less connected to and helpful with our own.

Continuous change allowed for long term planning, but discontinuous incremental planning for the future because we automatically have reduced planning horizons in discontinuous times when we don’t see it coming and we don’t have a way to immediately understand, work, and solve it.

Q: How can anyone plan for the future if it is so uncertain?

People will need to plan incrementally. People will need to plan 18 months out, then they can plan to some degree 18 to 48 months. After 48 months, people will be able to set intentions, but not solid plans. This is a very discontinuous way of thinking for most people. Planning success comes to mean regularly adapting the plan and ourselves as new data comes in. There is no permanent “there” at which we can arrive and the ways of moving forward will morph under our feet. This is neither bad nor scary. It does, however, require paying attention and adapting accordingly.

The familiar way of solving problems worked in predominantly continuous change times (The Old Normal). Diagnosis, treatment, cure -- that is our national way to solve problems -- will not work under discontinuous circumstances. People must do systemic thinking -- look at big picture and work down.

Q: What would be 3-5 key skills necessary for 50+ folks to have in this new era in order to be actively engaged and employable?

Critical thinking and social skills will be the most necessary, along with work/industry specific knowledge-base, in order to operate in today’s technology oriented world.

If you think in terms of discontinuous change, social skills are necessary to maintain and build and renew a network. You can isolate yourself after stopping “regular” work. Old networks begin to break down as it ages. People get sick, pass away, move away, so the network decreases and it becomes more difficult to maintain the network…so need to add fresh connections of people of all ages.

Q: How do you see technology either being a friend or foe to the 50+ person?

Let me upgrade the quality of the question. Let’s ask this instead, “How do I utilize the best of technologies to stay current in all the aspects of my personal and business life without being come trapped in the technology?” How do you use technology rather than be trapped --- to make certain the technology can be used to benefit business and personal. All technologies have shelf lives. Learning and using emerging technology is necessary in order to not be boxed in by what you already know.

Q: What is 1 key piece of advice you’d leave readers with about your book and overall premise?

When you are planning your life in discontinuous times, the place to start is not “I know what I don’t know” (which we learned to use in continuous times and often act on without thinking),” instead it is “I don’t know what I don’t know.” This is a new discipline which requires us to stop and ask: “What is really happening here? How do I get my arms around it? How do I see the bigger picture instead of breaking it down into bite-sized pieces and then convincing myself that I’ve solved it or the rest will take care of itself?

We grew up in an educational system that told us what we didn’t know -- we did the memorization work in school with the assumption that we know what we don’t know. In a discontinuous time it is harder to work from a place of I don’t know what I don’t know.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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