….it depends on how you define The New Normal and what your discontinuous future holds in store for you.

“The road that we’ve been on for such a long time, the so-called ‘new normal,’ is coming to an end, because it’s being eaten up by its own contradictions,” said Mohamed El-Erian, during an interview on Bloomberg TV.  Mr. El-Erian is the chief economic advisor of Allianz SE.  He was describing global political economy attempts to wrestle itself (at least somewhat) from the hands of central banks.

That may work for Mr. El-Erian and economics, but how about for those of us 50 plus who are planning (or not) and living professional and personal lives amidst the current uncertainties?

How about for those of us who are professional advisors (financial, legal, health, career, education) to people After 50?

Joe and Ellen, both 67, are adept at living in the Old Normal. Joe works in sales for a small, specialty pharmaceutical firm. Ellen, a nurse, stopped working when their children were toddlers and never got around to going back to work because she was always so busy. Now they have grown children, Joe’s long term employment, a house, preferences for their retirement, and about 1/3 of what they will need for retirement already saved (plus Social Security).

Of the several Old Normal life tools, their favorite is problem solving:

  1. define the problem
  2. create solution action steps
  3. execute the action steps
  4. get to the solution
  5. move beyond it forever

Among Joe’s and Ellen’s professional advisors is their Financial Advisor, Phil, age 52.   Over the past 15 years, Joe and Phil have done a good job of managing their money.    Ellen has been advised but didn’t get very involved. Phil, a hardworking and trustworthy professional, also loves problem solving:

  1. How old are you now?
  2. At what age do you want to retire?
  3. How long can we expect you to live?
  4. How much money will you need each year after work ends and before the end of your life?
  5. After Social Security and current savings/equities, how much remains to be saved per year until you retire so that you have the retirement money you need?
  6. Which investment products/programs best meet your need for safety, growth, and return?

Framed this way, it all seems manageable and quantifiable, although the dollar amount remaining to be saved for age 75 retirement is daunting. If they just execute on the investment plan everything will be fine.

What Joe, Ellen, and Phil don’t know is:

  1. Joe will be diagnosed with an aggressive, terminal cancer in 4 years and be gone in 7 months, leaving substantial hospital bills after health insurance pays the majority of the costs.
  2. Joe’s and Ellen’s divorced daughter and her children will come to live with Ellen for a transition time. The daughter will be working on earning a college degree that will qualify her for better employment.
  3. Phil will have a major job educating Ellen about where her money is and how to work with him to manage it well. Ellen will need to be financially literate.
  4. Ellen will have to go back to work but will require substantial retraining first, even to do home health care for the elderly.
  5. Joe’s shares in his employer/company will be worth far less than expected due to litigation over pricing and efficacy issues.
  6. Ellen and three widowed, long-time friends will buy a home together and form an intentional community for support and expense sharing.
  7. Ellen will live to be 102. She will outlive her daughter.

What makes this much more New Normal than Old Normal?  The Answer: Little in life can be defined as a problem with a solution that actually results in a permanent resolution. Instead, Ellen, Phil, Joe’s and Ellen’s daughter, and the other members of Ellen’s intentional living community will have to:

  1. Regularly stop and substantially rethink their situations and the next smart steps.
  2. Remember that each day and week will require proactive effort on their parts.   Anything akin to being on retirement cruise control won’t work.
  3. Make ongoing course corrections and small to large decisions without knowing what the future holds.
  4. Adjust their thinking to include a big emerging reality: the increased likelihood that they are going to live longer, requiring up to date professional skills, extended work-for-pay that might or might not be configured as a job, and the ability to finance and enjoy a longer life.

How much of the New Normal is emerging in your life? How is it showing up? What are ways you have found to adjust to it?


  • Tracy
    April 20, 2017 10:54 pm 0Likes

    Hi George,
    Your blog accurately describes my current situation: son moving out to college in 4 months, granddaughter with parents moving into the house in 2 months. I can’t control what happens next, but I can still try to plan a bit to keep my sanity an try to enjoy the whole process.

    • George Schofield
      April 21, 2017 7:01 am 0Likes

      Hi Tracy

      The operative word is process. We often – especially if we like early closure – just want to get things settled. That leaves little space for appreciating how complex and individual process can be. Congrats for knowing that. George

  • Jari Searns
    April 21, 2017 6:20 pm 0Likes

    Hi George!

    We’ve taken a whole bunch of the steps you suggested as we “mature”, especially on that financial side….I’m loving retirement as I am still keeping a tiny hand in the business (I handle all the reference checking for new employees) and Rick is going to remain involved on the financial end but is now planning to spend more time at home working on his stock plans from here rather than from the office. Now our problems are evolving around what to do with the “rest of the time”…we will work our way through this, but it is presenting many more challenges than I would have expected…I’ll keep reading your blogs and will keep you posted…AND I’m praying your new book will offer us some practical guidance…Hope springs eternal…!

    • George Schofield
      April 24, 2017 5:49 pm 0Likes

      Hi Jari. Those of us who have led particularly active lives with no solitude made great choices but – usually – it was at a price. We never learned to be alone for reasonable periods and happy in our own skin without a role, project, companion, project, goal, or activity to define us and serve as an identity anchor. Therefore we tend to grieve loudly and search for our next meaningful role or activity fix and/or complain endlessly, driving those who love us – and are unable to help because is the work each individual must do alone – bonkers. We tend to become even more demanding of and attached to our spouses. This is all a part of the natural lifelong human development process and under these regrettable conditions the grieving can only become more pronounced as the person ages. I always advise the individual to 1. Show up, 2. Pay attention (including the help of a professional as necessary), and 3. Do the work. Many won’t. It takes courage, insight, and release of the control addiction. It usually goes totally over the top when the unwilling to take personal responsibility individual loses the spouse and has absolutely no idea how to be happy when alone for. Almost like one person retires and the other one doesn’t. My experience is that men are far worse at this than women. It’s my firm belief that the real developmental work for all of us is to get to know and appreciate ourselves beyond role and relationship in our 60s and 70s while we are still relatively young. Those who fail to attend to this eventually involuntarily lose their external definers and have no internal definers or internal identity anchors to support them. Call me. George.

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