Reimagining a Retirement Fit for Boomers, and Those Who Are Next in Line

The people who grew up with the Mouseketeers are now becoming re-imagineers. A Q. and A. with Michael Clinton, author of a book about second acts.

Michael Clinton is all about practicing what he preaches. His recent accomplishments include hiking to Mount Everest’s base camp; running marathons; earning a master’s degree at Columbia University in nonprofit management; becoming a first-time entrepreneur; and writing the best-seller “Roar: Into the Second Half of Your Life (Before It’s Too Late).”

The book examines how the concept of retirement, which is around a century old, is changing as people embark on second (or third) acts. (See Michael Clinton, above.) The book hit an unexpected nerve with readers and was the catalyst for creating Roar Forward, in partnership with the Hearst Corporation, his former employer.

An online platform to access newsletters, content and storytelling, Roar Forward focuses on “individuals aged 50 and over who are redefining the second half of life in their careers, passions and lifestyles,” said Mr. Clinton, 70, who includes himself among the growing cohort of people he calls “re-imagineers.”

It’s quite a deviation from his hectic past life. After a 40-year career in New York media, he retired in 2020 from Hearst Magazines, where he was president of marketing and publishing.

“I wasn’t burned out, I was maxed out in the experience,” Mr. Clinton said while sitting in his Upper East Side Manhattan apartment, decorated in soothing creams, tans, beiges and other neutral colors. “Though it was a satisfying and fulfilling career, I was ready to leave. But not ready to retire within the old construct.”

Redefining an old construct is now his new career – or a second one, which is part of what he calls the new longevity space.

“Life expectancy used to be 62. Now it’s hovering at 80,” he said, seated at his wooden dining table, a Starbucks cup that once held an extra hot latte, a MacBook and several folders in front of him. “Today’s 65-year-old is radically different than our parents’ generation in behaviors and attitudes.

“Ten thousand people are turning 66 every day,” he continued. “People are living and working longer. They are tech savvy, more fit and full of drive and energy. Retirement is an outdated concept, and we have become advocates for abandoning that.”

A Pittsburgh native, and the first person to graduate from college in his family, Mr. Clinton migrated to New York at 22 and never left. Dressed neatly in a crisp sky-blue Oxford shirt, blue vest and gray slacks, he recently sat for an interview about the retirement evolution. The interview has been edited and condensed.

Why are we having a “new retirement” discussion?

When I was in my 50s, the role models of people in their 70s was bleak. Those people, who are now in their 90s, are living traditional, post-retirement years. We have become the new role models. People are realizing they are living significantly longer than they thought. They want to reinvent and reimagine their lives, not wind down. The opportunity to have a second career and a bigger life have become a reality.

Why are baby boomers spearheading this movement?

Boomers were the original activists who believed in change. They are the challengers. It’s part of their DNA. They challenged the war, sex, created Earth Day and were part of the gay movement. bleak. Those people, who are now in their 90s, are living traditional, post-retirement years. We have become the new role models. People are realizing they are living significantly longer than they thought. They want to reinvent and reimagine their lives, not wind down. The opportunity to have a second career and a bigger life have become a reality.

Why are baby boomers spearheading this movement?

Boomers were the original activists who believed in change. They are the challengers. It’s part of their DNA. They challenged the war, sex, created Earth Day and were part of the gay movement. They are now challenging what it means to age and live longer. A generational attitude has met the longer life phenomena and is creating this zeitgeist moment. The new longevity is the social movement of our times that will affect everyone moving forward, which will benefit Gen Xers and millennials.

Does traditional retirement still exist?

Yes, that retirement construct still exists. Some people want to leave their job at 65 and move to a sunny state to hang out with their friends. That construct has never been disrupted or challenged until now. Re-imagineers, people who are reinventing a dynamic second half of life, have advocated for abandoning that outdated concept and have created a new version that happens later in life. The new retirement is a rewire to their next career. Many have focused on individualized entrepreneurialism, going back to school, following their previous passions and building a bigger life for themselves. They are driving the new longevity economy.

What’s the reasoning behind the fanciful, creative vocabulary you and the Roar community use?

What we’re doing is challenging the status quo and the representation of people over 50 in language and images. Using words like re-imagineers, life-layering, the new longevity, second lifers, helps shift perception. It’s to change our thinking. These words and vocabulary, along with imaging, influence how we think. The self-imposed ageism images matter in terms of how we reflect what we look like and where we see ourselves in advertising and entertainment. If you don’t change the language, if you don’t change the images, you can’t change the cultural construct.

What has been an unexpected trend because of these re-imagineers?

Because people have realized they needed more or newer education, there’s a trend where universities are creating programs for the post-career person. That’s increased adult certificates, school professional studies and one-year post-career programs. Schools retooled themselves to support this. Harvard offers an advanced leadership program. Stanford has the distinguished careers program. University of Chicago and Boston College just introduced ones as well.

What differentiates a first career from a second one?

The first career is what we were told to do. The second is what we want to do. My generation were linear and stayed in the same industry. Most people made a practical decision and followed a specific career path; the building blocks of a secure life. A second career is based on passion from your younger self, or a new passion you developed in the course of your first career. Reclaiming what you left behind in your younger self that you always wanted to do is the second career.

What new trend will we be seeing?

There’s been this collective aha moment in the country where people who are 65 are saying I’m going to live until I’m 90. A lot of people aren’t prepared for that financially. They are afraid they will run out of money. So people staying in their current job past 65, who are not ready for their second career, is a whole other phenomena. There are more people turning 65 this year than in any other year. Doctors and lawyers can practice longer, but the business world needs to reshape itself by retaining, reskilling, upskilling and promoting them, which is a new breed of individuals.

What advice can you to offer to the new retirement generation?

As a second career is becoming the new norm, people need to learn to remove the self-imposed, “I can’t do this because I’m this age” thinking. You have to spend the time to really identify what you want your second half of life to be. There are lots of free in-person and online education classes and coursework; and certificates, scholarship funds and grants exist for people over 50. Make a list of professional mentors who were in your corner and reconnect with them. Go back to your younger self and reclaim something that you always wanted to do that you put on the shelf.

ROAR into the second half of your life (before it's too late)

Meet the Author

Michael Clinton is a best-selling author, new longevity expert, thought leader, and keynote speaker on the changing face of what it means to live longer. He is also a writer-at-large for Esquire, and regular columnist for Men’s Health. A former president and publishing director of Hearst Magazines, he now serves as the special media advisor to the Hearst Corporation’s CEO.

He is also a photographer, has traveled through 124 countries, has run marathons on 7 continents, has started a nonprofit foundation, is a private pilot, is a part owner of a vineyard in Argentina, holds two master’s degrees, and still has a long list of life experiences that he plans to tackle.

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