Carole and Jeff from Next For Me were the guests of Eric Brotman, host of the podcast “Don’t Retire, Graduate“.
From their site:
Eric is joined by Jeff Tidwell and Carole McManus, co-authors of the book “Next for Me” to discuss—and abolish—the stigma that follows older individuals as they look for work. The lesson: you don’t have to grow up just because you get older.
- Continuing to work past the traditional retirement age
- Age discrimination and the difficulties older people face when looking for work
- Careers are constantly evolving and don’t necessarily need to end
- Conquering the fear of making the next step in your career
- How to have an Act 2
Following is a transcript from the show.
Eric Brotman: Welcome to “Don’t Retire, Graduate” the podcast that teaches you how to advance into retirement rather than retreating. I’m your host and valedictorian Eric Brotman. And we have two special guests today with us, Jeff Tidwell and Carol McManus, co-authors of the book “Next For Me, A Guide To Startups For Dreamers”, both Jeff and Carol have had extensive careers in Silicon Valley, New York, and with some, some pretty big amazing companies doing marketing and social media, and they’re going to help people takecareer moves in stride with their company called next for me. So Jeff and Carol, welcome to the show.
Jeff Tidwell: Thank you very much for having us.
Eric Brotman: The two of you founded a company three years ago. And so let’s talk about how that came to be. Each of you have illustrious careers with household names that we can certainly talk about. We can talk about your graduation from corporate to entrepreneurship as well. Let’s start Carol with you and talk a little bit about, how you went from working with Yahoo, HBO, and Frito-Lay, and some big companies, to doing this on your own.
Carole McManus: Jeff and I go way back. He and I actually worked together on the very first community at ETRADE helping people connect with other people interested in stocks and trading and things like that. That’s when we first met and that was 20 years ago now, and we’ve worked together intermittently since then. In between there, after my time as a community manager at Yahoo, Jeff and I worked together at a market research company and we built communities to help big brands like Frito-Lay, connect with consumers or internally with their employees to get, insights into ways to bring new products to market. So Jeff and I have always been connected throughout the years. And so when he told me about his idea for Next For Me, initially I came on as an advisor and I just said, I think that what you’re doing is really terrific. I’m really, really interested sign me up. So that’s kind of how we connected, this latest round.
Eric Brotman: I love that. So the two of you have careers that are like Venn diagrams and they finally intersected in away that you guys can have some control over what was coming next. So, Jeff from your perspective, which is always going to be slightly different tell me a little bit about how you went from what had to be a serious rat race, on both coasts to do what you’re doing.
Jeff Tidwell: When we started the company, we were addressing an issue for 50-plus workers. There are a lot of issues about bias towards hiring older workers. And the fact that we’re living 20, 30 years longer means that the notions of retirement have changed considerably. And also the idea that you need to have more money banked away.
At the same we started noticing some patterns, of how people were left behind often and are not even given a seat at the table. So that’s where we started. And of course, Carol was a natural because we had worked together in a fluid way for so long that we finish each other’s sentences and that she knows my quirks and vice versa.
But as we progressed through this and we started talking to people, and we did events across the country, and we’ve done a lot of market research trying to understand today’s workforce.
We kept hearing that not only was there an issue with age, but it is the mindset that’s required for people to be able to adapt and change that was a challenge. And, we took what we learned there and I had written a year’s worth of columns on Forbes about starting the company after 50. We crunched all of that into the first book that came out at the end of last year about startups.
There’s a lot of information about how to stay standing long enough, that you can prove your case and start making money and those kinds of things. But then what we realized that the real issue is change. We rewrote the book, we pushed it out and called it “A Guide To Change for Everybody.” And, and suddenly the sky opened up and we were much freer to talk about those things that help people along the way.
Eric Brotman: Our last guest two weeks ago, was an entrepreneur who had had two full retirements at age 65, I believe on her 65th birthday. She launched a startup and has been in practice now for more than a dozen years. And it’s fascinating that that the concept of retirement has changed a lot. And so as the concept of aging, nnot just in terms of the financial piece, because we could talk financial all day, the social security system and, and Medicare and the absence of pensions, the cost of aging, and longevity and so forth. But what I’m fascinated by, I’m fascinated by folks who embraced this idea that retirement is not an end, but is in fact a beginning. That you don’t necessarily have to punch someone else’s clock forever and you can do something that you’re mission-driven about and excited about and reinvent yourself at any age.
So you mentioned Jeff that this is a about age 50 plus workers. I did an interview with somebody from AARP recently and I don’t really want to date myself, but I’m going to get mail from them next year. I’m certainly at that point where I don’t feel like I’m part of that community. My sense is that that community is for very elderly people. And of course, I don’t feel very elderly. So lets talk a little bit about how, how at any age, not only starting a business or starting a venture but finding something mission-driven can really move the needle for someone.
Jeff Tidwell: Yeah. You reach a point, I’m 61 now, where you gained some wisdom through the years. We all know that if you take care of yourself—ninety, a hundred years old is not out of the question. So at this stage, I’m two-thirds of the way. And I can’t imagine sitting and watching the television or playing golf for another 30 years. Many of the people we talked to have something to give at this point and whether that’s through mentoring or sustaining yourself by starting a business, that’s a way through this. Thee funny thing is, I was at a conference with a guy who I think was 30 and he was telling me how he had to alter his LinkedIn profile so that he wouldn’t expose his age while hoping to get a job.
So people are addressing this. If you talk to anybody and you ask, “What’s next for you?”, which is the name of our company, Next For Me, and you find that everybody’s got something in the cooker. Everybody has some idea of what they would like to do next, how they’d like to alter their life in some way, because they have a dream where they’d like to start a company or these kinds of things. So it’s not age-specific. The foundation of all of this is part of our DNA. We always want to be here.
Eric Brotman: You know, Next For You is a very cool idea. I liken it to the fact that you get to a certain age in life and no one ever asks you what you want to be when you grow up anymore. And I don’t get that because I think it’s okay, it’s 61 or at 71 to say, what do you want to be when you grow up? And of course the answers, usually from somebody fun going, “I’m never growing up, I’m getting older, but I refuse to grow up.” So Carol can you talk a little bit about Next For Me and how that might relate to this concept, that you don’t have to grow up just because you get older and what do you want to do next is something to be enthusiastic about.
Carole McManus: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, what you said earlier about dreading the AARP mail. We heard that very early on in our research and talking to people, that they did not want to be associated with it. That was for old people. “I’m not old, I’m only 50, I’m only 60.” On the flip side, we also heard from younger people as well. And that’s really when we started to pivot our messaging around, to “you are constantly changing throughout your life”. Your career path is never a straight line. Its always going to be windy and crooked, and that’s exciting. And that’s really interesting and great. So we really encourage that, that outlook that, your career is constantly evolving and yet there doesn’t have to be a specific end to it with the gold watch and the party and all of that. That’s just not reality in the current times. And that’s scary, but it’s also a terrific thing too. And if you’re just open-minded and have your arms wide open and ready to embrace that, that’s really what we encourage people to be looking at their next thing through that lens, you know, really to be open to that.
Eric Brotman: I think it’s really important to be open to that. We often tell folks truisms that not everyone wants to think about. And I’m curious what your take would be about this. Number one is that you’re going to live longer than you ever imagined. You already mentioned 90 or a hundred. I think people tend to peg the lifespan of their grandparents or parents as their barometer. And that’s not really a reasonable thing to do. I mean, it certainly could play a role genetically, but it certainly isn’t by itself because of advancements in medicine and technology and so forth.
So one, you’re going to live longer than you imagine. And two, life is going to be more expensive than you imagined. Can you talk a little bit about that and some of the financial pressures, potentially that folks, particularly folks who are launching a startup, how financially independent and stable do you think you need to be before you walk out on that limb? Or is it a different type of limb to walk out on?
Jeff Tidwell: People will spend $125 grand out of their pocket for healthcare after 65, That doesn’t include long-term care. So, there’s a start.
Eric Brotman: Yeah, we don’t think of that at all.
Jeff Tidwell: Half of the population over 50 has less than $50,000 in the bank. And we all know the numbers about the number of folks that could get wiped out by a $400 bill. So, the bottom line to all of this is we need a lot more savings and we need to continue working a lot longer. What can we do to prepare ourselves for that? If, if the marketplace says, it’s not easy, or we’re not going to encourage hiring people of a certain age, then you’ve got to get creative and find ways to make money in another way. Or you have to have a mindset where you can go in and present yourself in a way that age is irrelevant, that you’ve got the edge. That’s hard, and that takes some soul searching along the way to get, get there.
We talk about this in the book a lot “what is your, your core ethical foundation?” To say this is what’s important to me, this is how I’m going to proceed. And then you’ve got that to go ahead with, and that, that leads you into what comes next.
Eric Brotman: You mentioned a lot there, and I want to unpack that a little bit because this idea of financial readiness has to marry with this idea of psychological, social, entrepreneurial readiness in order to take the next step. A lot of people have a tremendous amount of fear in walking out on the entrepreneurial edge, but in addition to that, I think older people for all the reasons you’ve stated. And by older, I just mean the second half of your working career, whatever that, however you quantify that there is trepidation about being out of work at a certain age where it is tough to find employment, and whether that’s discrimination or whether it’s related to something else. I don’t know. And, and we could certainly debate that one way or the other, and I’m sure there is plenty of that.
Other cultures seem to revere their quote-unquote “elders” as being the wisest of the bunch, and we tend to put them out to pasture. I don’t get that piece either. So how do we, how do we create an environment where someone more senior in the workforce who has reached whatever level of financial stability that he, or she’s able to contemplate these things, how do we reach a point where they’re not quite as afraid to take the next step? Do you deal with some of the behavioral and some of the fear impact of that in your book?
Carole McManus: Yeah, absolutely. And we’ve done a bit of writing and research into the concept of non-retirement and transitional retirement and things like that. So there is a growing atmosphere where folks don’t have to have a specific end date to their careers, they can slowly transition into retirement. So it’s cutting back on hours, it’s turning more to consultancy as opposed to full-time employment. There’s a lot of ways that we can be flexible in the later part of our career that can accommodate some of the forces that are, whether that be ageism or another sort of things going on in the workforce There’s a lot of opportunities there, that if people are open, and we do talk about this in the book, about being open and being flexible, going with the flow, and being willing to learn new things and learn new skills and not being rigid about that sort of thing. That’s really key in this environment.
Eric Brotman: Are either of you seeing more folks over 50 with a side hustle.
Carole McManus: Absolutely. Yes.
Eric Brotman: So that’s common. So the millennials don’t have the only trademark on that. Right. Everybody can do that. So you’re seeing folks over 50, we’re starting a side-hustle, almost like practicing their consultancy or something before they give up their paycheck.
Carole McManus: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Eric Brotman: Is that a best practice?
Jeff Tidwell: That’s how you test the waters. We come from software and technology, so we believe in a beta test to see if something works, tested it in the environment—in the marketplace, and refine it and get better at it. And then maybe you’ll be ready to make the leap because you’ve done the homework already, while you have the security of a job.
Carole McManus: Writing about what you’re doing, blogging about what you’re doing, putting things out on social media, connecting with other folks that are in the field that you’re interested in. And that’s just a really low-key way of testing those waters and getting yourself out there.
Eric Brotman: Well, it’s also a modern way of networking and meeting new people and, and, you know, opportunities rarely find you, you have to be open to them and be looking for them. Maybe not looking for the specific one, because you don’t always know what you’re going to find, but at least being receptive, right. I mean, you have to be, your antenna has to be up.
Jeff Tidwell: Yeah. One of our advisors, Karen Wickre, wrote a book called “Taking the Work Out of Networking.” And she talks about the fact that you can never stop that process. People will age out of your network. People will change fields. You need to always be cultivating that. And even if you’re uncomfortable with that, there are a lot of ways to do it without bombarding people on LinkedIn or other techniques like that. Take a light touch and you provide value to those people that can help you along the way. And then when you are ready to ask for their help, they’re ready and they know about you. And they see that you’re sincere and authentic about what you’re trying to get to.
Eric Brotman: You’ve mentioned LinkedIn a couple of times once, where with respect to a 30-year-old, who didn’t want to be perceived as beyond his or her, useful years, which is shocking in and of itself. But on LinkedIn, I think the one kiss of death on LinkedIn, first of all, if you’re not authentic, you can forget it because people will see that right away. But the one real Cardinal sin of LinkedIn is to have your profile just say, retired, you know, to me, it might as well say deceased. I mean, why would anyone click that and go in there? There’s somebody I want to party with. I want to meet that person. You know, even if you’re just a volunteer, it doesn’t have to be for money. If you’ve reached a point where you don’t need money, and you’re a passionate volunteer for a cause that important to you putting that out as your byline, if you will, instead of retired, keeps you relevant in some way, are people, our seniors learning this? I mean, has this been figured out, or is this still a secret that we need to share with people?
Carole McManus: I think it’s something we need to share with people and keep them open to that idea.
Eric Brotman: I want to go back to something you mentioned early on, which was that you were involved, with ETRADE and with creating a community of folks who were interested in investing. And of course, many of our listeners are interested not only in a healthy and successful qualitative retirement but also in a quantitative one. When you were involved with that in a very early stage, as ETRADE was coming to be, what was the timeframe there?
Carole McManus: Yes. And so actually, you know, Jeff came to the company that I was working for at the time, looking to us to provide moderation services for this community. So, you know, there’s a lot of SEC regulations and this was a brand new thing. It was untested water. So Jeff can talk a little bit more to that, the difficulty in setting that up in the first place. You’re right, that people do need to educate themselves financially and not be afraid and get through any roadblocks around wrapping their heads around money. You know, we say a lot that it’s never too late to start saving for retirement. It’s never too late. You know, even a little bit helps every little bit helps. So whatever you can set aside, don’t give up, don’t throw up your hands and frustration, just do it. Jeff, maybe you want to talk a little bit of the backstage dealings when we were setting up the ETRADE community.
Jeff Tidwell: I was something where nobody was doing it because it was so heavily regulated. I went with the ETRADE lawyer to the SEC and had to explain to them how communities work, How their threaded discussions work, and that people would be talking about their activity in trading stocks. We spend a lot of time and a lot of money making sure that we were in compliance. But what it did was the first time, and the internet was this way for so many things, where people had some control over their destiny. They could take risks and that was up to them. They could spend time talking to other people about investing and that may have helped them or not help them. But at least it was, they had the power, the same thing.
If you think about newspapers, and there was a time in broadcast television, where were those people? They had all the control and all the power then you gave people the internet. And suddenly, if you had a compelling story to tell your blog could surpass a New York Times story or a television audience for the first time, and we’ve seen people rise up and have that kind of power. It’s changed the dynamic of who controls what in the world.
So that’s what was great about the ETRADE experience, blogging or any way people could express themselves online. So, so that’s why we’re believers in that we came from that, that culture of sort of hacking through systems. And, and we believe that you can take that into this next phase of your life too. You can hack your way, which is finding workarounds to what is traditionally accepted. That kind of thing, and find a new life and a new way to thrive in the world.
Eric Brotman: Carol, you mentioned that it’s never too late to start saving for retirement. I happen to think that one of the challenges with that statement because you’re right, you’re a hundred percent right, the problem is that someone who is 23 thinks of retirement as something that’s esoteric, like why would I be thinking about retirement? I just got my first job. I’m thinking about my weekend plans in my apartment. I think we have to redefine retirement. And it’s one of the things we’re trying to do on this show is to redefine it, not as a disappearing act and not as a retreat or a surrender, but as a graduation. So you talk about not being too old to save for retirement. You’re also never too young to save for retirement, right? No one wants to think about retirement in their twenties or even thirties. Why don’t we start talking about saving for freedom or for independence. It sounds like you’re saving for something you can’t even begin to wrestle with. You have no way to know, the 20-year-olds right now, don’t have any idea what retirement in 2060 might look like.
Carole McManus: Yeah. We’ll reframe it. I have a 19-year-old daughter and I’ve been having these conversations with her. Absolutely. I gave her a book on getting your brain wrapped around your finances and she’s going through that very diligently, but it’s absolutely a conversation that I’ve been having with her. As a woman, I think it’s really important to be financially independent throughout your life. Those are the kinds of lessons that I’m teaching her.
There is one thing about saving for retirement. If you have an IRA, there are tax benefits to that. So, I absolutely agree with you that you should be thinking about saving for freedom, saving for the future in a general way. But at the same time, there’s the whole concept, we’ve set up these 401ks and these IRAs and things like that specifically with tax benefits. So that’s something that I will be talking with my daughter about, about what the difference between these types of savings are and why it’s important and things like that. It’s just something that we as Americans kind of need to get over. We need to get over ourselves. We need to be more transparent when we’re talking about things like money,
Eric Brotman: Well, money is taboo or one of the things families don’t talk about together, you know, that I totally agree with you. That’s taboo. So I hope you’re talking to your daughter about the Roth IRA and the Roth 401k.
Carole McManus: Yeah. I’m actually meeting with my advisors, in the next coming weeks to talk through getting some of that stuff set up for her.
Eric Brotman: That’s fantastic. My daughter is 10. And so she’s not quite ready for the Roth IRA conversation, but we do have some exercises that we do with her allowance that involves setting some aside for long-term some for charity and some for fun. She’s already learned a basic concept and created a bank account and made charitable gifts to causes that are important to her, which was a children’s hospital. These lessons aren’t learned in school and you can’t be financially independent without a stroke of either inheritance or some kind of public IPO event. You’re not going to become suddenly a financially independent without at least basic financial literacy first. I think some of this is education and schools are failing and parents can’t do it. So where are those resources? What do we do?
Jeff Tidwell: They don’t teach compound interest in school. That’s one of the most foundational things to learn about. People in the generation before me did not talk about money and Susie Orman blew that all open and said, you’ve got to have these conversations. You can’t bury this under the rug. There is a cohort of millennials and younger who are really into saving and, you know, there’s blogs, the Penny Hoarder, a daily news letter that goes into all of this. I love her. You see these kids who are living frugally, they’re not buying a house, they’re living in a van and saving money and, and they’re free, and I think that’s tremendous. That’s a good trend.
Eric Brotman: It is definitely powerful.
Jeff Tidwell: At the end of the day, though, they’re going to have to keep going in some way. You might not want to live in a van and in 20 years. And, so do you have that mindset and the skill set to say, “I can try something new.” I can learn it. I can, I can be open to trying new things. And that’s what we’re about. What is what’s next for me?
Always be playful with it, but take it seriously because it will serve you throughout your life. If you have this foundation about knowing who you are, what your principles are, and you have a mind that’s open enough to try new things and see where the pockets of opportunities are. To seeing things in a way you might not have otherwise. And then finally, how do you stay standing? How do you make it through this venture or this change in your life that you want to make and buy yourself enough time to be able to get through that beta period and succeed at it.
Eric Brotman: So Jeff and Carol, where’s the best place for folks to pick up a copy of your book or read your blog, or listen to your podcast.
Carole McManus: Nextforme.com is our website. You can sign up for our newsletter that goes out regularly. We’re talking about things like finance, but also career transitions. We’re talking to thought leaders in this space as well to really hopefully give you some inspiration for what your next thing is going to be. And of course, the book is available on Amazon, but we have links to that throughout our website.
Eric Brotman: Wow. So both books are available on Amazon or on nextforme.com. Wonderful. I hope our listeners will check that out.
We’re at the point in our show where we need to do an extra credit assignment. And, and I think based on our conversation, I’d like to challenge each of you to have a separate assignment for our listeners. What is that one piece of advice or one action or one thing that, that folks who spent half an hour listening to this with us today, what, how do they determine what’s next for them? What is the one piece of advice? Jeff, why don’t we start with you on this one? What is the one thing that people should take away from the show to figure out what’s next for them?
Jeff Tidwell: I’ll use a quote,
“Making the most of a long and multi-stage life means taking transitions in your stride, being flexible, acquiring new knowledge, exploring new ways of thinking. Seeing the world from a different perspective, coming to terms with changes in power, letting go of old associates, and building new networks. That’s what it’s all about. Are you open enough for that?”
And that comes from a wonderful book called The Hundred Year Life by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott.
Eric Brotman: I love that, Carol pressure’s on cause Jeff’s was pretty good.
Carole McManus: Well, I’m going to be a little self-serving here and, pull an exercise from our book. Um, it’s called “Who is your community?” And we challenge you to take a look, make a list of people who are strategic to your goals, whether that’s your career goals, your financial goals, anything to better yourself in that way. Take a look maybe again on LinkedIn, who they’re associated with, what they’re up to, what they’re doing. Then try to figure out how to connect with them. You can you connect with them online. In this time it’s difficult to connect with people in person. So how can you authentically connect with them and really learn from them, without taking too much. A lot of give and take and really using that opportunity to define your community and figure out who your people are and how that can help you take your next step, to what’s next for you.
Eric Brotman: Sage advice Jeff Tidwell and Carol McManus. Thank you for joining us on Don’t Retire. Graduate. I enjoyed our conversation today and I hope folks will go to nextforme.com, check out your blog, sign up for your newsletters and check out a copy of one or both of your books.
Jeff Tidwell: Thank you so much for having us what fun.
Eric Brotman: Absolutely. And for our audience out there, please subscribe to our podcast. Post comments and reviews. Consider sending us a question which we might answer in a future episode of office hours for more go oto don’tretiregraduate.com to learn more about BFG financial advisors. Visit us on social media. We’re at bgfa.com. We’ll be back next week with another installment of hours. This is your host Eric Brotman reminding you “Don’t Retire, Graduate”.