Much of the information and process in this Super Second Life Planning "7-part Starter Program" comes from Gordon Burgett's How to Create Your Own Super Second Life: What Are You Going to Do With Your Extra 30 Years?
Beginning on 6/15/01, these are the seven sections (as they are printed)
from the Super Second Life Newsletter:
6/15: Part 1 (of 7) -- A quick outline that we might use to plan our Super Second Life…
I suppose there are as many ways to plan a life (even part of a life) as there are planners. But if you’re like me, I’m grateful to have a model or system that works, or I’d spend all my time poorly reinventing processes that others have already created and from which I can much more quickly benefit.
So let me outline just such a system, a straightforward way by which we might design our Super Second Lives. Then I’ll develop each of the five key points in the coming issues of this newsletter. (Later, if charts or more involved explanations are required, I’ll link you back to the website so we can keep the newsletter manageably short.)
We have a whole new life ahead of us. Thirty years is the time it took us to grow up, get educated, find a mate, have kids, and get fired from at least one bad job. Take that many years again, add a blank sheet of paper, start the clock, and we can fill both that paper and those days just about any way we wish.
For starters, we’ll need money. That’s the first thing people say, so let’s begin there. How much do we have? What must we spend? What will we earn? What other money will be coming in? How much should we save for emergencies? The answers should tell us roughly how much we will have at our disposal to finance our Second Life dreams (and pay the daily bills). Don’t panic. Even very, very poor people can lead magnificent, long lives. Poverty wasn’t what you had in mind? Let’s take a first look in the July 1 issue.
It would be nice to be as lithe as an ice skater and as fit as a Forest Ranger for every day (and night) of those 30 years. I suppose we should look at health next. We need an honest assessment of where our body and mind are right now, and where they might be headed. Then a proactive plan to keep both as fit, keen, and vibrant (or at least fully functioning) as long as possible. The goal is to fully enjoy every day of those bonus years. Sounds like a task for July 15.
The August 1 segment may be the most difficult because it involves using new (or rusty) mental and emotional muscles. One activity comes from the answers to a simple question: “If you had all the money, time, and energy needed and were free from any outside constraints, what would you do in your next 30 years?” The result is a dream list: some everyday dreams, some out-of-sight wild. (We’ll share a few tools that should help.) Another challenge: talk with our spouses or mates. (No, I’m not kidding.) The idea is for us and them to separately create our own dream lists, then compare, and from that create three new lists, one of things we very much want to do together, and one each of things that each of us want to do on our own. Heresy, I know. More about this later. (You may talk to each other before then.)
Once we have the three lists, on August 15 let’s fine tune them, then prioritize those dreams, since some things simply are more important—and other dreams will come up that will bump the lesser ones aside. And let’s also put all those top priority dreams into time boxes when they are best realized. Want to swim across Lake Erie? Better put that in an early box, while we can still float. Want to read to the grandkids? Every box will do. (If our eyes get bad, we can just make up what we can’t see!)
September 1 is pull-it-together day when we fill a three-ring binder with all that we have done, translated into Action Plans! These are just completed sheets of paper that give flesh and process to those lofty planning bones. A point of no return: write or run. The combined Action Plans are our blueprint. They are really starter plans that we can rewrite, expand, combine, reject—and live. Most important, they are in black and white, word maps that add contour, goals, and destinations to a life that is going to be lived anyway. Why not live it precisely as we wish?
That’s it. End of the overview. More on July 1.
7/1: Part 2 (of 7)—Planning our own Super Second Life: MONEY
For most, financial fears far outweigh all other future concerns, including health. (Worse than being racked in pain in a nursing home is being racked in pain while living in a dumpster! Both, incidentally, about as likely as our supping on unicorn soup.)
So what we must do first is take a financial inventory, see where we are right now, where we will be when we switch out of full employment (with those e’er-diminishing company-paid perks), and where we will be at, say, five-year intervals until at least as long as our longest-living family member—in-laws don’t count. (Nor do outlaws, who are mostly dead by 50.)
Our goal is straightforward: enjoy a full, fun, meaningful life with a minimum of financial or health worries, doing what we planned (with serendipity an occasional, welcome guest), delaying and placating debility until our last, painless months.
Does that require 40 billion dollars, as the financial planners hint? (“Only 40? Better up that a tad for inflation and certain plague.”) No. And you may have 60-75% of all you’ll need already. But you can’t leave it to chance. And they are right: the more you’ve packed away since your roaring youth, compounding while you slept, the easier your task now.
I’m about to send you to the website for Part Two, which is Chapter 7, “Money and Your Super Second Life,” in my book How to Create Your Own Super Second Life: What Are You Going to Do With Your Extra 30 Years?
The entire chapter is there, from the “Getting Ready for Your Super Second Life” section of that book. It is blissfully short. Switching to this chapter not only keeps this newsletter length manageable, it allows you to download, copy, and use all of the related charts and graphs.
Here are a few highlights from that chapter:
(1) The conventional “saving up for our old age” doesn’t make much sense.
(2) Nor does leaving much or anything in a will.
(3) It’s vitally important that we know what we’re saving our money for.
(4) Unless we’re unlucky, we all get a Second Life, whether we’re rich or broke. Money can give us more options.
(5) We need a general worksheet, one for income, another for expenses, and a fourth for net worth—all provided at the website for you to fill in.
(6) Discussed are the basics, emergencies, and when we want to stop working full-time.
(7) The 26 action guidelines form a checklist, and 13 financial or investment sources lead you to experts, if needed.
I’ll see you at http://www.super-second-life.com/chap7money.htm
for the full details.
7/15: Part 3 (of 7)—Planning our own Super Second Life: HEALTH
It’s one thing to have enough money to afford the basics and some choices in our Super Second Life, as we discussed in the last (7/1) newsletter, but without our health, that advantage will be short-lived and, I fear, little enjoyed.
Physical and mental health are also requisites for the enjoyment of a full, fun, meaningful life. The idea is to be vigorous, active, alert, and clear-thinking, delaying and placating debility or senility either until our last, painless months or until the very last moment.
It all begins with a complete medical exam, plus the provision (to the doctor) of other information that will assist in the creation of a proactive life maintenance program. Soon enough I will send you to the website to read Chapter 6, “What Will You Do About Your Physical and Mental Health?” from How to Create Your Own Super Second Life: What Are You Going to Do With Your Extra 30 Years? A sample medical chart is included.
In that chapter we will set aside two myths: (1) old = sick, and (2) we are all headed for the nursing home! Then we’ll look at the claim that it doesn’t matter what we do, the doctors will find a pill to keep us all humming until 200. Fat chance!
We’ll talk about taking control of our bodies and minds now, what we must do to maintain optimum health for the next 30 years (without quack remedies or manic exertion), the role that diet and exercise play in body maintenance, and the four things that medicine currently suggests to maintain and increase our brain power almost as long as we live.
We will also review James Barrett’s six major regressive tasks we will all eventually encounter, plus the seven compensatory tasks that will help us meet those changes and adjust better to old age. Alas, our biggest danger at any point isn’t loss of mental function but of just giving up, the “why try?” mentality that scientists call “disengagement.” That too often happens shortly after retirement.
And we’ll see that stress is a no-nonsense foe that we must face.
It’s no surprise that actively planning a vital, rewarding “second life” is plunk at or near the core of many of the “cures.” The last two of four suggestions from Joanne Schrof about how we can stay mentally sharp as we age make the point:
* In middle age, develop expertise, save money (so you can afford mind-nourishing experiences), achieve your major goals (so you don’t enter retirement unfulfilled), and avoid burnout.
* After 65, seek new horizons, resist the temptation to settle into a comfy routine, engage the world (do things you believe make a difference in life), take a daily walk, and keep control (helplessness leads to mental apathy and deterioration).
The purpose of Part Three, then, is to help us get a handle on our health now and take simple, straightforward steps to retain our vigor and abilities as long as possible, through both a baseline exam and a set of guidelines for future healthy living.
I’ll see you at http://www.super-second-life.com/chap6health.htm for the full explanation.
8/1: Part 4 (of 7)—Planning our own Super Second Life: A DREAM LIST
In the first 40+ years we dance to nature’s tune: Once the hormones descend, we primp, puff, procreate, work, raise kids, then—about the time nature has no more use for us—we give that primping and puffing one last, stiff huff (hoping not to procreate again as we approach that inevitable 5-0).
Then something happens. We accept that we’re not a kid anymore, and trying to be one looks dumb. Anyway, who wants to be a perpetually mooning adolescent? We’re simply too smart, too fat (or bald, or—you insert the demon adjective[s]), and too tired to cavort, cackle, and act like our brains permanently went South. Instead, we’ve suddenly slipped into a netherland without rules or goals. We can do one of three things: (1) bop along while getting ready to die, (2) decide to make the bonus years worthwhile, fun, and even filled with purpose, or (3) do nothing, but die anyway. I suggest (2).
It’s also time for three assessments. In the last two newsletters we looked at our financial and health status. Now we must also look at what we did and who we were in that first life, what we want to leave behind, what we want to continue, and what we want to create in our bonus 30 years. Five “Me Now” lists from How to Create Your Own Super Second Life: What Are You Going to Do With Your Extra 30 Years? can help you see the kind of “new you” you’d like to keep company with for the last third of your mortal residence.
Take a look at these fill-in lists at http://www.super-second-life.com/menowlists.htm. You might also want to read Chapter 4 of that book, “What is Inappropriate to Repeat the Second Time Around—and What is Essential?”
How can you take advantage of that instant personal insight and that image of a new person that you created? By asking yourself one more question, “If I had all of the money, time, and energy I need and was free from any outside constraints, what would I do in those extra 30 years?”
Then write down all of the things you might do on a piece (or many pieces) of paper. Add new things. Come back tomorrow, and every time you think of more things while in the supermarket or watching TV or jogging, write them down and later add them to the list. That list is the swinging gate to freedom, the key to the new you. Your task is to compose the list, review it, reword and strengthen it, and then make all of those untruths—unlimited money and flawless health and freedom from constraints—untrue, irrelevant, or wee obstacles to dance around while injecting yourself with new vigor and purpose.
Chapter 8 at the website (somewhat abridged) will help walk you through this critical exercise to create a full Dream List.
Busywork? You bet if you chose (1) or (3) above. And wouldn’t your boundless
drive, keen wit, and unerring sense of value get you to the same point
without these exercises? Maybe you—but not me. This is my map and my permission
to do all of the stuff that I really wanted to do earlier but didn’t (plus
a half-dozen more things I’ve discovered since.) It is my declaration to
make some real contributions to my family and society that I’ve been too
busy (or indolent) to do so far. It’s also my own declaration of life worth—and
I can change it (or ignore it) whenever I want, without penalty or 10%
tax! So that’s your task this fortnight: create your own Dream List.
8/15: Part 5 (of 7)—Planning our own Super Second Life: MATES AND SPOUSES
As the quick outline below shows, we’ve already read an overview about Super Second Life planning, then looked at two areas of immediate concern at any stage of life, finances and health. In the last issue we discussed a key tool, the Dream List, which will help us create the kind of life we want after, say, 50.
Here we ask “How can a spouse and I design a shared future life that each will enthusiastically embrace, one built around mutual dreams but that still preserves each person’s individuality?” That’s a tall task, even for short mates.
Of all the things I discuss in my workshops and speeches, nothing provokes more stress, no path is more lined with eggs, than suggesting that a couple sit and plan their future. The initial problems are threefold: (1) they say they have already done that, (2) but they haven’t really discussed much of real significance beyond their kids and the occasional crisis for years, and (3) they have no tools for such a discussion, which I hear as having no protocol nor any idea about how one plans a future, with all its uncertainties and vagueness.
I’m going to send you to Chapter 11 (“When Super Second Life Dreams are Shared, Some Sifting and Sorting is Required”) at the website in a minute (which includes parts of two related chapters from How to Create Your Own Super Second Life: What Are You Going to Do With Your Extra 30 Years?) to see a kind of protocol, and suggest that this seven-part series and the book (with additional website information) provide an abundance of ideas about what couples might talk about and do with their shared Second Lives. But first let’s look at (1) and (2) above.
When couples say (in 1) they have already planned for the future (as a reason for doing nothing more), I suggest we put those plans down on paper. That usually stops at “retire.” Sometimes they add golf or fish, see the kids, garden, or fix that old Jeep. “For 30 years?” I ask.
In truth, most people don’t really plan their first lives, beyond their immediate necessities. They slide from school to a job to marriage to kids to… Me too. What stops 90% of us is the question, “What will your kids (and grandkids) say that you did after you didn’t have to work to eat that you thoroughly enjoyed and was valuable to others and your society?” (That is, if kids could ask such a convoluted question!)
More important, since we and our spouses aren’t fused at the hip, what can we do together and what can each of us do individually that we will be proud of and will give greater meaning to our lives and others’? If we were 97, that might be a high expectation. But most retire at 57 full of knowledge, skills, experiences, vigor, and spit. And their mates are just as dynamic.
The greatest fears seem to lie in (2). The couples have really stopped talking. They can finish each other’s sentences; why uncork the courage to try new dialogs? They can speak in one voice to their children and, finally, to their parents. But they can hardly talk to each other. That’s why I particularly like Super Second Life Planning because it is a new topic, it takes two to make it work together, and the Dream List provides an easy starting tool.
I see other causes of trepidation. Many couples are tired of each other and of the rut, the bills, and the lost hope. They are moving in different directions at different speeds. The man is slowing down and hoping to nest. The woman is speeding up, at last kid-free, and often eager to explode in the world the man is fleeing. So talking about the future is a boiling caldron in which wary eyes see conflict, despair, an empty home without kids, the bubbles of unresolved conflict, and the very real possibility that the thinnest egg of all will have to be walked upon: DIVORCE. (If that’s an issue, then often a trained, third-person conciliator is a wise decision.) As we’ve said before, around 50 life pulls us across a bridge, ready or not. We must simply ask ourselves, and our spouse, “What kind of a life do we want for the next 30 years?” Then we must collectively (or individually, alas) find the tools and energy to make that life happen.
In a nutshell, the information I’m sending you to will acknowledge that each half of a pair has the right to dream, then enjoy a Super Second Life. To define that, they must start with their own Dream List. Then the couple compares their lists, further defines them, and divides them into three piles: our dreams, my dreams, and your dreams.
The strength of this process is that, if the couple can accept the truth of the dreams (and hopes) expressed, those dreams will define where the mates can build together and where each needs the other’s approval and support to grow individually. All that remains, then, is later apportioning the funds to make those dreams happen, then committing them to actual Action Plans.
This process is given flesh at http://www.super-second-life.com/chap11couples.htm.
9/1: Part 6 (of 7)--Planning our own Super Second Life: Prioritizing and Timing
For these last six issues we’ve been looking at steps one might take to create their own Super Second Life. As the list below shows, we’ve already read a topic overview, then looked at two areas of immediate concern at any stage of life: finances and health. In the fourth issue we discussed a key tool, the Dream List, which can help us create the kind of life we want after, say, 50. And in the last issue we talked about mates or spouses and how you and they fit into this grand scheme.
Here we take our Dream List and subject it to prioritization and timing, on the assumption that it is exhausting to do absolutely everything all at once! And anyway, what do we do then?
Chapters 9 and 10 in How to Create Your Own Super Second Life: What Are You Going to Do With Your Extra 30 Years? discuss these very steps, so let me summarize each here, then send you to see them at the website, with a better, funnier explanation, plus fill-in charts! (Please do not write on your monitor.)
It’s one thing to have a Dream List of 143 things we want to do during our Super Second Life. It’s another thing to really want to do them. Commitment is the key word, and we measure commitment by prioritizing.
Some of those 134 are far more exciting than others. There are five ways to measure our commitment to each dream, but only one of those ways works for me. I put any item on a secondary, wanna-be list if it doesn’t provoke a resounding “yes!” to this question: “Will I do whatever it takes (including what I don’t know) to make that dream happen?”
Those that get the “yes!” are the core of our Dream List. (Any other dream can be added, or moved up from the secondary list, at any time--when it shouts a hearty “yes!”) So much for prioritization. (But in fact there’s much more about it at http://www.super-second-life.com/chap10.htm).
Let’s say that 20 items survive the grueling selection. Not every dream is appropriate at every age or level of interest, nor can we do all of them simultaneously. So here we draw up lists (or fill in boxes) by periods of time, say decades, and assign the dreams to the most appropriate time periods. Let me invent two quick examples for clarity, then send you to http://www.super-second-life.com/chap9.htm for the many more details and examples.
Let’s say that our high-five dream is to swim a mile across the Mississippi River. If our time boxes are for 50-60, 61-70, 71-80, and 80+, we might most prudently put this dream into the first box (50-60), when we still have the vigor and strength to accomplish this considerable feat, lest we find ourselves dog-paddling from Dubuque to New Orleans. (We will further use these boxes in the next issue, when we create Action Plans.)
Yet another of our dreams is to help youngsters learn to make puppets, which has been a hobby of ours for years. That dream can surely be done in all of the time boxes, so it can be listed in all, and re-evaluated at the outset of each decade to see if it still has that “I’ll do whatever it takes…” no-nonsense fervor.
The wisdom of both exercises is based on three premises: (1) if we don’t plan at all, the chance that many of our dreams will be realized is slight, (2) if we do whatever comes to mind, willy-nilly, much of what we start will fall by the wayside for wont of commitment, and (3) if we don't match dreams early-on with potential desire and ability at respective age periods, many of the dreams will occur to us too late to make them come true.
It’s easy. List what you absolutely must do in your gift 30 years, put
the most important of those on top, and figure roughly at what age(s) you
want to do them. Then you’re ready for the Action Plan in the next issue.
9/15: Part 7 (of 7)—Planning our own Super Second Life: ACTION PLANS
All of the work we have done until now we needed so we can create actual, hands-on Action Plans. We have to see where we are (and may be) financially, what health issues we must confront now and later, the kind of things we enjoy and want more of in our Second Life—as well as what we don’t want to ever do or see again. Then we have to develop at least a starter Dream List, or nothing really happens except by chance or happenstance.
Yet if we are mated or married, we must also get in sync with our partner. From that, we can tell what dreams we share and which we want to pursue individually, but with the other’s blessing. Finally, since we can’t realize all of the dreams at once, we must prioritize and apportion them to the time periods in our coming years when they work best or we want them most. That’s where we are now.
Here is where we take the top priority, ready-to-do dreams and move them from hope to action. We put a body and legs around the words. Here we ask the journalist’s tool: the who, what, why, where, and how of every dream. And we write our answers down on a form so we can both build an Action Plan and we can see every step as we go along.
I hear a mild objection: it’s just paperwork. I’ve never done that for anything in my life. I just decided and did it.
We’re talking 30 years into the future, not a plan you can do in one step right now. And how many things didn’t you do because you forgot, or the time was never right, or other things were pressing? Trust me: Action Plans work and are necessary in life planning on an important scale.
In How to Create Your Own Super Second Life, What Are You Going to Do With Your Extra 30 Years? I dedicate three chapters to this topic, not because it took me that long to find the point but because, of all, this is what makes Second Life planning work. Each is found at the website and includes its original charts and graphs, which you can simply highlight, paste elsewhere, and fill in with your own future. So let me quickly highlight the three chapters now, then send you to them at the respective links, if you wish to know more.
The title of Chapter 12, “Then the Dreams Must be Reduced to Specific Action Steps,” says it all. If your grandest dream is to run the grueling Western 100 in California, you don’t just show up that day and register for pain. That’s a magnificent dream that begins a few years earlier by running 10Ks and inching up to marathons and ultras. It means qualifying (or winning the lottery), training, and the travel and other logistics of a race. In other words, a magnificent dream deserves a well-planned list of steps that lead to the grand moment, steps that are added to and modified and moved around thirty times before you race into the night. It’s reducing a dream into edible bites. The bites keep us from “foot shuffling, procrastination, emotional and mental paralysis, then muddling in remorse after the fact because we did nothing,” I say, quoting myself! (See http://www.super-second-life.com/chap12.htm.)
In Chapter 13, “Financial Resources Must Now be Added to the Action Plan,” we go back to our earlier financial worksheets to see how we can pay for our latter-life schemes. (Some dreams, like writing a book or starting a small boutique, can actually be self-supporting and reap a profit.)
So here we match the dreams with the potential to finance them. That too is included in our Action Plan. (We saw part of this chapter earlier when we discussed couples.) Check this out at http://www.super-second-life.com/chap13.htm.
The third chapter, 14, is “The Final Action Plan.” Here all of the steps, the finances, and even “health considerations” and “preparatory actions” are included on one form, with the time period you want to realize this dream. One form per dream. (I keep each form in a manila folder because each dream eventually attracts more stuff, like booklets, letters, and how-to information.) My entire future is hiding in about a third of a file drawer, with plenty of room for new ideas and dreams too.
I add a new form here too, called the Personal Budget Sheet. It may be that in the 65-70 time slot I have eight dreams I want to realize, ranging from that Western 100 (not likely!) to travel to see my brothers to reading uninterrupted 90 minutes a day. I list the dreams and make five columns, one for each year. In those columns I note the approximate costs of each of those dreams. This lets me see if I’m going to have funds to do them, when in the five years the respective costs will occur, and what I can do now (or then) to bolster up my finances to make them come true. All of this is better seen at http://www.super-second-life.com/chap14.htm, including some thoughts on how the Action Plans can be organized, kept, and renewed on an easy-to-remember basis.
That’s it: seven steps in these last seven issues that may provide you with a mental and organizational framework for injecting vigor and purpose in your coming 30 years. In the next issue I will include a check-off chart of the steps suggested that you can print out, if needed.
Incidentally, I’m keeping the first item of each issue open for your
feedback or ideas, so this newsletter is indeed interactive. I’d particularly
like to know if you have tried the system described (or another of your
own making or modification). How did/does it work? Share any thoughts with
10/1: Super Second Life Process Check-off Chart
For the past seven issues we have shared the heart of my Second Life planning process, as it appears in How to Create Your Own Super Second Life: What Are You Going to Do With Your Extra 30 Years? (To review already published parts of this “Super Second Life Planning” series, see http://www.super-second-life.com/6-partplan.htm)
I like check-off sheets. They not only give me an orderly way to complete a task, they provide a growing sense of righteousness as the checks fill up the column. So I’m including the book’s process check-off list at the website for your use too. (See http://www.super-second-life.com/SSLcheckoffchart.htm.)
If you think some of the items are useless, bizarre, or part of a plot,
you can download the chart, then quietly remove (or replace) them. I’ll
never know. Then you’ll have fewer steps to planning righteousness!