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Your Own Second Life

We're going to live 30 years longer than our kin did just a century ago. (If the actuaries are wrong, we may even outlive them by 50 years!)

That's a lot of time to exercise a lot of choices.

We can do nothing, like that bump on the log that watches life pass by.

We can accept our granddaddy's philosophy that after midlife (which was about 35 then) it is all downhill.

Or we can make something of those gift years by becoming proactive, creating a life plan and some goals, making them happen, and (if we're not careful) even having fun! With a plan, we can also earn our keep, improve life for others, and be solid models for our kids and their kids...

The primary purpose of this website is to help folks

Because there are many facets of planning, let'sslnewsletter.html">newsletter, then find its way to this page...

8 reasons why...
Need a reason for planning your future? How about eight!
Need more reasons?
Many more reasons, examples of other planners, tips, and more are found in Gordon's articles about the topic...
An Action Plan
Here is the sample form from Gordon's book.
Others' lifeplans
We will feature five lifeplans from you folks, 
as they arrive...

Super Second Life Newsletter

5/1/03: Do you have an emergency contact list?

Or do you expect others to rummage through your kitchen drawers, find some obscure file in your computer, or decipher the bent-corner pages in your phone book while you are gasping for breath—or to pay your bills, stop the newspaper delivery, or tell your kids that you thoughtlessly expired while cussing at the Weather Channel?

Why not put all of this info on one page this weekend, make a dozen copies, and post one by the phone, another on the refrigerator with a magnetic holder, others in the spots mentioned above, and then give some to friends and family?

What do you list? All the doctors, dentists, therapists, and health-related folk you use. The names and addresses of your family, parents, friends, and children—and if your kids are still young, their school names and phone numbers. (That means for each their address and many contact numbers: home and work phones, pager, fax, and email addresses.) Your insurance agent(s) and attorney. Baby-sitters or elder parents’ caregivers. Folks who provide services to you: gardener, newspaper delivery, travel agent, bookie, and more…

Prepare the list on your computer, keep it in your opening documents page, and update it often, or on your birthday. If you can’t remember when your birthday is, you definitely need this list!
5/1/03: Making those dreams come true.

If you have read my book, How to Plan a Great Second Life,, you know that I propose the creation of a “dream list” that becomes the core of the plans around which you build your future. It adds joy and purpose to your everyday living. (For details, see the 8/1/01 SSL Newsletter.) That book, incidentally, is sold out; the slightly revised edition will be available in June.)

A key item on my own dream list (yes, I do what I write about) was a trip to Portugal. Why Portugal? Because in my early 20s I twice studied in Brazil (a full college year and a graduate summer) and while there learned to speak fluent Portuguese and love Brazilians. Later, I taught colonial Brazilian history, and in so doing became intrigued by both the Avis and Braganca royal lines and the close interplay between Brazil, the largest colony, and Portugal, the “mother country.” But I never had a chance to visit Lisbon, Coimbra, Porto, and the many other historic sites on the Iberian Peninsula.

So from April 7-24 I made that dream come true (and am still a bit jet-lagged as I type these words). It took several months to plan, and about a year to look forward to—and it turned out to be every bit as exciting and interesting as I hoped (despite the expected April showers that kept the railroad station umbrella [guarda-chuva] sellers smiling). The highlights: probably the fortified cities of Evora and Obidos were the most unique, the Roman ruins at Conimbriga (near Coimbra) and the Moorish castle near Estoril got the most digital photos, Lisbon is chuck full of things to see and has a great subway-railroad-bus-trolley service to quickly spirit you around, the people were very friendly (though reserved), and the food was excellent. But that’s fodder for the many travel articles I will write—and will link you to in future newsletters, if you are interested.

I guess what I want to share here is my reaction to having done what I preached; that is, having started to make my second-life dreams happen.

(1) It’s time. I’m 65 and nimble so I can still fully appreciate and enjoy such an endeavor. But who is kidding who (or is it whom?)—that won’t last forever. There’s a certain snow-in-the-face reality to that which both angers and saddens me. And a pinch of pride that I’m sensible enough to get past it and put my “future” plans in action. Said another way, a good part of my future has arrived and I want to fully enjoy it while my mind and body are able.

(2) What if I’d planned the trip for years and it turned out to be a bust? That’s a danger, and likely to happen to one or another of my dreams, however well they are researched and designed. Do I not go because that’s a possibility? Do I keep pushing the riskiest dreams to the back of the list until they become impossible? Maybe I was lucky but Portugal was full of pleasant surprises, with only a few disappointments. It was a strong nine on a scale of ten.

(3) How do I justify spending around $3,000 for a 21-day one-man tour when I still have several decades left to live, my coffers are far from full, the economy is sagging, and it’s a bit late to apprentice for another career? In part, because it bought 20+ years of memories, plus the satisfaction of 45 years of curiosities and questions. (I also expect to earn back that much by selling articles about the country to newspapers, which is a strong reason for realizing some of your dreams early enough to be able to offset their costs by gainful follow-up. More about that too at earlier SSL Newsletters from 8/15/01 to 10/15/01.) Mostly, though, it’s far from frivolous if you have a grasp on where you are financially and where you will most likely be later, then use your capital when it’s best employed. My kids know there will be no inheritance—nor any death expenses. The only question, then, is when the money is best spent. Some, now, for Portugal.

(4) What if? We can find a million “what ifs” for every venture. What if terrorists blew up the plane? (I was more likely to miss a curve on the wet mountainous freeways!) What if SARDS invaded Lusitania? What if my house back in California burned down? Life ain’t certain. Stuff happens, as John Alston says. Odd stuff is going to happen every day I live, sometimes to me, but I’ve got some good years left and I want them to be eventful and productive. So I’ve just got to keep living fully. That’s my job, and my dream list is part of making that happen.

I could go on, but you get the idea. We can just kick back and get old or we can make the things we want to happen take place and still get old. I prefer the latter. That starts by creating a dream list, then making its dreams come true.

Portugal was my second big dream come true. Writing my novel was the first. I’ve still got much of my list still to enjoy, plus items yet to add to the list…
11/01/02: George Valliant’s “Eight Keys to Successful Aging.”

If you took men and women ages 75-80 who are enjoying life and their relationships more than ever, then looked at a detailed profile of each at age 50 to see what they were like then, could you find a pattern that we might follow now to improve our status later?

Eight key things are the difference, according to George Valiant, author of Aging Well--Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life (Little, Brown). As important, it’s no different if you lived in the inner city or a posh suburb, says the 50-year study that Valiant cites, of 824 men and women, conducted by Harvard University’s Study of Adult Development.

What were the eight most important virtues, in order of importance? (1) Not smoking, (2) having an adaptive coping style, (3) avoiding alcohol abuse, (4) maintaining a healthy weight, (5) being in a stable marriage, (6) looking out for the younger generation, (7) getting regular exercise, and (8) completing an education.

Bottom Line’s Tomorrow newsletter for November, 2002, gives more details. See

Only one of the eight isn’t self-explanatory: (2), adaptive coping style, which refers to how one copes with life’s problems. The trick is to develop mature defense mechanisms (such as altruism, suppression, sublimation, anticipation, and humor). They are more likely to put you in the healthiest group. Immature defenses? Projection, dissociation, fantasy, hypochondria, and acting out. Forgiveness was also a mature trait that paid big dividends.

Still, we give you permission to mix in a little fantasy, as immature as that may be, but you must quit before you get to self-coronation or same-name sainthood.

7/1/02: A capstone achievement and a pinch of history.

I’ve spent many of my days on the road speaking since the last SSL Newsletter, and from both the workshop discussions and chats before and after, two points were heavily reinforced:

(A) A large number of folks moving toward or into “retirement” are hunting for some capstone achievement or contribution to leave humanity. They see a grievous wrong they want corrected or a way that many will benefit by their modest intercession. Some don’t have a goal or even a path but they want to put all they’ve learned and the skills they’ve acquired into some positive action.

Others just want to stay active, helping, and wanted. The latter are the valuable volunteers and low-paid aides who keep the country functioning: the docents, guard-crossers, Meals on Wheels deliverers, hospice supporters, hospital and health care helpers, suicide phone line respondents, and so on.

(B) Younger listeners have scant knowledge of the extraordinary changes that have occurred in a shared field. A greater surprise: they appreciate and enjoy hearing about it.

In a publishing seminar I mentioned that when I published my first book, in 1982 (before computers), we considered whether to use hot or cold typesetting. Blank stares in two-thirds of the eyes. When I asked if they had heard of a Linotype, I might as well have asked about ether or bloodletting. So I spoke for ten minutes about the extraordinary changes that have taken place in just the past 20 years in publishing: copy prep on the computer, proportional type, electronic teletypesetting, at-home printing up from 30 to 1,200+ dpi, electronic photo reproduction, manuscript submission as an e-mail download, niche publishing, POD and PQN printing, even electronic total book selling from your own website—almost all still taking place simultaneously.

So now I add such a 10-minute insert in each program about the respective field, and it has been very well received. Which makes me wonder if a similar sharing with my kids, and theirs, might be as welcome and instructive. (But I did have to research these short historical forays some, to get the dates of the innovations right and to be able to explain in a sentence or so how things are different and better now because of the particular changes.)

Are your kids and younger business friends aware of the entirely new environment that exists in just the past few decades?

3/1/02: What would you do if you could replan retirement?

That was a question asked of Boomers preplanning retirement in a recent U.S.A. Today and brought to my attention by my good friend John Azzaro. The top five replies, by percentage:

* Save more or save less money, 39%
* Take better care of their health, 29%
* Live closer to their children, 24%
* Retire earlier, 23%
* Get involved in hobbies, 21%

3/1/02: Why this newsletter exists…

It occurred to me the other day that half of you reading these pages missed all or almost all of the first nine issues in which the core purpose of the newsletter was explained, then developed issue by issue.

The very first item of Issue #1, from June 1, 2001, said…

“If you’re 49 or over, you have outlived your kin of 100 years back! Even more shocking, you get to live an EXTRA 30 YEARS! So why not squeeze every bonus ounce out of such a singular gift? And why not make that “second life” super?

“Why not have fun? Why not plan so those extra years multiply in meaning? Why not give every extra moment purpose and joy?

“Why pay your dues, earn your spurs, pile up decades of experience and knowledge and skills (insert your favorite cliché), and then drop dead without giving some or a lot of it back? And why not let loose now and reap the deserved rewards that you put on hold to buy the house and educate the kids—it’s finally your time to live!

“So that’s what we will talk about here. If that offends you, I apologize, but you should simply unsubscribe (scroll to the end). If the idea appeals, then we’ll send the newsletter [now every two months]—and invite you to see the rest of the iceberg at It’s free, secular, straightforward, and without strings. Use what works and leave the rest for other, stranger people to try. Let’s get on with it… and thanks for joining us on our maiden electronic voyage.”

Then, in the following issues, I discussed ways we can organize just such a life, drawing heavily from my book How to Plan a Great Second Life.  In those issue-by-issue sections I also linked you back to the full chapter (or appropriate sections of several chapters) in the book.

If you wish to follow the SSL Newsletter sections pertaining to the creation of a super second life (with links embedded), see In order, those sections are titled Outline and Overview, Finances, Health, Mates and Spouses, Prioritizing and Timing Our Dreams, the Super Second Life Action Plan, and Super Second Life Process Check-off Chart.

In addition, I’ve tried to share thoughts and facts that we of a certain age should either know or might particularly enjoy. Humor, it’s rumored, occasionally intrudes. But always close behind is my sense that we are blessed to be alive now to receive the extra-year gift, as well as to be healthy and well informed and eager to share the best of ourselves with others. So that’s it: most of what I have to share is in the newsletters (we have an index kept current of all 16 issues at, but there is much additional information at the website too.

Thanks for being in the family of free subscribers. Passionately savor every day!

1/1/02: Barbara Sher and a second-life peeve we share.

If you’ve read my book or remember the SSL Newsletter book report (on 7/1/01) about Barbara Sher’s It’s Only Too Late If You Don’t Start Now: How to Create Your Second Life After 40, you know that she’s one of my second-life heroes, mostly because of her flat-out common sense and her unaffected humor.

Barbara has been appearing on the PBS-TV channels lately (predictably, during donor week) in a series of programs about doing something now, this minute, to make your dreams come true. So, one, I want to alert you to her presence and assure you that watching her (or taping and seeing her later) will be well worth your doing. (Don’t thank me: tell friends.)

And two, I want to share a peeve that drives us both angry that I heard her eloquently state again the other night (when I had no pencil handy, so must put in my own words here).

If we have an untapped talent, or know something that others would benefit from knowing, or have the energy and ability to improve others’ lives (and, of course, our own in the process), we don’t really have a choice. Sitting on our duff lamenting inaction, or frittering away years with needless busyness, or anything else unproductive and unfulfilling is really inexcusable. We are depriving mostly ourselves, but the rest of the world too.

Whatever our religious convictions, if any, we do have debts to pay, in part for being born and nurtured in the period when man is freest and lives longest. Those are simply to use every ounce of ability to make our individual and collective lives better. (We also have the right to kick back a bit and enjoy this marvelous existence.)

In other words, now that the kids are fleeing (sometimes with a half-kindly push), our vocational fervor has mellowed, we have some new-found time, and we’ve got a kitbag of tested and usable skills, we can’t just put our feet in the air and close the book. The world needs the new, unique us to find a new fire, light it, fan it, and warm all of mankind.

We can’t extract all the energy and support it took us to finally get through the growing years and get our act together and not give some of that end product back. If our act is together, we must raise the curtain.

11/15: Using happiness to create your own Dream List

There’s another way to create a Dream List, if we modify an interesting concept from Rick Foster and Greg Hicks’ 1999 book called How We Chose to be Happy: The Nine Choices of Extremely Happy People. (Check the 158.1 section in the library.)

The authors suggest that we isolate ourselves, with a pad of paper, a pencil, and a timer, which we set to four minutes.

Start the timer and write down everything that makes us happy. Don’t panic if we draw a momentary blank: things will come. List anything that occurs. Don’t censor ourselves or weigh the amount of happiness. Just write. Stop when the timer sounds.

Let me intercede at this point because I would do the four-minute exercise before I went to bed. The next morning, I’d look at the list and add anything more that came to mind during the night. Then I would go for a long run or cycle. After getting comfortable (and accustomed to the pain), I’d let my mind wander (while keeping my eyes on the path or road). I’ve left that challenge—what makes me happy—roil in my subconscious all night. For me, these are the blank-minded moments when my subconscious delivers. Problems appear miraculously solved, plots reveal themselves, solutions unfold. Usually. If indeed new fonts of happiness came up, I’d add them to the four-minute list as well.

Then Foster and Hicks say to study that list again, but this time to draw a line through those items that are there because others think they should make us happy.

Finally, spend 30 minutes defining and expanding those surviving elements of happiness. What, specifically, about them makes us happy? How does it manifest itself? And what could we do in our future life to replicate, maybe even increase, that happiness? What activities would bring us similar or more joy? (Forget financial or health constraints, and disregard other limitations at this stage or we will progress no farther. They will come into play, and often be found irrelevant or easily modifiable, when we later create Action Plans.)

The concept is straightforward. If we want happiness, first see where it appears and make that the core of our future plans. (And why not also inject huge dollops of it in all of our activities from now to then?)

I’d take two major steps to define the kind of future I want (as expressed in my Dream Lists). I’d do the exercise just described and I’d complete the “Me-Now” lists (more information follows).

(As long-time readers of the SSL Newsletter know, I spent seven issues outlining a process, from my book, about How to Create Your Own Super Second Life. That entire series is available at In it, I explain the critical role Dream Lists play, and suggest “Me-Now” lists as another way to help us define the core of our future planning.)

11/15: Dentists also planning a Super Second Life?

It’s hard to imagine but those folks who pull out our teeth and scrape off our plaque also want to enjoy a Super Second Life! It’s true, and, like all professionals, they have special challenges (and advantages) when it comes time to defrock and change direction.

That’s why Dr. Jay Hislop (20+ years an active dentist, now a much-sought consultant and attorney) and I just wrote and published Life After Dentistry: What Are You Going to Do With Your Extra 30 Years?, to help dentists ease into and through this transition so when that day comes, the anxiety is replaced by anticipation of a fun, meaningful future that they designed. (See specific book info, and its classy cover, at

What might the rest of us benefit from knowing about the dental path to 30 years of self-designed freedom?

* Dentists are as reticent as the rest of us to actually plan for that vague future, and are as uncertain about their ability to afford what they’d really like to do (if they knew). Most outsiders imagine dentists as rolling in cash by the time they hit their late 50s. Some are, mostly because they were prudent all along and set aside (or self-tithed) from the outset for the future. But the bulk go deep into debt paying off their schooling and setting up a practice, then pay much of their earnings just to keep the practice viable and get financially “even.” Some exacerbate that by “living high” during their prime earning years.

* Most count on the sale of their practice to create, if not a windfall, at least an after-dentistry living fund. Sometimes that works, but it is growing progressively harder to sell practices and the values are dropping. Although Jay outlines several solutions in the book, that pot of gold is far from certain.

* Dentists are no better than the rest of us when it comes to getting their future dreams in sync with their mates.

* Nonetheless, they are every bit as eager to give up the daily grind. In fact, at a certain point, they have no choice. Dentistry is physically taxing, requires constant attention to minute detail, and particularly exposes the practitioner to lawsuit. Establishing and maintaining a successful practice also requires business skills not taught in dental school and often somewhat alien to the type of personality practicing the profession.

* Like most specialists, unless they keep a toe near dentistry (perhaps not the best example) for future, after-practice or part-time jobs (like teaching at a dental school or selling dental equipment), they are too narrowly trained to easily slide into other professions. On the other hand, without much relearning they could rather quickly convert their scientific training into teaching science-based classes at high school or college.

* Most are probably no more aware than the average person that they will have 20-30 or more years to live after their dental practice has ended. They still accept their grandfather’s example of working, retiring, and dying a few years later. Dentists also get the “gift” years, but, like the rest of us, all they get is the time, the box. They must determine the content. (We hope the book helps them design that content as they enjoy their prime years, then live an even more exciting second prime!)

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Gordon Burgett
(800) 563-1454