HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN"> Sample Book Review of Gordon Burgett's How to Plan a Great Second Life
How to Plan a Great Second Life

The concept behind Gordon Burgett’s book—How to Plan a Great Second Life: Why not live fully every day of your extra 30 years?—appears to fly in the face of common sense, that people will have the time and energy to build an exciting second life while they are growing progressively weaker, addled, and infirm as they age.

Betty Friedan’s The Fountain of Age challenged that premise, which she calls the “age mystique”—that growing old simply means deterioration or decline from youth. She asks, rather, “if the long period of age after reproduction might not be as important as that long period of childhood in making us human.” And then concludes that seniors living and functioning in the community have far fewer of the negatives commonly associated with age and much more to contribute in their wiser, more contemplative years.

How to Plan a Great Second Life seems to build from that premise in assuming that a productive, exciting life doesn’t end when midlife retirement or layoff occurs. Burgett states, “The problem is what you think you see ahead: less power, less beauty, less passion, less money, and less years. You need better eyes. The truth is, the second half of your life will be better, more exciting, and much more in your control than the hard half you’re escaping.”

Burgett shares Barbara Sher’s (It’s Only Too Late if You Don’t Start Now: How to Create Your Second Life at Any Age) upbeat, comical disdain for those who try to hold onto their youth with a shaky, death grip. Both suggest a gentle transition into a “second life.” Burgett then offers the logical next step, a way to plan a better second life based on that’s person’s own resources and wishes.

Where do those “extra 30 years” come from? In 1900, when life expectancy was 48 years of age, the few who lived to retirement (or 65) were just plain worn out, and usually sick. Most men lived two more years after they stopped working, and their wives were gone within the next three.

But along came water purification, medical advances, a better diet, and fewer infectious diseases, and people now at 78 (today’s life expectancy some 100 years later) are far more vigorous and capable than the retirees of yesteryear.

Burgett’s 256-page book introduces and explains the concept of a “great second life,” gives readers permission to create just that for themselves, then offers a set of planning tools (mostly the 17 fill-in graphs, charts, and lists) that help the reader organize now and, hopefully, lead a richer life later.

This second edition is leaner, easier to use, and replaces the sole weakness of the first, the author’s using his own life plan (augmented by his then wife’s) as the example, with a fictional example that is much easier to identify with. The support website at is excellent, his book forms are all digitally downloadable free of charge, and the author's equally free newsletter every two months (see the website) is as much fun (yet useful) as his book.

The topic is one that needs to be addressed. More than half of all the people who ever reached 65 years of age in the history of mankind are alive today! They all would have benefited from Burgett’s system.

I had trouble finding this new book at the bookstore, though it was on the major bookselling websites. It’s quicker to buy it directly from the publisher: $17.95 (plus $2.50 shipping—and $1.39 tax for orders to California) to Age Masters, P.O. Box 6405, Santa Maria, CA 93456. With VISA or Mastercard, the order can be faxed (805) 937-3035 phoned (800) 563-1454, or e-mailed (



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