Author: Lynda Smith

Work beyond professional retirement in a technology connected world

The news and social media channels continue to tell us that many of our jobs will be taken over by artificial intelligence (AI). That may be true 10-20 years from now, but right now there is a positive aspect to these shifts that we should be aware of.

The fifty-plus generation has worked in a world where learning the steps and processes of operations were crucial to remaining relevant and effective. We understood and managed the steps. Computers started to track these and assist us along the way. In an AI world, they will be doing the work.

I am optimistic that the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) should create new jobs. Artificial intelligence is, ironically, a technology that could provide unique opportunities in attractive new work roles and may have the impact of allowing people to work longer and more flexibly across life stages in the future.

What is our human edge?

One of the greatest skills sets of baby boomers is emotional intelligence (EQ). This is not an easily transferable skill for coding into machines. The algorithms can do part of the work but will struggle with the empathy and other emotional skills needed to help humans feel heard and appreciated.

Imagine yourself as an AI Tutor, guiding and parenting the process to ensure that it embodies the human touch. This may sound weird but is already happening and industries will search for older, skilled industry specialists to do this work. Imagine the motor industry. Most of the work is done now by robots, but skilled people work alongside the process to tweak and align the work that humans once did.

I look forward to the day that business employs older people to be present when needed for those that need human input. It will be the older generation that is able to listen and help solve particular problems when the only other presence in the room are machines who do the work. Think over the last 10 years, how booking movies has changed. Yes, automated, but what about that someone to help when you stand outside a theatre and are not sure how to book through the terminal in front of you.

Imagine call centres that ask this question first: How old are you? If you are over 60, push 1. You are put through to a human, who can guide you and understands the questions you need answers to. These small changes to the process of AI and change can make a massive difference to a group of customers who will leave the process feeling valued and heard rather than frustrated and confused.

The world is ready for a demand economy where certain skills will be in high demand across different industries. Technology is being set up to manage the marketing and finance and offering opportunities for skilled people to choose projects to do right from home. A new platform called One Circle HR is opening later this year and is focused on people with HR talent.

Technology and a changing workplace are real. The challenge for older adults is to learn as much as we can to engage and to look for the opportunities on the horizon that offer this generation opportunities due to our wisdom and experience.

Longevity calls for disruption

We are living on average 20-30 years longer than our grandparents. Longevity requires us to think differently about our next season of life, and how we design it. This calls for disruption and innovation. It calls for individuals, business and government to solve new challenges.

Chip Conley makes this statement in his new book Wisdom@Work:

“If you knew you would live to the age of one hundred, what new talent, skill, or interest would you pursue today in order to become a master?”
This is a great challenge, but how do we put it into practice? For each of us this is a unique journey of discovery. There may be several items on the list that you would like to explore. How do you go about researching all the avenues?

At 50plus-skills we are building a community and engaging in workshops, dialogue and peer-to-peer learning. We encourage members to share their activities, invite others to join workshops and to support and encourage each other as we progress.

Here are some of the ideas from our members.

Jane has enrolled in a 12-week online Machine Learning Course through Stanford University. There is no cost unless she wants a certificate for which a small fee is payable.

Mandi has been attending Spanish classes. She read a post from another member, Tommy, who wrote of volunteering through a company called Diverbo on an English Immersion program in Al Berca, Spain for one week. This is what he said:” You pay to get there and your reward for speaking 100 hours of English is you meet great people on this adventure, eat too much good Spanish food, and experience the culture of Spain in a special area, three hours’ drive from Madrid. I highly recommend this experience.”

Jenny has always wanted to learn to play the piano and has at the age of 62, found a teacher who is showing her the basics. There is joy in learning something new, though engaging in a new skill can be challenging.

Christine applied for work as a nursing sister on a cruise liner and is working and seeing the world.

Ronel and her son each applied for teaching jobs in Thailand. They both work in the same school and Ronel has even brought her 80-year-old mom over with her as a dependent. Three generations are living together and experiencing a new culture.

Ideas are helpful. We need to stay open-minded to learn, engage and connect with diverse opportunities and people to create this disruption in our lives. It is so easy to fall into the comfort zone of life. Challenge yourself to learn something new at least once a year and to engage in some diverse groups that will help challenge your thinking.

Mentorship for all – young and old

It’s a rollercoaster and it’s scary!

This is what the rapidly changing world of work can be for those of us whose careers have been in an office from eight-to-five.

For younger people, this technology-driven world is familiar and offers an opportunity to work as a nomad or remotely.

The wisdom of elders

I have just finished reading a new book by Chip Conley called Wisdom @ Work. Chip was invited as a 50-year-old to mentor the young “tech” team who were starting Airbnb several years ago. This book captures lessons he learnt about equipping both young and old for this new environment.

Chip says: “As we’ve moved from grains to brains, many of us have lost appreciation for the value of the expertise and experience that only comes with age.”

Chip mentored these young entrepreneurs on leadership, hospitality expertise and emotional challenges faced when building and leading teams. When he attended their strategy sessions, he found their “tech” speak confusing and new to him.

At the same time, he needed to acquire a range of digital literacy skills. He labelled himself a MENTERN. He mentored them privately, and he interned with them publicly to fast-forward his learning on this evolving work environment.

Know yourself

This new world calls for us to examine our own lives, to identify possible gaps we have and where we can find the help we need. The best-case scenario is where we each learn from the other.

You may need help with technology skills and, at the same time, offer guidance as a mentor to a younger person. Trade with each other; this may be a family member or someone in your community. It may be trading your industry expertise for help with new developments in your industry, say, an older engineer with a younger engineer.

There are wonderful ways in which young entrepreneurs can be matched with older experts in their fields, and this combination takes the business thinking and success to a much higher level. The greatest challenge lies in respecting and understanding each other at the start of this process. The older mentor needs to be humble and open to learning, and the younger person needs to be willing to be teachable, open to sharing and growth. The right dynamic from the beginning can have remarkable results and form a strong partnership.

I love Chip’s reflection on this kind of partnership. “We know what a mentor relationship looks like as, historically, wisdom flowed downhill. But, today, for the first time, we are seeing the power of an intergenerational transfer of wisdom that flows in both directions. This offers the elder the opportunity to be raw again by being receptive to learning in a new way.”

His book is a great read and a chance to challenge our thinking and make a difference. We certainly need one another. The human factor is key. You are unique and have a valuable contribution to make. You may need to adjust your mind-set somewhat. An exciting adventure awaits.

Lynda Smith is a Retire Successfully Retirementor, and CEO of the Refirement Network (“Don’t retire, refire!”). She recently introduced her innovative Fifty Plus-Skills to the South African retired community – and it is proving to be a popular way for retirees to seek work and for companies to hire experienced personnel.

Two pencils on yellow background

Living your legacy season

Our generation has been gifted with an extra season of life.

In her book, The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity, Professor Lynda Gratton explains why longevity is something we need to understand; then, we need to shift some of our current thinking.

She writes that, on average, we are living 30 years longer than our great grandparents and that many of our grandchildren will celebrate their 100th birthdays.

Let’s use this visual to explore what this may mean for each of us:

Formerly, life was more linear: 25 years of education, 35 years of work, and then a few years of retirement before one died. Technology and longevity have disrupted this progression, and this shift requires us to step back and consider new possibilities.

I like to call this the gift of an extra season.

For each of us, this gift may look different – money, health and family are variables that play an important factor.

Let’s examine some scenarios.

Meet Mary and Dave who have worked and saved over the last 40 years and feel that now it is time to enjoy life, visit their three children and travel. They would like to volunteer and help when available and want to have some fun and relax. They know that they can survive on what they have saved and have a plan.

Our second scenario features Annie; she is divorced, and her children live overseas. She has not managed to save enough and needs to continue working as long as possible. She has a great set of skills and can offer her services as a virtual assistant to several clients. Working remotely also allows her the time to travel and visit her children.

Next is Anton. He had a great corporate career and now, in retirement, finds himself wanting to add value and have a reason to get out of bed every day. He is healthy and is working with a group of start-up businesses where he uses his skills two days a week to mentor and coach young entrepreneurs.

Finally, Christine, having retired from formal work as a qualified nurse, decided to work on one of the global cruise liners.  She had lost her husband when she was 50. She has been doing that now for more than 10 years. Her children join her on cruises from time to time, so she gets to see the world and still spends time with her family.

What is the clear common denominator?  Each person exercised a choice regarding what they wanted their future to look like.

The gift of choice is part of this legacy season.

Take the time to look at your life. Think out of the box and design a framework that works for you. Technology and better health give us options that were not available to our parents and grandparents.

If ill health starts to impact our life, we may have to slow down and accept that some of the options are no longer available to us. The challenge I see too often is people slowing down too soon, not looking after their health and not opening themselves up to new experiences and opportunities. A legacy season is one where we can give back and reflect on the journey. Use the time wisely. It is a gift.

Live long and die short is my motto. I hope to live in my legacy season until my last day. If this is not possible, I will accept that life can slow down, that I have lived life to the full and will live with grace and peace in this last season.

We cannot control all the circumstances but we sure can make the most of the gifts we have been given.

Over-50 skills for a successful SA

“Imagine a South Africa where we all have one goal: to build our economy.” 

Retire Successfully Retirementor, Lynda Smith, helps people refire rather than retire. Now she aims to transform the face of employment in South Africa.

Lynda has created a skills portal where over 50s who have expertise and experience can connect with employers seeking just that kind of employee.

Lynda shares how her dream became a reality.

In 2009, I studied social entrepreneurship at GIBS.

I used my company, REFIREMENT NETWORK, as a model for my studies, and this gave birth to my big goal.

There are two million skilled people in South Africa over the age of 60.

If 10% of them engaged in some kind of work or volunteering, using their existing skills, time and passion, for five years, this would equate to ONE MILLION years of economic activity for South Africa.

I want to see older and younger people in South Africa engaging to bring purpose and economic security into the lives of all South Africans.

Lynda Smith Retirementor for Retire Successfully The Mother of Invention

At 50, I found myself looking to a new career. I have always loved helping others and, as a social entrepreneur, love to find challenging scenarios and create solutions. Increasing longevity means that we need to remain engaged longer for both our financial and personal wellbeing, and in this trend I found my work purpose.

Refirement Network has joined hands with three partners to build the 50-Plus Skills company. We are all passionate about South Africa, with different skills, networks and tools and collaborating made sense. Refirement Network remains a separate company and thought leader in longevity.

Learn and Earn in this new season

The 50-Plus Skills portal is a space where individuals 50+ will engage with both the business and social Lynda Smith Refirement Network sector. It is an opportunity to create connections between these sectors to make it easier for individuals to share their area of passion,  using their skills and creating the flexibility to work and engage as they want to.

We an learn, serve and earn in this season. We do need to understand how the world has changed and adapt.

Retire Successfully loves what Lynda is doing and is excited to see 50-Plus Skills grow and thrive.

Finding Purpose and Passion in life beyond 50

The convergence of longevity and technology is changing the way we live, work and play.  None of us realised that we may live much longer than our parents and grandparents. Who would have been able to predict how technology has changed our world twenty years ago? These two major factors change how we need to think, save and plan.

Life often does not work out as planned. Let’s look at two scenarios.

Bewildering new workplace

Anne married young in the 1970s and did not work at her career due to her children being born soon after their marriage. Anne loved being home and being a full-time mom.  Sadly, at the age of 40, her husband died, and she was left carrying the burden of life as a single parent.  She had enough money in the early years to fulfil the role as parent and ensure that her children could complete their education. As the children left the nest and Anne wanted to start working to help build her nest egg, she found a workplace that had changed so much and felt quite disheartened.

Dissolving dreams

Bill and Mary married in their twenties and both worked throughout their marriage. They had a family and enjoyed life. They had saved diligently and were looking forward to a life of travel, pleasure and fulfilling their dreams at retirement.  They looked forward to grandchildren close by. Sadly, both their children left the country and live far away. A few years into retirement, life seemed to not match their dreams of what life would be like.

What happens when it’s not enough?

These two very different scenarios have the same challenge at the core. A life with not enough money, relationships or purpose seems empty and unfulfilling.

For each of us this picture will look different. We arrive at this season of life with investments, experience, relationships, skills and dreams. If our world has changed through personal loss or unfulfilled dreams, we need to step back and question what needs to happen to change our current world. Only we can do this.

So how do we do this?

It starts with working with a coach, learning, reading and discovering where our happiness and purpose may be found. It starts with us. We need to take control and action for change to happen. We need to understand some of the shifts in the world of work. This is never easy, but one may find hidden treasure and new relationships as you explore your options.

Find your purpose

I have found in my coaching practice that working with clients using these four circles can help to unlock and unpack some possibilities and ideas. The four circles exercise should be done as follows:

  • Take a sheet of white A3 paper and cut out or draw the circle diagram and paste in the middle.
  • Page through magazines, photographs and ideas that you are attracted to and cut out pictures and words that speak to you.
  • Glue the words and pictures closest to the circle they best represent.

Spend about an hour or two on this exercise.  You can also journal, draw and be creative.  It is almost the same as doing a collage or a vision board.

The result is that it opens ideas and thinking. Share your picture with a friend or your partner. Each of our pictures will look different because we are all unique and should be living life in this season building on our strengths, passion and talents.

Earning in this season has two currencies. Money and meaning. A reason and a goal to get up for daily is where we need to start to build and strengthen our vision for our future.  Experiment, volunteer, join a club or do an online course.

As you move forward with intent, doors start to open, networks grow, and you find that there is a reason to get up and enjoy today and tomorrow.

The process is dynamic, needs engagement and an open mind. Celebrate the process of discovering your purpose for this season.

Have you engaged in a MOOC yet?

I am not swearing at you. This is a word that many, especially the younger generation, know well. We know it in a different format.

The world we grew up in was linear. You were born, educated, employed, retired and died.

Today with all the changes we experience daily, mainly due to technology and the web, we live in a multi-stage world where lifelong learning becomes a reality for all of us, old and young.

Here is a definition of the term from Wikipedia.

A massive open online course (MOOC /muːk/) is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as filmed lectures, readings, and problem sets, many MOOCs provide interactive user forums to support community interactions among students, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs).

MOOCs are a recent and widely researched development in distance education which was first introduced in 2006 and later emerged as a popular mode of learning in 2012.

I will share three different tools where you can access these courses.


Coursera envisions a world where anyone, anywhere, can transform their life by accessing the world’s best learning experience.

Every course on Coursera is taught by top instructors from the world’s best universities and educational institutions. Courses include recorded video lectures, auto-graded and peer-reviewed assignments, and community discussion forums. When you complete a course, you’ll receive a sharable electronic Course Certificate.


Udemy’s maxim is: we’re improving lives through learning

Millions of students and instructors participate in the world’s largest online learning marketplace.

Udemy is a global marketplace for learning and teaching online where students are mastering new skills and achieving their goals by learning from an extensive library of over 55,000 courses taught by expert instructors.


edX’s goal is to increase access to high-quality education for everyone, everywhere; to enhance teaching and learning on campus and online; to advance teaching and learning through research.

My experience

Last week I bought my first course through Udemy. They were having a sale and I bought a course on how to design, produce and market online courses. This is something I have wanted to do and now can learn, practise and experiment.

I shared this sale on Udemy with my Facebook network and many bought courses from the diverse bundle. Here are some of the courses bought: cooking, writing, photography, data analytics, social media marketing, graphic design, life coaching, drawing, mastering architecture, real estate photography. The sky is the limit.

This kind of learning allows us to change the way we think, engage and learn. It is a wonderful way for the younger generation to learn and with those of us closer to retirement, it opens the possibility to learn new skills and dig deeper into hobbies and things we are interested in.

When was the last time you did something for the first time?  You may be ready to be MOOCed.

How to design a portfolio life

Lynda Smith, Chartered Wealth Solutions client, Retire Successfully Retirementor and CEO of The Refirement Network, reflects on how creating a portfolio life is a practical way to continue to contribute in retirement.

The world of work is changing for all of us, young and old. The internet and the exponential speed at which technology is changing the world around us means that we may long to leave the stressful corporate world and find a way to combine a number of interests that keep us financially engaged and doing work we love.

Portfolio life was a term coined by the business guru Charles Handy in his book The Age of Unreason, published in 1989. Mr Handy explained the concept as “a portfolio of activities – some we do for money, some for interest, some for pleasure, some for a cause… the different bits fit together to form a balanced whole greater than the parts”.

Portfolio life in retirement

When coaching my clients a number of years before retirement, I try and help them to define their passion and talents and what they would like to do with their next season. I use the diagram below to help them unpack their unique picture.

Once we have completed the exercise we have some great ideas to chat about.

Everyone has different needs and desires and it is critical to experiment and plan what your next season may include. You may want to do some consulting, serve on a board, do some writing or facilitating and even share your skills as a volunteer in your area of passion. A mix of different roles constitutes a “portfolio career”.

Some of the work may be paid for and some may be for free. It is more important in this season to balance your work, leisure and family time, and for each family this will be different.

The benefits of this kind of work life are that you can continue to earn, remain intellectually stimulated, have flexibility and will most probably be happier.

Technology allows us the opportunity to do some of this work virtually and not always to be commuting. It also allows global opportunities to be a part of the mix.  It is important to discover your unique skills and how you want to manage this process. Once you are clear about your roles and have engaged with some practice in the market place, it is important to build your profile and market yourself. Your networks are critical and will enable introductions and opportunities.

Many young people are also engaging in portfolio careers as a result of wanting the freedom to move around, earn and grow. Technology has enabled a new part of our economy called the demand or gig economy and this too may form part of your portfolio. The article cited here explains more about this as part of your possible portfolio.

Longevity has gifted us with an extra season of life and this allows us to design a life unique for us in our early retirement years. Take the time to think through your skills, passions, talents and hobbies, work with a career coach and design your personal masterpiece.

Longevity calls for some changes in our thinking

The most important book I have read this past year on the subject of ageing and longevity is The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott.

In this book, the authors aim to help us think through a longer life span and what we each need to consider as we grow older.

The prediction is that our lifespan is increasing by two to three years every decade; that means that over the past 100 years, we are – on average – likely to live twenty to thirty years longer than our great grandparents.

This certainly calls for a re-design of our thinking. Our children and grandchildren will be impacted much more than those of us currently close to retirement.

Here is an important quotation from the book: “The current three-stage life of education, career and retirement will be replaced by a multi-stage life with new stages, new ages and with the potential for much greater individualised sequencing. The challenge is the absence of role models so most of this will have to be invented as we go along. The 100-Year Life: Living and Work in an Age of Longevity brings clarity about the choices that you need to make in the age of longevity.”

Here some of the changes predicted:

  • People will work until their 70s and 80s
  • There will be new jobs and skills
  • Getting the finances right is not everything
  • Life will become multi-staged
  • Transitions will become the norm
  • New stages will emerge
  • Re-creation will be more important than recreation
  • Options will become more valuable
  • Home and work relationships will transform
  • Younger for longer

The book also talks about looking at both our tangible and our intangible assets as important items on our balance sheet of life. In a shorter lifespan, this may not have been as important, but it will certainly have a significant impact if we are living longer. The key is in the redesign of our thinking about our individual lives and taking a look at what we can do to bring a balance between the two types of assets.

Here are a few thoughts from the book on creating this balance:

  • To think about longevity only in terms of finance and work is to negate the very essence of being human.
  • The gift of a long life is fundamentally a much more intangible gift.
  • A good life is supportive family, great friends, strong skills and knowledge, and good physical and mental health.
  • Tangible and intangible assets are inter-dependent of one another.
  • All assets require careful maintenance and mindful investment.
  • Intangible assets are not as easy to measure as tangible assets like investments, homes and funds.

From a work perspective, changes are happening at an exponential rate and our children and grandchildren are likely to have many more transitions than we have experienced. Building skills, interests, diverse networks and interests in a number of areas both locally and globally will influence the choices and possibilities.

Resilience, creativity and problem solving are skills that humans have and that are currently not duplicable by computers. Being adaptable and being able to manage change effectively is key to survive and thrive in this kind of environment.

Longevity can be a gift or a curse and that choice will rest with us.

The future awaits.

Why not add your skills to a SKILLS bank?

There are many things we seem to lose when we retire from our professional or formal career: a salary, status, routine, social circle and a reason to get up.  Our feelings are often ambivalent: we are pleased to not be constrained by these needs; on the other hand, we tend to miss them and struggle to replace them with similar but fresh interests in this next season.

It seems such a pity to work and build skills, experience and wisdom for 40 years and then feel as if we are no longer relevant or needed. This is a tragedy of the current retirement system. We feel younger and healthier than any former generation that has arrived at this point and yet ageism rears its ugly head in many forms.

Technology is also changing the landscape both at work and in every facet of our lives. Remaining relevant and connecting can now be done at a distance via Skype and it is not necessary always to be face to face with people to make a difference.

My company, Refirement Network has had a dream for a number of years to start a Skills Bank. This is a place where those of us who would like to add value or need to earn have a place where we can BANK our skills. The skills we have that we would like to share in this season. It may be as a mentoring engineer or coaching a young team through a project. It could also be reading to/with children once a week at a school or working with a group wanting to understand and master your carpentry skills. It may be once a week or for a short contract season.

The challenge has been that up to now there has been no such place.

We have now launched the first round of this Bank where you can list your details and skills. The vision at this stage is that once we have assets in the bank, it is possible to look for ways to invest these assets into society and the current work community.

Within days of launching, I had a number of calls from companies wanting a specific skill to mentor a young team and even a company looking for a 55 + Operations manager for a large organisation. It is also a way for me to start conversations around transformation solutions when you sit with 50 engineers or teachers on your books.

We have the opportunity to go off script and design an interesting and fulfilled life for ourselves. We create what we want, where we want to be and how and with whom we want to engage. It is an exciting time to be in this season of life.

Why not add your skills to the bank? Here is the link to do so:

Building our nation and our communities takes the time and skills of young and old alike. We have more time on our hands and skills in our hands.  Take a look at your goals and plans for 2017 and think how you can add value and remain relevant.

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