How You Can Roar Into the Second Half of Life
'Roar' author Michael Clinton, who's living life this way, on how and why to do it
Don't hate Michael Clinton for the ways he's roaring into the second half of life — running marathons in every continent (even Antarctica), launching a foundation that makes random acts of kindness grants and enrolling in a master's program in nonprofit management at Columbia University.
Instead, try to emulate and learn from the 67-year-old former president and publishing director of Hearst magazines so you can roar, too. Clinton's excellent new book, "Roar Into the Second Half of Your Life (Before It's Too Late)" can help you figure out ways to do it. The book offers his advice, plus over 40 inspiring stories of what Clinton calls "reimagineers."
Clinton shared his ideas and tips with me and my "Friends Talk Money" podcast co-hosts in our latest episode, which you can hear wherever you get podcasts or at the end of this article. (Full disclosure: Clinton and I were Hearst colleagues in the early 2000s when I was special projects director/money editor at Good Housekeeping and I knew him slightly.)
Not 'Too Old for That'
Although Clinton's clearly an uber-roarer, he says many people who reach midlife could roar in their own ways, too, if they didn't stop themselves from trying new things, taking risks and finding fulfillment. Sadly, 41% of the people age 45 to 75 he surveyed for the book said they found themselves saying "I'm too old for that."
His response: "Let's stop thinking about 'age-appropriate' and let's start thinking about 'person-appropriate.' We put these shackles on ourselves. 'Oh, I can't do that because I'm over fifty.' Or 'I can't do that because I'm sixty-five.' And that is a self-imposed thing that keeps us restrained from really thinking in a broad way."
To roar, Clinton says, it helps to follow the four principles that spell out ROAR: Reimagine yourself and think about your "Plan B;" Own who you are by focusing on what you're good at and exploiting it; Act on what's next and Reassess your relationships to get you there.
Clinton, who splits his time between New York City and Santa Fe, N.M., told me how he shook himself up as he was approaching 40.
'Roar' Author Michael Clinton's Layered Life
"I had a very successful job in the publishing business, but I had the revelation that I was the most boring human being on the planet because all I did was work. And I needed to give myself a talking to," he said. "So, I decided I would climb Mount Kilimanjaro, I would go to a race-car driving school and I would take a flying lesson."
That led him to create what Clinton calls his "life layering" — finding, and then doing, new things in each successive decade of his life. His 40s were his adventure layer and in his 50s, he added his creative layer (becoming a photographer, visiting 124 countries and publishing a book of his travel photos). Now, in his 60s, Clinton has layered on philanthropy, through his Circle of Generosity foundation and nonprofit classes.
"Let's stop thinking about 'age-appropriate' and let's start thinking about 'person-appropriate.'"
"With all the layers working at the same time, that built a very, very rich life," he said. "My personal Roar really started twenty-seven years ago, and it continues to be my North Star."
My "Friends Talk Money" co-host Pam Krueger's take? "Gosh, this gives a whole new meaning to 'get a life.'" She said she found Clinton's layering idea fascinating. Our podcast co-host Terry Savage and I did, too.
Savage shared that one of the ways she's roaring these days — in addition to writing her syndicated personal finance column, books and a blog — is by buying a barn and following her passion for horses through opening Bridlewood Farm for rescue horses, in Lake Geneva, Wisc.
"Listen to yourself and find out what makes you happy," said Savage. "And hopefully, by the time you get to your fifties, sixties or early seventies, you can add on some of those things that you always wanted to do. Just do it!"
That might mean becoming a consultant, Savage noted, or starting a business or volunteering. "Whatever floats your boat," she said.
Your Money and Your Roar
For me, joining the launch team of the public media website Next Avenue at 55 in 2011 and going on to help readers by editing and writing articles there on personal finances, careers and volunteering, as well as mentoring, have been my roars.
Speaking about money, Clinton — who came to New York City with $60 in his pocket — emphatically maintains you don't need to have a lot of cash to launch your roar in the second half of life.
In fact, one of his favorite roar stories is about Paul Pakusch, in upstate New York. Pakusch worked in a TV station sound room and got downsized. Then, in midlife, he became a wedding officiant, marrying couples and customizing ceremonies to their wishes. He's loving it.
"That's a great example of something that didn't cost a lot of money to get this certificate, and he's got a great gig going now," said Clinton. "So, it's really a question of being inventive." (My sister Robin is now roaring as an officiant, too, in the Philadelphia area, and loving it, too.)
Savage offered this financial advice for people eager to roar but nervous about whether they can afford to do it: "Totally evaluate where you stand, and if you need to make adjustments, make those adjustments. Maybe you have to spend less."
Clinton said people in midlife should go through the "arithmetic" for a potential roar, asking themselves questions like: "What are their assets? What do they have in their Social Security payment? When should they take their Social Security payment? What do they have in their 401(k)? What is the cost of living?"
Give Yourself a Chance to Roar
After that, he said, you just may find you're more able to roar than you thought.
Krueger agreed with Clinton that not enough people in their 50s and 60s give themselves the chance to roar — or even think about it. "People are more focused on setting a date to stop working," she said on the podcast. "They don't talk about plans to become fly-fishing guides in the Canadian Rockies or about becoming surfing instructors."
But, Krueger said, "Michael's getting me thinking, 'Why not?' I mean, maybe I can teach surfing later and actually get paid."
Clinton's view is that instead of thinking about retiring, think about "rewiring." Doing that just might give you the electricity you need in life.
Oh, and his layering plans for his 70s and 80s?
"When I turn seventy, I'm hoping to have a fundraiser in the Himalayas, hiking to the Everest base camp and then running a marathon down as a fundraiser for the Sherpa community," he told me. "I'm also really interested in a social-purpose business, so I'm hoping to launch that. So, I think my seventies are going to be sort of entrepreneurial in a broad sense."
How about you?