Welcome to the Gen Plus Blog

It's a backstage pass to info on jobs and life at 50+. Gen Plus, headed by Janet Wendy Spiegel, is dedicated to baby boomers and the plus generation of age 50 and older. Read up and speak out on issues affecting your future: jobs, income, life and respect.

About Me

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Northridge, California, United States
Successful businesswoman, consultant, entrepreneur. I operate two businesses -- social media consulting, AND premium pet care services in the West San Fernando Valley. Love what I do, love life.

Gen Plus has relocated to www.GenPlusUSA.com

Saturday, October 25, 2008

3 discoveries on a Saturday morning.

Ronni Bennett, over at Time Goes By, one of the best elder blogs on the net (cutting commentary, says what others don't want to say, fantastic finds, elder gems), found this wonderful Google offering and shares it. A great way to figure out ways to save money and lessen your carbon footprint at the same time! Plus additional tips for the energy conscious.

In the theme of less is more, Rhea Becker, at The Boomer Chronicles, discovers the joys of barter. Back in the 1980's and 90's, there were barter clubs. My mother, who was talented and a bit on cash-strapped side, took part in barter clubs with great success. As well, one summer we traded houses with a Parisian family and enjoyed their beautiful home and car for 3 weeks while they explored Canada and the US with our home as their base and our station wagon! It was a great adventure, a smashing success and no money changed hands.

And my last discovery of the morning is that my very unscientific voting poll on my blog (with only 9 days left til the election) is giving Barack Obama 69% of the vote with 28% going to John McCain. Just a few days ago the numbers were MUCH closer together and now the spread is growing. Is it possible that many of my readers lean Democrat? Yup. Is it possible that many of you don't want to make your vote known? Yup. But I find it very interesting that the spread is increasingly so significantly the closer we get to the election.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A World of Opportunity to Reinvent Oneself

In July 2006, I wrote an article on what it was like to start a new career at 50 plus. Today, I got a comment in the form of a request from a reader at that particular blog post. The request is compelling, so it becomes the subject for today's post.

From JC:

I need help figuring out what I am going to do with my life. My wife has taken a job in a different state. I am selling my business and going to join her. I am so excited about starting something new or doing something different. My problem is figuring out what to do. I have a very diverse background. I think I might like to start an internet business but I am not sure what to do. I have been the President of a High Tech electronics company. The business I am selling is a Screenprinting and Embroidery business. I have worked for Japanese and German owned businesses as well. I have traveled internationally for both companies.

I tell you this because I want to explain that even though I have a diverse background I would be willing to do anything. I have even considered lawn care or pressure washing decks and I have always considered opening a pub or restaurant. So please guide me, is there an aptitude test for not so new folks like me?

All of us out here know who George Plimpton is or was. If not he's the guy who tried many many pro sports. I kind of feel like the George Plimpton of the real world. Seriously though I am looking for guidance .

Thank you,


Dear JC,

I'm so impressed with the way you describe your dilemma. One thing that I love about what you are going through is that you have an opportunity to reinvent yourself. The experience you have sitting in your arsenal, will support the new direction...often in ways you can't imagine right now. You say you aren't sure about the direction you want to move into and that is fine. Sometimes you need quiet time for there to be space for an opportunity to present itself.

The important part of change is to allow the change to evolve. So as you move to your new home in your new state, unless you are really cash-strapped, then take the time to open your eyes and mind to your new situation. You indicate a desire to use your hands or to open a restaurant. What that means is that you want a real change from the situation you are now in and to move into something completely different. Since you aren't sure what you want to do, then you have an even bigger world of opportunity. Plan on taking one to two months to figure out a direction. There are a few steps that might be helpful.

1) You will find the direction by opening your mind to ALL opportunities. That means talking to people, everywhere, and being sincerely interested in what they are doing. It can be the person who owns the lunch truck, the handyman who comes to fix your sink, the manager at your local new favorite restaurant, the dry cleaner on the corner. After speaking with many, many people, something will hit a note with you. That is what you will explore next.

2) OK. For example, you find a spark in talking to someone like your gardener. You see that he loves managing a small team and building reliable relationships in the area. Find out more. What works for him. What doesn't. What is his business model (if he has one.)

3) Interview small business owners looking to sell their businesses and find out as much detail as you can about their business models. Eventually one will strike a chord with you. The best model is one that can be duplicated so that you increase your revenue potential by expanding your model. So, for example, a restaurant requires a lot of capital to get through the first two years. How much capital do you want to invest in a new venture? How will you live while you do that? Will your wife's income sustain the two of you? If not, you might prefer to look at options with very low capital investment.

4) Try it out. Maybe you've decided that since you are handy you are going to start a handyman service. You now need to get your first client. You'll get that client by marketing (using all the skills you used to build your other businesses, but at a very grass roots, field level). You'll get your first client, your second and your third. And you'll know very quickly if this is what you want. If not, you'll move to something else.

You don't need an aptitude test. All it will tell you is what you already know about yourself. But what you do need is to look at all opportunity and test it on yourself to see if you find a fit. All work is noble. Whether you are the president of a high tech company, or a small pub owner, or a lawn care specialist, if the fit is right, you'll know.

On-Star is Literally on the Money

OK. Here's a bit of good news for our pocketbooks. How many of you drive less than 15,000 miles a year? Well, if you do, here is a great perk from OnStar, the comprehensive in-vehicle security, communications, and diagnostics system that I have personally fallen in love with. (Just to give a bit of background, my new car last year, a Buick Terraza, came with a free one-year subscription to OnStar. I thought I'd never renew, but I'm now a huge fan and can't imagine not having the service.) And, no, this is not an ad for OnStar, I'm not getting paid by them to write this and I'm not receiving any type of perk. This just happens to be a really good program linked to a very good vehicle concierge service.

The full kit and kaboodle program at OnStar is about $300/year and because I am constantly in need of directions, really have gotten fond of the turn-by-turn directions. With real people answering the phones ("Thank you for calling OnStar. How can we assist you today, Ms. Spiegel?"...gotta love it) this is one concierge service that is very handy for me. Can't find a restaurant? I can call up and they'll do a search for me. Forgot to bring the phone number of the business I'm heading to? Call up and they'll access it for me. Every month I get an email diagnostic of my car's maintenance needs. Plus, plus, plus. It isn't for everyone, but for me, it is a win-win.

Now, OnStar has added in a Low Mileage Program that is sure to make a lot of 50 plussers pretty happy. If you drive less than 15,000 miles a year, GMAC car insurance will discount your insurance rate. Other insurance companies are apparently coming on board soon, and not all states currently offer the GMAC plan (like MY state of California...) but if I had OnStar and lived in a state that did offer the discount, I'd definitely look into it.

Here is a link to the OnStar discount program. I'm just waiting for it to come to California and I'm planning on offsetting my cost of OnStar with lower insurance. Win-win!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

BBC 90

An excellent post this week from our Carnival host, The Baby Boomer Entrepreneur for Blogging Boomers Carnival #90. Blogger Andrea Stenberg gives a wonderful interpretation of what the blogosphere community is all about.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Joe the Plumber

If you have been following the presidential debates then you'll know about "Joe the Plumber". If not, then here's the thumbnail. While stumping, Presidential candidate Barack Obama had a conversation with Joe Wurzelbacher (now dubbed "Joe the Plumber" by Obama and McCain), who objected to Obama's tax plan, given that he had hopes of purchasing his employer's plumbing business and would bring in over $250,000 annually in revenues (therefore subject to a higher tax under Obama's plan.)

Joe had no idea that he would become a central figure in the final debates and be used as an example of the middle American small business owner. Forget that Joe doesn't have his plumber's contractor license. (He works for a plumbing company under their license.) Or that he owes back taxes. (He probably doesn't earn enough money to make ends meet, much less pay taxes.) Or that he really doesn't have a solid plan in place to purchase a business. (But he can dream and plan, can't he?)

My point is that if I were Joe right now, I'd be ecstatic! Who doesn't need a good plumber? I'll bet his business is booming with millions of people who now know the name of a GOOD plumber! His business will likely explode with the millions of referrals from the debates alone. He'll be able to open Joe the Plumber franchises across the country. Then he won't mind paying a bit more in taxes at all! Listen, he brought up a good question and he seems like a good guy. If I lived in Ohio, I'd call him next time my faucets were leaking, my hot water heater was taking a tantrum, or my child innocently plugged up the toilet with half a roll of TP. When he sets up the California franchise, I'll be his first customer!

And I support Barack.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A little bit of CASH for hard times....

If you are a Johnny Cash fan, then you'll love this! Sony BMG’s Legacy Recordings released Johnny Cash’s At Folsom Prison: Legacy Edition, this past Tuesday, October 14th. This 40th anniversary 2-CD and DVD box was recorded on January 13, 1968, when Cash played two shows at Folsom prison.

The box set presents the entire unvarnished 65-minute first show on disc one – expletives intact for the first time (that's a draw!), and with seven previously unissued tracks; and the entire 75-minute second show on disc two, with 24 previously unissued tracks (out of 26).

Make sure to check out the new documentary DVD – it features exclusive footage from inside Folsom, interviews with Merle Haggard, Rosanne Cash, Marty Stuart, and former inmates who witnessed the concert, and unpublished photography by Jim Marshall. Watch the incredible trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rmve1IH7_bw. Or here:

Monday, October 13, 2008

Blogging Boomers Carnival #88

Here is the link for this week's Blogging Boomers Carnival -- this week hosted at The Boomer Chronicles. If you aren't subscribed to Rhea's blog, give it some consideration. Her daily finds and musings are guaranteed to keep you amused all week long. If you are subscribed, then, like me, you travelled with her for a week-long RV trip that helped you forget about the economic direction of our company!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Time Goes By

If you have not yet perused the pages of Ronni Bennet's blog (and award winning banner) "Time Goes By: what it's really like to get older", then you are missing out on a very sharp view from a brilliant elderblogger and more than that, the community of both like-minded and sometimes not-so-like-minded voices from the 50 plus demographic. With such a volatile economy and election ahead, on Sunday, Ronni aggregates submissions from different bloggers to showcase an assortment of views related to the election campaign and political battle for the Presidency. I'm honored to be among that group this week (many of you have already read my post on unemployment), but if you are not a subscriber, head on over and enter your email at TGB. It will open your eyes just a bit more. I include her in my group of pioneers "Who Changed the World at 50 Plus".

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Takin' It Back with Barack Jack.

A friend sent me this. Love it. I think you'll get a kick out of it, too.

$717.66...Just Pour the Salt STRAIGHT into the Wound.

Let me tell you about this financial month in my family. $1300 for new car struts and new tires. Yesterday, I received my house tax bills. "Camera" red light ticket ($380.00), my medical insurance bill and additional coverages (won't tell you how much THAT is...), the car's back tires went (better...only $147.00), car fuel ($400.00) and then...the kicker. My electric and water bill floated in...for $717.66.

I can deal with the other financial outrages...the tires needed replacing, everyone gets a ticket now and then and I need my medical coverage (although I'm eagerly waiting for SOME sort of federal plan to help with this sick, sick medical system)...but I have never, ever gotten a water and electric bill this high. Ever.

I live in a teeny, tiny house (1650 sq ft) on a 6,000 sq. ft lot with double pane windows, good insulation and limited grass watering. Don't run the air conditioning at an excessive rate, don't take super-long showers or even keep the water running when I brush my teeth! I have low flow toilets, keep my shades drawn to keep out the hot Encino sun and didn't do much different this summer than last. I've just lost (like the rest of you) a hulking big amount of my retirement income, I can barely afford to fill up my tank with gas (although I'm finding myself relieved to be paying $3.45 for a gallon of gas), or buy a single bag of groceries for under $25 - $30. My heart is cut wide open with the turmoil that is going on in the US and the City of Los Angeles Municipal Services basically just poured a full 8 oz. of salt (my preference would be Kosher salt, but that's another story) on my bleeding wound.

Gotta pay it. Need my lights, my computer and my water. Can't just decide not to pay it. Not even in protest. But this IS what I'm going to do. I'm only going to shower every 4th day. And only wash my clothes after I wear them 4 times. Oh yes, I'm aware that I'll smell. I'm counting on it! And maybe I'll be able to cut my electric and water bill down to $650.00! I'll turn off all my electrical appliances and only plug them in when I absolutely need them. Except for the fridge. And the computer. And the phone charger.

And when people wrinkle their nose in disgust, I'll tell them to blame LA Municipal Services and the deregulated economy. OK...maybe I'll shower every 3rd day...but I'm telling you, I'm gonna stink. Now I understand why people in Europe save their water. I get it. At least this is still in American dollars and not Euros.

If you start to notice a lot more smelly people coming from Los Angeles, you'll know that I started a silent protest and that it may be working. We can call the movement something like "Smelling Together for a Newly Clean America" (STINCA) or something like that. I know the politicians really aren't hearing the American people...but maybe they'll notice us if they start smelling us.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Is this true? ABC refuses We Can Solve It ad?

If you are a subscriber to We Can Solve It, the alternative energy organization dedicated to helping solve the fuel crisis, then you'll have received this message from CEO, Cathy Zoi:

Tell ABC to air the Repower America ad this Friday on 20/20.Take Action!

Dear Janet,

Did you notice the ads after last night's presidential debate? ABC had Chevron. CBS had Exxon. CNN had the coal lobby. But you know what happened last week? ABC refused to run our Repower America ad -- the ad that takes on this same oil and coal lobby.I sent a letter asking ABC to reconsider their decision and put our ad on the air, but still we haven't heard back more than a week later. I think they need to hear from all of us. Can you help?
Please send a message to ABC and tell them to air the Repower America ad this Friday on 20/20.

Just click here:http://www.wecansolveit.org/page/m/6733ae33f7b715d6/EZUWl0/VEsD/ We're working to get 100,000 public comments to ABC before 20/20's next airing.Our Repower America ad has a clear and simple message -- that massive spending by oil and coal companies on advertising is a key reason our nation hasn't switched to clean and renewable sources for our energy.

Here's the script of the ad:

The solution to our climate crisis seems simple.Repower America with wind and solar.End our dependence on foreign oil. A stronger economy.So why are we still stuck with dirty and expensive energy?Because big oil spends hundreds of millions of dollars to block clean energy.Lobbyists, ads, even scandals.All to increase their profits, while America suffers.Breaking big oil's lock on our government ...Now that's change.We're the American people and we approve this message.

You can view the ad on the ABC petition page, here.As our country faces deep economic problems, we need to be able to have an honest debate about the root causes of our problems. As Al Gore has said, "We're borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the future of human civilization. And every bit of that has to change."

As oil and coal backed groups outspend even major party committees in this political year, it's outrageous that ABC would deny our ad. Let ABC know what you think. Just click here.

Thank you,Cathy Zoi, CEO


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

What can I possibly add?

Please indulge me. Like you, I've got a lot on my mind.

Every pundit has made their comments on the state of the (now) world economic meltdown, the presidential candidates, their VP selections, and how Harvard and MIT graduates are afraid they might not find a job.

After 4 plus years blogging my little heart out on issues affecting the careers of boomers and 50 plussers, giving advice freely, and looking at creative ways to overcome career obstacles, I actually am not sure what I can possibly say right now. The elephant in the room was always the rampant age discrimination. But now...yikes...all of the next generation is going to be fiercely scrabbling for jobs and the out of work boomers and 50 plussers are really in a pickle.

I'm ALWAYS an optimist and even I'm having a tough time seeing past the next decade or so. What really made me laugh (that would be a sarcastic, cynical kind, not a haha kind) was listening to financial experts advising people to secure their next FIVE years of financial need by taking that money OUT of the stock market and putting it INTO the money market. I'm sorry...but are you laughing, too? Who HAS FIVE years of good, hard cash squirreled away anywhere?

There is SUCH a disconnect between those with oodles of money and the rest of us, that you don't even have to draw a line in the sand. There is a Grand Canyon between "them" and "us". I have literally received hundreds of emails over the past few years from people in their late 40's to their mid-70's who have used up their money reserves, have no health insurance, are losing their homes and with the best of intentions and incredible work ethics CANNOT find work. How will that play out now?

Some of you will remember living as a WWII baby, with rationing and little money for any extras. My mother had two skirts, 2 blouses and 1 sweater. She wore them through high school because her family had no money for clothing. When it was time for her to go to her first sorority ball and she had no dress, my grandmother used all the grocery money for the month to get my mother her first cocktail gown. My mom wore them with her aunt's shoes, too big for her, with newspaper stuffed in the toes so she wouldn't fall out of them. They had soup for a month.

Is that where we are headed once again? I mean TV is going digital in February and unless you have a converter or cable or satellite, you'll be out of luck. Well, I may be out of luck, because if I need the money, I'll be cancelling my satellite service. As will many, many others. The whole thought of needing cable because of HD signal just seems so...bizarre, given that I may end up wearing only sweater, 2 skirts and two blouses for the next 5 years.

I was always amused at the hoarding habits of my parents -- saving elastic bands and wire hangers, individual nails and screws, small amounts of leftovers, keeping old clothes from decades prior because they were "good quality" even though completely out of fashion. And now, here I am, using containers for my daughter's lunches instead of ziplocs, cleaning my own house instead of hiring someone to do it for me, planning my driving routes to conserve on fuel consumption, meeting friends for a coffee (at one of our homes) instead of a lunch out.

In my neck of the woods, just this past weekend, a father murdered his entire family and then killed himself due to the financial duress he was under. That child attended my daughter's school. And I can't get the story out of my head. People are generally very resiliant, so what is going on?

In my optimistic heart, maybe what will come out of this disastrous falling of an empire, will be better...closer families pooling resources, innovation and creativity as more and more 50 plussers start their own businesses (focusing on customer service more than product) because they can't get someone to hire them, more focus on limiting oneself to spending cash at hand than credit tendered.

Tonight is Yom Kippur -- the start of the day of atonement for all Jews. The next 24 hours will be a time of reflection, asking God for forgiveness, forgiving others and rejoicing in a clean slate for the year ahead. My day of fasting will be with a heavy heart, because the slate really can't be clean right now. We all know that we are heading into a tough, tough year ahead.

Blogging Boomers Carnival #88

With all the hoopla and hollering going on this week (and then falling asleep during last night's presidential debates...but that's a whole OTHER story), I completely forgot to post a link to this week's Blogging Boomers Carnival hosted over at Vaboomer.com. If you are a Sarah Palin fan, don't head over there, but if, like me, you are in "shock and awe" over this VP candidate choice, then you'll get a kick out of this website (and the link to Caribou Barbie). Have fun! Don't say I didn't warn ya.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Town Hall Debate

Well, I've now watched both Presidential debates and the VP debate. I've watched interviews, listened to the pundits, looked at the lawn signs and car magnets, read the papers, saw my retirement savings shrink by the second and, and....and.

Does McCain have incredible experience? Yes. Does Sarah Palin irritate the heck out of me? Yes. Does Obama have a commanding presence? Yes. Do I like Joe Biden? Heck, yes.

Although I am a declared Democrat, I was open to looking at what either party had to offer with a fresh slate of candidates. I was so bitterly disappointed that Hillary was not the Democratic nominee that it has taken me a lot of time to warm to Obama.

So, watching the debates, I was not too optimistic that the town hall venue of this evening's debate would add to my overall impression of either candidate. I was wrong. McCain, who should have excelled at this venue, came off like a career politician in touch with decision by committee and completely out of touch with the middle class. Obama came across as someone very in touch with the American middle class, small business owners and the rights of the people. I'm big on social responsibility so that appeals to me.

In the pundit aftermath, people are pouncing on McCain's "that one" faux-pas. I just thought it made him look petulant and cranky, but his overall inability to connect with the audience and his being so out of touch with the issues that are sitting at MY table, makes it impossible for me to see him in position of President.

But here's the deal. We have a mess on our hands in the US. Today the news broke that AIG spent over $400,000 mere days after the American people forked over close to a TRILLION dollars to free up the credit markets. 1 in every 200 homes is defaulting on mortgages. We don't just need a new President...we need a complete government overhaul. To go from a surplus to such a major economic catastrophe in less than a decade is unbelievable. If this level of mismanagement happened at a large corporation all the execs would be out. Fortunately, I should be able to weather this storm -- I have a close and caring family who pull together in crisis. But most of all, I'm very saddened that my daughter will still be paying for this government's major mistakes when she is my age and looking at her daughter sleeping beside her.

Friday, October 03, 2008

What a mess. 6.1% unemployment rate.

If you are a Boomer or 50 plusser then I can guarantee that you have not been burying your head in the sand about our economic situation. Let's take a clear look at the financial landscape -- both in the US and Canada and internationally.

We are about to experience possibly a decade of severe recession, which will reshape the entire way the US economy, job marketplace, and family structure functions. This morning, the unemployment rate is at 6.1% and will likely climb to 7% in the next few months. How does that impact a mature worker? Badly. Very badly. Not only have the financial markets have been hit, but small business, traditionally the kindest and most open to hire a Boomer or 50 plusser, is in deep trouble with a staggering credit freeze threatening to shut many more business doors. That means that the already struggling 50 plusser is really going to have to think out of the box in order to secure employment. In the short term, assume your credit will be cut. It is time for personal austerity measures, if you haven't done so yet. That means, no extraneous travel. Dinners at home, cooking from scratch, cutting your cable TV, no buying of shoes, clothes and all those things you can live without. If you have received any type of foreclosure or late notice on your home mortgage, you must contact your lender immediately to apply for loan modification due to hardship.

The austerity measures will in turn affect the small businesses even more adversely than they already are and the economy will shrink. So where is the good news in all of this? Hard to find, but there is a bit there.

If people can take a bus instead of driving, they will. Walk or biking instead of fuel-run travel? They will. Parents and children will live together longer, fostering the all important values of multi-generational information sharing. No more Cable means more reading, more library visits, more outdoor exercise. Cooking, sewing and knitting will come back into vogue (again) and heck, there might even be a resurgence of darning.

If you are 50 plus and looking for work, it will be a long hard haul right now. So that means you'll have to connect with and network with as many people and their leads as you can. If you are relying solely on the internet, think back to when you were first breaking into the job market. How did you find work then? By finding friends of friends of friends, literally knocking on doors, and meeting people face to face.

Is this US election very important? Yes. Canada is having elections prior to the US elections in order to avoid a strong US election impact on the Canadian voter psyche. When we are talking about the need for change in the US, this is not change as most of us know it. I am not an economist or financial advisor by a long shot, but anyone can see that any major strategic and financial reform (which is necessary) will take 8 or 10 years to have a positive, long term result on the overall economy. For those of you who remember living through the austerity measures of the 2nd world war, you'll remember food rations, material rations (shorter skirts), lack of silk, fuel, metals...you name it. I was brought up to avoid credit and only to purchase something if I had money in the bank. I was shocked at the mounds of credit that is offered to Americans (including my 8 year old daughter.) The days of living beyond one's means has to end -- and is ending whether we like it or not. Just try to buy something that takes you over your limit. You'll find yourself quickly declined. Tough for the consumer living on their credit cards and virtually impossible for the small business who counts on credit for cash flow. We're almost as frozen as a mammoth in a glacier.

This time the war has spread to within the US and within the economies of most major markets, and that means serious economic reforms in order to keep this particular, and very young, empire from falling.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Can't wait for Thursday

I've never been particularly excited by the presidential debates. The political rhetoric means nothing, really. It is when the leader is in the Oval office that his (can't even say his/her) true leadership style and philosophies really show. However, the body language and the words between the words always add a bit of spice. This year I must admit that I was actually looking forward to the debate. But nothing can surpass my anticipation of Thursday's debate between Palin and Biden. In fact, I can't think of ANYTHING I'd rather do (except, perhaps look at my dwindling bank accounts) than watch Sarah and Joe have at it.

I can't even imagine what might come up given the incredible and unbelievable campaigns so far. And I know I'll be glued listening to the pundits rip every word and nuance apart right after the debate ends. Gotta give her credit for something...Palin has certainly livened up this run for the white house.