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Jan. 22, 2020, 11:43 a.m. EST

Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton are still clocking in and reinventing themselves — well past retirement age

Living your best life well past traditional retirement age

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By Mitch Tuchman


20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection

It’s hard to fathom, but the box-office hit “9 to 5” starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton made its debut nearly 40 years ago.

The 1980 office farce classic is the tale of three women who kidnap their boorish, sexist boss, played by Dabney Coleman. Their problem to overcome is how to run the business in his absence.

Decades after their hit movie, Fonda, Tomlin and Parton still perform and get critical raves well into years most people would consider past retirement age. Fonda and Tomlin are both in their 80s. Parton is not far behind.

Fonda and Tomlin have a Netflix hit, “ Grace and Frankie .” Parton is touring, also has a Netflix series , and is busily running a growing theme park empire . Not too shabby!

All three women show us that if age is a number, retirement is just a word. For many of us the challenge of retirement is taking on personal reinvention after years of identifying mostly with a career path.


Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection
Fonda and Tomlin in ‘Grace and Frankie’.

Paying dues

Naturally, money helps. It’s great to be able to make creative choices and have a career well into your 70s and 80s. While undeniable talents, these three women also have the financial capacity to take risks, and that’s an important point for anyone planning to retire someday.

What do you want to be when you grow up? For most of us, the answer came sometime in our 20s or perhaps early 30s, after which we diligently paid our dues. Incremental promotions and raises followed, then sometime in our 50s there’s no more “up” left in the career path.

That’s when many professionals hit an income ceiling. You might call it ageism. Or just economics. The supply of young, hungry professionals coming up means there’s ultimately a limit to how much most of us can command for our labor, however experienced.

In the best scenario, you get to keep your career-capstone job as long as you like. In the worst, downsizing and layoffs enter the picture.

Whichever happens to you, the power to make choices comes from having enough money in your retirement plan to take risks, even launch a new career later in life.


Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection
Dolly Parton in ‘Heartstrings’.

Diligence and planning

It’s so vitally important to plan your financial path, starting with automated, tax-free savings in a 401(k), IRA or both.

Performers like Fonda and company took a lot of risks early on in their careers. Not everyone who tries their hand at acting, comedy or music becomes famous and well-compensated for chasing their dream.

The rest of us mere mortals shine in our own ways, doing our daily work and raising families out of the spotlight. Yet with a bit of diligence and planning it’s entirely possible to live your best life well after retirement beckons.

Saving even a small part of your salary, say 10% or 15%, can turn into $1 million or more , given enough time to grow and compound. While everyone has a different idea of how much is enough, anyone can be frugal today and invest for tomorrow.

It’s just a matter of getting started, however modestly, and having a financial plan.

Mitch Tuchman brings the low-cost, scientific investment approach used by elite pensions and endowments to everyday retirement investors through Rebalance. The firm manages retirement accounts with portfolios built by its Investment Advisory Board: Burt Malkiel (Princeton professor who wrote “A Random Walk Down Wall Street”), Charles Ellis (past chair of Yale’s Endowment) and Jay Vivian (ran IBM’s retirement funds). Follow Mitch on Twitter @MitchellTuchman.

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