Chris Farrell

A new book by economics commentator and columnist for PBS website Next Avenue,  Chris Farrell,  gives us insight on how people are navigating the second half of life. In 2016, Farrell devised the term “unretirement”  to explain the changing nature of work and retirement, especially with so many working into their later years. In  Purpose and a Paycheck: Finding Money, Meaning and Happiness in the Second Half of Life, Farrell offers ideas for personal and policy solutions to staying employed as an older person.

Farrell sees an exciting trend in the increasing activity of self-employment and, in particular, intergenerational entrepreneurship with parents going into business with their adult children. He comments, “The embrace of entrepreneurship is increasingly a multigenerational affair.” The book has a range of case studies which shed light on this trend alongside examples of older people starting up more artisanal and craft businesses. There is a commonality across the generations for their working lives to have flexibility, opportunities for on-going learning and advancement.

The book also recognises the desire by older people to find purpose, meaning and engagement in later life. Farrell observes, “The vision of the elder years is shifting from a model of leisure and decline to one of engagement and purpose.” In an interview in with Marci Alboher, VP for strategic communications at, he elaborated on this trend. Workers are negotiating phased retirement with their employers, finding part-time work with the same or different employer, shifting to bridge jobs and encore careers with different employers and organizations, tapping into the gig economy, and returning to part-time and flexible employment after a spell of not working. 

The book has an important discussion on ageism in the workplace and ways to breakdown the ageist barriers.  Alongside the need to change the narratives about aging, Farrell sees legislative change such as AARP’s proposed legislation Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act as a good place to start to ensure the same standards are used for all employment discrimination victims, including age, race, gender, and sexual orientation. Farrell advocates for greater recognition of the potential wider economic benefits from tapping  into the talents of experienced workers and breaking down the widespread barriers of pernicious age discrimination which can hold the promise of boosting the economy’s dynamism and household incomes.


This book was recommended by Julia Randell-Khan, Fellow at the Stanford Center on Longevity.