Retirement is one of those conversation-stopping, room-clearing topics that folks of a certain age have long shunned at all costs. Except that now an awful lot of people have attained that age. I’m talking about the baby boomers (another possible room-clearing topic, unless you happen to be one). That much-discussed demographic milestone—the time when boomers start to reach retirement age in droves—is now upon us, and it will remain to be seen whether America grinds to a halt. Clichés aside, the 76 million-member boomer generation has been a force to be reckoned with as it has moved through the years, filling up elementary school classrooms, spiking bluejean sales, jacking up the price of starter homes, and generally hogging all the pretzels in the bowl.
What now? What’s clear is that those in and approaching their 60s should be facing the R-word head on, even if they are not actually ready to retire anytime soon. A lot of evidence suggests that what we used to call “retirement age” and actual retirement are two different things for most folks. Even if you wanted to retire in the next few years, chances are your shrunken portfolio won’t let you. But thinking about your options—your finances, your home, your health—is essential. We’ve pulled together the latest and finest thinking in this issue. The popular Best Places to Retire feature (usnews.com/bestplaces) has been included as a way to get you focused. We zeroed in on the especially good places to launch a second career, giving weight to those spots with industries known for hiring older workers and boasting the amenities boomers prefer. They just may inspire you to head out on a road trip.
Get a job. One great option is to start a business. As our retirement expert Phil Moeller writes, a high percentage of successful businesses are started by folks in their 60s and late 50s. And recessions, oddly, can be the best time to begin. The crazy economy we’re all navigating, combined with the technological revolution, is creating niches and needs that can best be filled by someone with a lot of experience and no day job.
Of course, it’s not just about the money. Your health is a subject that will take on increasing urgency, whether you like it or not. Here, too, preparing for the next phase of your life can make things a lot easier, as our stories explain.
Also this month, we’re pleased to debut an ambitious new ranking of the nation’s best law firms. From the time we started collecting data on colleges nearly 30 years ago, we have been fascinated with finding ways to evaluate important, powerful institutions in the most objective manner possible. Law firms certainly fit that profile. Like universities and hospitals, the country’s thousands of large and not-so-large firms are complex places that play a significant role in society. They affect everything from business transactions and Supreme Court cases to divorce proceedings and the reading of a will. Are there qualitative differences in the varied work they do?
To find the answer, we partnered with Best Lawyers, the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession. For almost three decades, it has surveyed individual attorneys based on their areas of specialty in all 50 states. The Best Lawyers in America is the definitive encyclopedia on the best practitioners, relying on 3.1 million evaluations of lawyers by other lawyers. Using that data, as well as extensive new surveys of clients and competitors, we compiled lists of the firms that had the best consistent results (the detailed methodology can be found here). We got tens of thousands of responses, including from the general counsels of every Fortune 100 company and more than half of the Fortune 1000. For the lists of the best firms nationwide,. including listings of firms by metropolitan area and state, go to usnews.com/bestlawfirms. We know that not everyone is in the market for a firm to solve their multi-district litigation problems, but you may need somebody to write your will. Just think of it as a consumer guide for some very sophisticated consumers.