By Kerry Hannon, Special for 

Mark Miller, author of The Hard Times Guide to Retirement Security: Practical Strategies for Money, Work, and Living(Bloomberg Press/Wiley, 223 pages, $16.95), doesn’t sugarcoat it. “The timing couldn’t be worse: The largest generation in our history is approaching retirement age during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression,” Miller writes.

Gets your attention. Miller is an expert on aging and retirement, writes the syndicated weekly column, “Retire Smart,” and publishes It shows in his careful reporting on the ominous subject of retirement. He is diligent about listing detailed notes in each chapter to support facts and figures.

He paints the picture: “Real estate values and retirement portfolios are depressed, and job security has evaporated. … The need to build retirement security has never been greater.”

One of the biggest problems is that most Americans haven’t a clue about how much we need to save for retirement. And the average U.S. household has managed to save just $60,000 toward retirement, Miller writes.

But he doesn’t wring his hands. He offers ways to build long-term retirement security and boost knowledge on a broad array of topics from money issues, such as 401 (k) plans and managing health care expenses to ways to navigate the 50-plus job market.

Staying on the job even a few years longer than planned is one of Miller’s chief recommendations, and health insurance is one of the primary reasons. Working longer makes it possible to save more, yes, but it also gives you more years of employer-sponsored health insurance.

If full-time work isn’t possible, try to stay on part-time if that will allow you to stay insured. “Working a few additional years will fatten your Social Security payments considerably, and every year you work is a year you won’t be drawing down 401 (k) balances,” Miller writes.

To help make that a reality, there are several chapters on the 50-plus job market — how to find a job, start your own business, even how to hire a career coach to help with career transitions.

He promotes the concept of encore careers, the phrase coined by Civic Ventures, a California-based not-for profit think tank and incubator for social entrepreneurship cofounded by Marc Freedman and John Gardner in the late 1990s.

Civic Ventures has funded innovative career retraining programs at community colleges around the country and an annual award program, the Purpose Prize, which makes cash rewards to social innovators age 60 and older. There’s also a free online social network,, that offers resources for career transition and a place for encore careerists to share ideas and compare notes.

Each chapter concludes with a wealth of resources and suggestions for further reading. The listings are ample guidance, worth keeping close at hand for help along the retirement route.

Here are Miller’s six rules for job hunting:

•Package yourself as a solution. Think of yourself as a consultant to the company. Be careful not to give out the “been there, done that” vibe. You need to appear excited about everything. And don’t assume that because you’re older than your peers, you know more than they do.

•Skill development matters. Don’t be a Luddite. Get fluent in technology. Only 30% of workers ages 55 to 70 have pursued additional training to help keep their skills up to date for their current or future jobs. Ask a tech-savvy friend to get you up to speed, or find a community college class that covers the basics. Know how to apply the latest technology to your prospective job.

•Network. It’s critical to bypass the résumé submitted online and connect directly with people in the industry or company you’re targeting. Your offline networking should include attending as many industry and professional conferences as possible; target your alumni organizations. A good deal of networking has moved to the Internet, so if you haven’t signed-up for LinkedIn, do so immediately.

•Make the cultural connection. Interviewers will judge you based on your looks. Invest in new clothes, get a new hairstyle and find some stylish glasses. Perception can be everything,

•Don’t expect to replicate your old job. And don’t overestimate the value of your experience. No employer wants to be given the impression that they’re lucky to have the chance to hire you. Frame your past as something that will solve future problems.

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