Trying to jumpstart boomers from a table at Dunn Bros

Erica Whittlinger and Debby Magnuson reinvent themselves -- and others

Linden Hills residents Erica Whittlinger and Debby Magnuson meet regularly at their office -- a.k.a. Dunn Bros at 43rd and Upton -- but not just for coffee. They're planning their business and new way of life.

"We're ReFired," they said.

Nope, not retiring; it's "ReFiring," the mantra of a book called "ReFirement: A Boomer's Guide to Life After 50," written by Whittlinger's and Magnuson's business partner, James V. Gambone, Ph.D.

Gambone describes his ReFirement philosophy as making a plan to live a more positive and meaningful life, whether politically, socially or personally. He focuses much of the book on people in their 50s and 60s who are nearing retirement.

"It's about moving people out of stuckness," said Magnuson enthusiastically, if not grammatically.

ReFirement's war cry: "This is your life. What do you want to do with the rest of it?"

ReFiring themselves and others Whittlinger and Magnuson are in their mid-40s and early 50s respectively, Baby Boomers who, by all accounts, had successful professional careers.

Whittlinger owned the Whittlinger Capital Management investment firm for nearly 20 years, and gained national renown as a commentator on Minnesota Public Radio's "Sound Money." Magnuson was a sales education consultant for Marshall Field's for more than 17 years.

Despite professional success, they said, something was missing.

Whittlinger said her business was rewarding but stressful, and she needed more. Facing serious heart surgery, she said she was inspired to do something else.

Magnuson wanted to change because she needed to work more closely with people and have a more flexible schedule. She wanted to take her kids to the bus stop.

Gambone said he decided early in life that choosing many career paths made him feel fulfilled. He said he works as a motivational speaker, a writer, TV producer and media specialist. Still, he said, he hit a time in his life when he began looking for a more meaningful existence, which is when he devised "ReFirement."

"I wanted to make sure what I was doing with the rest of my life was something I was passionate about," Gambone said.

As preparation for his book, he said he spent five years interviewing everyone he could about their life changes and shifts to happiness -- some as dramatic as chucking their lives and joining the Peace Corps, to simply approaching a new career.

A philosophy into a business Whittlinger, a friend of Gambone's, has also worked as a financial and motivational speaker and teacher at the University of Minnesota and St. Thomas. She said her expertise in finances easily tied into the ReFirement framework.

After selling Whittlinger Capital to co-found ReFirement a year ago, Whittlinger said she's helped conduct private seminars and workshops for companies, trade organizations, even churches on the concept.

Magnuson said her personal shift led her to something called "life coaching," another facet incorporated into ReFirement workshops and seminars. She said a life coach is someone who helps people who can't "ReFire" on their own -- identifying values and life goals and approaches to a plan.

Magnuson said she currently works with seminar participants to set them up with life coaches. She said working with a life coach costs from $200 to $400 per month.

While the group only does private workshops for institutions, based solely on word of mouth, Whittlinger said they're preparing to host public workshops in January and February for about $50 per person.

"People have such a longing to get clear what they want to do for the rest of their lives," Magnuson said. "We want to get the word out," Whittlinger added.

A client perspective Polly Bergerson, a ReFirement client, is program director at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, 800 Marquette Ave. She sets the programming for many ELCA churches in the city.

She said she read the ReFirement book and decided the philosophy and seminar was something the ELCA needed for its preretirement programming for clergy and laypeople. "It was looking at a holistic picture of life," Bergerson said.

She said other programming or philosophies intended to help people transition into a new chapter in life are too test-focused and don't address the life processes for people years before retirement.

Bergerson said the ELCA works with the ReFirement group to develop seminars and create a workbook tailored to their clergy and congregation's needs in preretirement. She said they plan to start the seminars this month.

She said participants start first with an online quiz -- a teaser to get people interested in the state of their lives and where they want their lives to go. Bergerson said ReFirement seminars follow where people will work through a workbook designed by ELCA and the Refirement staff.

The workbook has activities to help people discern what is most important in their lives and what they want to do with their time, or finances or personal lives. The ELCA model is intended to target these discussions to congregants and clergy approaching retirement, but ReFirement tactics can be customized depending on life circumstances.

Boomer appeal for all ages Gambone said he targets the Boomer generation because they're hitting 50 right now. He said it's the age when self-reflection seems to sink in and people want to get motivated and search for deeper values, realizing they have less time in life to do it.

Gambone said it's not just generational; an illness, a death or other profound personal experience also gives people the pinch needed to get moving and recharge their lives.

Although it's not the target group, ReFirement could help younger people, too, Whittlinger said. She said younger adults are subject to more parental influence, detracting from their own desires. "A big part of (ReFirement) is leading the life you want to lead," she said.

Whittlinger said she often talks at colleges and has discussed ReFirement philosophy with students, who find it relevant for their lives.

She said by helping people find what makes them excited in life, she's found her own fulfillment. "That's what really trips my trigger," she said. "Helping people find their passion."

For more information on ReFirement, Inc,. visit www.refirement.com.