Unretiring Is the New Retirement Path
Those who are at or nearing retirement age may require extra determination and energy to switch to a new career. While fellow retirees are making travel plans or enjoying additional family time, do you really want to commit to further education, retraining or even showing up at a workplace on scheduled days?
Is it a job or a career?
There is a subtle difference between a second career and a retirement job, although the two may at times be combined. Researchers at the University of Michigan’s made the distinction between the two. Researchers there defined distinctions between a retirement job and a brand-new career: The latter involves a significant change in a mature worker’s full-time occupation or industry after age 40, including “(1) advancement opportunities, (2) significant hours and wage/salary income, and (3) the expectation of working five or more years in the new career.”
An Urban Institute study also found that 27% of the workers it followed transitioned fully into a new occupation in their early 50s. For example, practicing lawyers have moved to teaching law at the university level. Besides, the work changes might even be more common if one considers moves between specialties within a profession.
Yet many retirees who choose to stay employed compromise somewhere in the intermediate ground between an entirely fresh career and an extension of their current occupation. Note that an advanced degree may be required to relaunch. Some illustrations are:
- Board member — seasoned retirees may find for-profit or nonprofit boards that welcome their backgrounds in arts, sciences or business management.
- Education — teaching and library positions may accommodate those with engineering, math or computing skills, especially at community colleges.
- Health care — the field is open for medical assistants, home health nurses, physical therapists and speech pathologists.
- Bookkeeping/tax preparation — retired CPAs can condense months of work into the hectic January-April tax period.
- Executive coach — a potentially smooth transition for executive headhunters or HR professionals.
- Politics — some attorneys are tempted to run for office, possibly starting with local school boards.
- Franchises — these require a $150,000 to $1 million investment, plus some years of hard work as an owner/operator.
One step at a time
A career transformation inevitably takes time and patience. Begin with some self-assessment questions:
- What inspires and energizes you?
- Money aside, what do you enjoy doing?
- Do you have any special talents or moneymaking ideas?
- Could you redirect your skills without fully reinventing yourself?
- Is there a market for your new path?
- Do you have enough money to retire comfortably and to afford new training? According to Vanguard, the average retirement savings for those 65 and older is $279,000.
Implement your plans incrementally, maybe with one phone call or email a day to discuss contacts’ suggestions. Flexibility is essential, so don’t rope yourself to a must-have salary. As you experiment to find a fit, consider volunteering or attending workshops. If you are still employed, your company might sponsor tuition for some courses. Otherwise, check for any educational tax breaks.
Test out the latest versions of any software programs you are familiar with, and learn remote tools like Workspace, Zoom and Slack. Remember that your wider network extends beyond professional colleagues. Touch base with your former employers, and prepare to answer new employers’ questions about why you are returning to work.
Rewards of encore jobs
Maybe your passions or your finances are motivating you to start a new employment chapter. Some retirees are just burned out from their past careers. Others look to bolster their income. For instance, if you keep earning, Social Security lets you boost lifetime earnings to make up for lean years.
Second careerists likely trade higher first-career earnings for increased flexibility and lower stress. Some do miss the prestige of a former high-powered position, but the Urban Institute study found 45% of job changers achieved desired flexibility in the end. Retirees enjoyed other benefits, too:
- New friends.
- Social engagement.
- Beating boredom.
- Health insurance (pre-Medicare age).
- Paid vacations.
- Gym and cafeteria access.
- Daily structure.
If you are considering the adventure of a new career, your financial adviser can help you start planning.