Jada A. Graves
Older workers face a career crossroads as they near retirement age.
When Art Koff retired after more than 45 years in advertising and consulting, he still wanted to work and remain challenged. "My last years in advertising were very much involved with getting clients to spend more of their budgets on the Net," he says. "I wanted to continue this effort and felt that other than AARP, there were few places where boomers, retirees, and people planning their retirement could find the kinds of information of interest to them." So he started the website RetiredBrains to serve as a networking outlet for older workers to find employment opportunities.
Koff also included a wealth of information on subjects that would interest his target demographic. "When I first started, a large percentage of our traffic came to areas like memory loss ... arthritis pain, travel for seniors, senior discounts, financial and insurance services, etc.," he says, "but since the recession, the great majority of our visitors come [to the site] to look for a job, get advice on how to find employment, as well as [visit] our work from home and start your own business pages."
Managing the website has been an opportunity for Koff to stay active. "I'm in my late 70s and still put in 50-plus hours a week," he says. "But this is not work for me -- it's fun."
Koff is part of a growing population who are choosing to stay employed after the traditional retirement years. According to a recent Department of Labor report, all baby boomers will have reached age 55 or older by 2020. Many of them will choose to retire and live on Social Security benefits and their personal savings. But a large portion of the boomer population will continue to work; due to financial obligation or desire, or even a little of both. A 2011 survey by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies shows that 39 percent of workers are planning to work past age 70 without retiring; 54 percent of workers intend to keep working once they retire. "Pensions are a thing of the past," says Marci Alboher, vice president of the retired workers website Encore Careers. "The best way to ensure a continued stream of income is to continue to earn it."
Instead of earning money working the same occupations as before, many older workers are choosing to start second careers. "If you retire at age 60, you legitimately could have 10 or 15 years to pursue another career," says Kerry Hannon, a career transition expert and author of the book What's Next? Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job. "It could be worthwhile to get an education or certification to do something different. It opens up more possibilities."
So what are your choices, and should you choose to pursue a second career? Should you work part-time or opt for another full-time occupation? Are you interested in an office setting, or do you want to try working from home? One of the biggest benefits of starting a second career is the chance to choose what you do and how you do it.
According to Hannon, consulting is one of the most popular and profitable second-career options. It allows for a flexible schedule, offers the chance to use skills you already possess, and presents the possibility of learning new skills as well. "Many companies are thrilled to have you as a consultant because they don't have to pay you the benefits, but they do have your expertise," she says. "You might be using the same skill set, or you might get the opportunity to reinvent yourself that way. You're really deploying the skills you have and moving them into a new area." Hannon says this is a particularly good option for those who've held a human resources position, and it's also a natural second-career move for those who have worked as financial advisers, lawyers, and accountants.
Starting your own business is another option. Alboher's organization, Encore.org, provides support to working retired people with business ventures that serve a social good. "One main misconception is that innovation is the providence of the young," she explains. "We're trying to show that innovation happens throughout your life time." Encore.org awards an annual Purpose Prize to entrepreneurs age 60 and older who have made some positive impact within their communities through a second career. "People within this age group have a generative spirit," Alboher says. "They've reached a time when they want to make a career choice to help the world rather than just their own well-being."
Here are some tips on how to get the ball rolling on a second career:
1. Do the math.
Brush up on your knowledge of Social Security, the income caps on what you can earn, and determine how your new career could affect your benefits. "Many people think they'll lose their Social Security if they work," Hannon says. "But you don't actually lose benefits, you just draw them at a different time." Use AARP 's benefits calculator and the Internal Revenue Service's retirement estimator to determine how a second career could affect your Social Security.
2. Get out the house.
Canvas your community, looking for gaps that you know you can fill. "Explore the rotaries, small businesses, and other community sites to see what work is available," recommends Hannon.
3. Brush up on your skills.
Now that you have a better idea of where you might be needed, you can specifically pinpoint how you might be needed. "Think of ways that you can make a high-impact contribution," says Alboher. "You'll accomplish three things: You'll feel really good, you'll meet new people, and you'll network into a new job."
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