unretirement: figuring out your next act

This is an update to an earlier post because we can’t resist revisiting this topic, especially when new data is released:  In 2015, almost a quarter of new businesses launched in the U.S. were started by people between the ages of 55 and 64. On top of that, the 65+ population is participating in the work force at higher rates than just a decade ago.

Increasing life spans coupled with uncertainty about our financial health and what the government will or will not keep in the way of social programs, are driving more and more people in their 50s, 60s and beyond to re-enter (or simply not leave) the work force.

A retirement age of 65 simply doesn’t reflect today’s realities, and boomers are rethinking if and how they want to be involved. Working beyond retirement has plenty of benefits, not just financial. Socialization, a desire to be productive, helping others through volunteering, or even having a place to go when two retirees at home is one too many are just a few reasons that continuing to work may make a lot of sense.

Greenwich-based baby boomer, career coach, author and blogger Nancy Collamer understands that boomers may have many years left to lead productive lives and create new goals for themselves. In her book, Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit from Your Passions During Semi- Retirement, Collamer delivers motivating real-life stories of people in their late 50s or older who have successfully rethought their lives, as well as practical guidance on what to consider during this process.

Collamer suggests that you first ask yourself: What do you want this time of life to look like? Think about all the things you want to do, be it travel, spending time with grandchildren or even time to cook healthy meals.

The next step in this process is to consider whether you want or need to generate income. What kind of schedule would you like? In her book, Nancy shares the story of a retired couple, former school teachers, who now work full time, from May through October, at Yellowstone National Park.

Think about your personal motivators. This is a time of life when people are often interested in “giving back.” They’ve put time into the workplace and now want to help in their communities. This type of work is considered an “encore career,” a term coined by Marc Freedman, founder of Encore.Org. Even with an encore career, you can earn money. It could mean starting your own business and donating a percent of your profits to a worthy cause or perhaps working at a nonprofit or retraining to be a nurse. Take, for example, the case of an attorney we meet in Collamer’s book who continues to work in his profession, but now helps families who are adopting.

The truth is, many people downshift within their own professions by either consulting or getting work through temporary agencies on a project basis. One over-riding theme with Collamer’s stories is that people don’t reinvent themselves so much as repackage their skills for a new friendlier lifestyle.

Collamer admits the next chapter can be daunting, but also exhilarating, begging the question, where do you start? She suggests you look at your work experience, and make a list of projects, skills and responsibilities that you’ve enjoyed. Leverage the decades of contacts and skills you’ve amassed, and try to use or repurpose them in a different way.

Go online to find seemingly never-ending resources. As Collamer acknowledges, “There is a trade association or training program for every type of business or service imaginable, even a three-day dog walking program.” Collamer recounts a story from 2008, when the financial industry was in chaos. One former financier located an industry conference in the field of senior moving, and hopped on the next plane to attend. She’s been in that business ever since.

With the oldest boomers turning 71 this year, being gray in the workplace may just be the new blonde. And which ever hair color you choose, you have the promise of a rewarding new career.

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