images (1)When Barry Duckworth, 59, of Sherrills Ford, N.C., was looking for a second career that could last him into his 60s and beyond, he realized he had to be adaptable. “You have to not only accept change but embrace it.”

For 30 years, he worked as a licensed general building contractor, overseeing the construction of homes and commercial real estate properties. “It was an unbelievably difficult job to manage multiple projects at multiple sites in multiple areas,” he says.

He worked 10 to 12 hours a day and many weekends, but when the economy went south in 2008, he decided to look for a career “where I could be a kinder person. As much as I love the physics of building, it’s a tough business. You have to be cast iron.”

So Duckworth traded in his hard hat to wear multiple hats as the owner of his own tutor-placement business, matching kids with tutors who come to their homes.

He’s like millions of Americans looking for a successful second act or encore career. About 65% of workers say they plan to work for pay after they retire, but only 27% of retirees report working for pay, according to a national survey released Tuesday from the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Some people are taking steps so they can have a second career during their golden years.

When it comes to finding a successful second act, most people simply don’t know what they’re passionate about, even when they know they want to move in another direction, says Kerry Hannon, author of What’s Next? Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties, and Beyond. She has interviewed hundreds of people about their career changes.

For many, their passion is something they did when they were younger, often in childhood, she says. One of her favorite career-change stories is a retired Navy officer who loved going to the circus as a kid, so he became the company manager for a non-profit circus. His wife, who was a nurse, became the circus wardrobe designer.

Hannon advises career switchers to give themselves three to five years to make the transition. “Go slowly. No one dives into a second career on a whim.”

You have to do your homework, volunteer and moonlight to figure out what to do; then you may need to add new skills, she says.

The biggest stumbling block is money, she says. If you’re starting off in a new field, chances are you’re going to make less money. And if you’re starting a business, you may not be able to pay your own salary for a year.

It’s important to examine your current skill set and experience to see if they’re transferable to different challenges and fields. Search inside, and answer some important questions: What am I best at? Ask friends and colleagues, too, Hannon says.

She says to “think of it not as reinventing yourself, but rather as redirecting or redeploying many of the skills you already have in place.”

If you like the company you’re currently working for, you could see about doing a different job for them, says Debbie Banda, AARP’s interim vice president of financial security. Or you can consider becoming an entrepreneur in your encore career. “The fastest-growing age group starting their own businesses are the 50- to 59-year-olds,” she says.

Given the fact that people are living longer, you could start a new career at 55 or 60 and “have another 10, 15 or 20 years for your encore career,” Banda says.

 Some people, like Maralee DeMark, 56, and her sister, Diane DeMark Smith, 66, turned a lifelong passion into new careers.

After Maralee retired last year from her job as an information technology manager, it took about six months before “I was ready for something new. I was crawling out of my own skin staying at home.”

She and Diane, who had retired 10 years earlier, grew up cooking together for holidays and parties, and they both loved to entertain. Last fall, they opened Two Sisters Market Cafe in Terrell, N.C., which features locally grown organic cuisine.

It’s hard work, but one of the most rewarding things they’ve ever done, Maralee says. “I lost 22 pounds in the first three months after we were opened. I have never been more fit — lifting big pots, cleaning.”

Diane, who has lost 15 pounds, says they’re holding their own financially and “have seen a definite uptick month over month.”

Adds Maralee. “I couldn’t have afforded this if I hadn’t had my first career. This is more of a love and passion for us. We love to see people enjoy our food.”

After Duckworth left the construction business, he and his wife, Carolee, who is a career-change specialist and has a doctorate in education, brainstormed about what he would do next. They came up with Mastery Tutors In-Home Tutoring (, a service he offers in several cities in North Carolina and along the East Coast.

Parents describe their child’s tutoring needs, then he uses his databases and search engines to winnow down the selections. “The art of it is picking the exact right tutor and making a perfect match,” says Duckworth, a high school graduate who is self-taught in everything from computer software to business management.

The beauty of the new career is, “I get to hear about children who blossom as they grasp concepts that were alien to them before.

“Success for us means losing a customer.” 


Tips for finding a successful second career from Kerry Hannon, author of What’s Next?

• Research. Check out websites such as,, and to get an idea of what others are doing and what jobs are out there now. Investigate fields that have a growing demand for workers.

• Have a mental picture of where you want to go. Tape a photograph on your office wall of what it might look like. Journal about your goals.

• Get things moving by taking small steps. That might mean making a phone call to ask for advice or reaching out with an e-mail a day to make a lunch date to discuss possibilities.

• Be practical. You may need to upgrade your skills and education, but take one class at a time. You can add more classes as your direction and motivation become clear.

• Don’t lock yourself into a must-have salary. Chances are you’ll need to take a pay cut, at least initially.

• Get your life in order. Get physically and financially fit. Change is stressful. When you’re physically fit, you have more energy. Lowering debt will allow you to have more choices. Debt is a dream killer. When you have your finances in order, it gives you options. You can be more nimble.


Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY

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