In search of an encore career
Some of us are blessed with careers we love, and fortunate enough to be able to continue in them. But many others, especially Baby Boomers, have seen their primary careers come to an end. This has led to the rise in so-called “encore careers” where people pursue new interests, often in service to the community. According to a 2014 survey from Encore.org, a San Francisco–based organization that helps older workers leverage their skills and talents to improve the world, more than 4.5 million Americans aged 50–70 identify themselves as working in encore careers (jobs or volunteer work with a social impact). Another 21 million are considering doing so.4
“We see a surge in encore careers among retiring baby boomers, driven by a desire for a paycheck, a passion, and a purpose,” says Marc Freedman, the founder of Encore.org.
Some of the 4.5 million people already in encore careers are volunteering, but a large percentage are earning a salary or working as entrepreneurs, as the graph shows. On average, they are spending 21 hours per week in their encore careers.
Become a “consultant” in your field as you transition to retirement
If encore careers don’t interest you, consider a more traditional approach: becoming a consultant. “One path to getting a job after age 50 is consulting and part-time contract work in one’s previous line of work,” advises author Kerry Hannon. “Tap into your network. Let people know you’re looking for temporary assignments. Your last employer might be a great place to start to look for consulting gigs.”
Hannon shares four tips on becoming a consultant after your primary career ends.
- Become a member of a local industry association or organization. Join industry groups on LinkedIn. Attend industry and professional meetings and conferences. Keep an eye on the association job boards and let other members know you’re seeking consulting assignments.
- Contact your local Chamber of Commerce to help you reach small businesses in your town. These organizations often don’t have funds to hire someone full-time, but may need your expertise and experience. Also check out temporary agencies that specialize in placing experienced professionals in short-term gigs.
- Know your rates. Research what other consultants in your field charge. Many consultants have websites where they publish set rates or a range. You might also ask fellow consultants straight out what they charge. Whatever your source, set your rates accordingly based on your experience and skill set.
- Market your services to nonprofits which have a mission that resonates with you. They often hire project-based or contract professionals. Consider offering your services pro bono to develop your relationship and gain references for future jobs.
If you are a mid- or late-career worker, it’s not too early to start mapping your next move. But how do you know if working in retirement is right—or even possible—for you?
The answer depends on several factors: your age, your health, and your personal goals. Here is a framework to help you begin thinking and planning for how work might fit into your retirement.
Mid-career: If you think you’ll need or want to work in retirement, now’s a good time to start imagining what you would like to do. Continue in your current job? Launch a business? Volunteer? Freedman says creating an encore career “really begins with getting the time frame right, and recognizing that this is not a retirement job or a bridge job, but is likely to be a whole new phase of your life, and it’s not likely to be without bumps in the road, and setbacks.” So the earlier you can start planning, the better. Just don’t stop saving, because you never know whether you are actually going to be able to work.
Tip: Know where you stand on how well you have prepared for your retirement to date. Read Viewpoints: “Reality check—find out your retirement score.”
Preparing for or already in retirement: By this time, you should have a clearer picture of whether you will need or want to work in retirement. Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of leaving your current job. What impact will that have on your retirement savings and health care coverage? Are you emotionally ready to leave? Are there risks you may outstay your welcome at your current job? What other kinds of work might you like to do?
Tip: Fidelity research finds that for many people, the decision to retire is not just about money. It’s about life, and the freedom to enjoy it. Read Viewpoints: “The real reasons people retire.”
Ideally, before you retire, you should test your plan. “Roll up your sleeves and begin experimenting,” says Freedman. “Try on different kinds of roles, whether it’s through consulting, or volunteering, or serving on boards. But be as hands-on as possible. Try before you buy. This is very important.”
Also, keep in mind that you may have health issues in retirement, or need to provide care for a loved one. This is often the primary reason why many people are forced to retire early or reduce their hours.
Finally, when you do retire, consider taking some time for yourself, if you can afford it, before you jump into your next chapter. “Think of it as a ‘gap year’ for grownups,” says Freedman. “Use the time to step back, rest up, and begin experimenting with new options.” You’ve earned it! Some time to recharge and reassess your goals and options will help you in whatever you choose to do next.
1. We define retirement as the transition from full-time work in your primary career to any other employment status: not working, working full-time or part-time in an encore career, or working part-time in your primary career. For those who have always worked part-time in their primary career, retirement is the transition from that employment status.
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2015; https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2015/article/labor-force-projections-to-2024.htm
3. Data for the Fidelity Investments® Retirement Savings Assessment were collected during August 2015 through a national online survey of 4,650 working households earning at least $20,000 annually with respondents age 25 to 75. All respondents expect to retire at some point and have already started saving for retirement. Data collection was completed by GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communication using GfK’s KnowledgePanel®, a nationally representative online panel. The responses were benchmarked and weighted against the 2014 Current Population Survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communication is an independent research firm not affiliated with Fidelity Investments. Fidelity Investments was not identified as the survey sponsor.
4. Source: Encore.org, in collaboration with Penn Schoen Berland, conducted an online survey of a representative sample of 1,694 adults aged 50 to 70, in the United States. The survey was conducted February 5–19 and March 19–25, 2014. The margin of error for the general population is ±3.1 percent at the 95% confidence level, and larger for subgroups.
5. The MetLife Mature Market Institute®, “The MetLife Report on The Oldest Boomers,” 2013.
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IMPORTANT: The projections or other information generated by Fidelity’s Planning & Guidance Center Retirement Analysis regarding the likelihood of various investment outcomes are hypothetical in nature, do not reflect actual investment results, and are not guarantees of future results. Results may vary with each use and over time.
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