Exploring an Encore Career

Exploring an Encore Career

May 21, 2020
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Our concept of retirement has evolved in recent years. Today, we age differently from previous generations, and many of us enjoy active lives well into our seventies, eighties, and beyond. It’s not unusual to see retirement not only as a time to stop working, but also to seek a change of pace or a new definition of work. In this environment, the encore career is catching on.

Fresh Ideas for Your Second Act

For some, it might be an all-new career that takes root sometime during retirement years, such as starting a business or volunteering for a charity or other nonprofit organization. Others might choose to continue in an already-familiar line of work, helping individuals in a consulting or advising capacity. An EBRI study released in 2019 found that 80% of Americans intended to keep working after they retired. However, not all wind up going that route—28% of those retirees reported working during their retirement years.1 If you’ve never thought about an encore career of your own, it’s worth asking yourself some questions. Do you still hope to keep working after you retire? What do you hope that “second act” will look like? And are you looking to stick with what you know or try something entirely new? 

Craving the Good Life

Most retirees report being confident in their ability to enjoy a “comfortable retirement”—80%, in fact, according to a 2019 EBRI/Greenwald Retirement Confidence Survey. It’s reasonable to assume that you might enjoy the traditional version of “the good life:” pursuing hobbies, spending time with family, and relaxing.2 But for some folks, that’s simply not their idea of a good time. Certain personalities crave productivity and a bigger purpose by which to navigate. We all enjoy catching up on our reading or watching a bit of TV, but if you’re looking for more, an encore career may be right for you. An encore career isn’t an either/or proposition. Since retirement is “your time,” your work life need not prevent you from exploring other interests: it can be a both/and scenario. You have the ability to control the pace and direction of your encore career, with no need to sacrifice your sense of purpose or set aside your leisure time.

Try Something New...

You might already have a clear idea of where you want to go with your encore career. Maybe you’ve had something in mind for years, just waiting for the time and resources to make it happen. It could be that you’ve wanted to direct your energies toward a cause or charity that’s meaningful to you. Or maybe, you want to take what you’ve learned in your career and spin it off in a different direction, giving back to others who are coming up through the ranks, as you once did. Perhaps, you have a hobby that you’ve long considered turning into a business or passion project. Homebrewing is a popular hobby, and it isn’t unheard of for a prominent label to start out in a garage and expand into local venues. Many writers and artists look at retirement as a time to go public with more personal work. Likewise, avid golfers find jobs in retirement at golf courses and enjoy the perk of unlimited play. Another path may present itself in the form of giving back to a nonprofit organization or charity. If you’re not seeking a paying job, you may find your work is even more meaningful when your efforts are volunteered. Your contribution of time and energy might be deeply valued by your community, at a school, hospital, or even your church.

... Or Stick with What You Know

Of course, your encore career could be connected to or inspired by the one you’ve recently retired from. If you loved your job or industry, maintaining contact with a familiar work environment and professional connections might suit you well. After all, a long, successful career in a particular field becomes second nature. There may be ways you can continue doing parts of your job you really enjoyed and less of the parts you didn’t. One option might be to simply reduce the number of hours per week you’re working instead of going all the way to zero. That way you’ll get to experience some of the additional freedom of being “semi-retired,” while your workplace continues to benefit from your expertise and institutional knowledge. Keep in mind that your Medicare benefits will come into play once you turn 65, so you may not have the same need for workplace insurance coverage. In that case, losing that insurance, by going part time, probably isn’t too concerning. A consulting or coaching position, either with your employer or with other companies in your field, can also be a deeply satisfying line of work. Using your expertise to mentor and train less-experienced employees might not only be good for businesses, but also offers you the opportunity to put all your hard-won wisdom into a greatly rewarding second act.

Consider Your Community

Whether you opt to stick with your comfort zone, start your own business, or strike off into a new direction, one aspect that an encore career offers is an abiding sense of community, connection, and belonging. Humans are inherently social creatures. While one person might want to stay part time at their old job in order to maintain their long-standing social connections, another might start a business or join a nonprofit with a desire to contribute to their community. Connecting with our community through work is one way that we can offer our service to others. And engagement in our community serves us as well. Interacting with our neighbors keeps us involved. Even better, it can be a great source of joy, particularly as you invest in the future of the community by connecting with a younger generation.

Time, the Ultimate Commodity

As retirement nears, you approach something of enormous value: time. Your encore career represents an opportunity to spend your time in whatever way you choose, connect with others in new ways, and explore the person you were too busy to become. Whatever you choose to do with your time, and whatever thriving in retirement looks like to you, we will be there to support your goals.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against a loss.

1. Employee Benefit Research Institute, 2019
2. Employee Benefit Research Institute, 2019

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