Make a Difference with an Encore Career

November 3, 2014

An encore career can help give your retirement more meaning. The former business owner who starts a non-profit. The attorney who leaves a career in big law to do pro bono work. The retired chief financial officer who now teaches a few classes at a local university. What do these people have in common?  They’re all pursuing encore careers.

Encore careers have become more popular in recent years, as people’s concept of an ideal retirement and their financial needs have changed. Of course, people have long taken on jobs in retirement to fill their time, stay connected to old colleagues or stretch their savings a bit further. But an encore career is different from signing up for a few part-time shifts at a local store or picking up the occasional consulting gig. Encore careers are more purposeful; they’re a way for older workers to explore new interests, make use of the lifetime of skills they’ve developed and, most importantly, pursue significance and make a meaningful difference in the world. While many people embark on their encore career in their 60s, after they retire from their primary career, others make the switch in their late 40s or 50s, often inspired by a layoff, job burnout or changes in their personal life to move in a new direction.

Sound intriguing? If you’re interested in joining the ranks of the 9 million people who are already pursuing encore careers, these tips can help you get started. 

Five Encore Career Tips 

1. Think about where you want to make a difference: Choosing a career in retirement is no less of a serious decision than it was when you set your sights on a certain career path in college. The difference is that you have the benefit of more wisdom and greater financial stability as you make a choice that has meaning to you now. Spend some time thinking about what you value most and where you most want to make a difference in the world, and then use that to guide your next steps. You may find yourself pointed in an unexpected—and exciting—new direction.  
2. Focus on your skills: What kind of unique skills do you have that could help you make a difference in the world? Your well-hewn professional abilities may be useful in a different setting. A retired CPA might find himself doing accounting work for a local non-profit, or a former corporate trainer might retrain to become a teacher. Or perhaps you have a talent you’ve never been able to fully explore in your current role. Now may be the chance to do so.
3. Be prepared to be uncomfortable: If you’re like many soon-to-be retirees, you’ve been in your current career for years. You know the ropes, which is great, but predictability can be boring. An encore career offers a chance to reinvent yourself. Yet as you pursue new opportunities, you may find that you have to step out of your comfort zone, especially if you’ve decided to retrain for a new role. That can be scary, but also exhilarating. Don’t let a fear of the unknown hold you back from exploring a new path for your life.
4. Don’t wait until you retire: If you’re serious about pursuing an encore career, don’t assume that you have to wait until you are in your 60s to get started. Start laying the groundwork for the next stage in your life in your 40s or 50s—by volunteering with organizations you admire, taking classes to acquire new skills and networking with people in your field of interest. Then, when you do retire, you’ll be well positioned to transition seamlessly into a new role.
5. Don’t forget the financial piece of the puzzle. If you want to switch careers before traditional retirement age, make sure you run some financial projections to be sure that you’ll be able to maintain your lifestyle and have enough money in your retirement portfolio when you do eventually stop working entirely. If you’re already retired, be sure to think about how additional income will affect everything from your Social Security benefits to your health insurance coverage to the withdrawals you need to make from your portfolio every year.

At Compass, we’re big believers in giving back. Encore careers are an ideal way to do that while also increasing your financial security in retirement and keeping you engaged and excited about life. If you have questions about how to make an encore career part of your retirement plan, give us a call. We’d be happy to talk with you about how we may be able to help you prepare for the future you want.