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Second Acts: How to Design An Encore Career You’ll Love

Second Acts: How to Design An Encore Career You’ll Love
Norm Tedford Sep 30, 2019
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Ever hear of “encore careers?”

It’s a way to keep your life imbued with meaning and purpose after you retire.

More people are joining the over 65 labor pool because many can’t afford to stop working.

Lots of workers over the age of 60 don’t think they’ll ever be able to, or that they’ll have to wait until they’re at least 70 years old.

Sometimes, an older worker has to rejoin the workforce because the company that was managing their pension went belly up and with it, their retirement funds were zapped into nonexistence.

Increasingly, however, retirement-age individuals are going back to work because they want to.

These days, people are redefining what retirement means for them. For many, it doesn’t mean a complete cessation of work anymore.

They can pursue passion projects in their twilight years that get their blood pumping and their pulse racing. They’re doing things they never had time to do in the hustle and bustle of their pre-retirement existence.

These are people who have come to the stunning realization that retirement can be the most productive, lucrative, and creatively satisfying years of their lives!

Now, they have the exhilarating freedom to pursue everything that truly interests them with a joyful intensity they’ve never known.

This is what’s known as an “encore career.” Americans are looking for encore careers to find meaning, stay engaged, and generate income.

Once you decide to pursue an encore career, you’ll have to determine what that’ll look like for you.

Think about something you’ve thought about doing your entire life, but for whatever reason, could never do. And then, just go out and start doing it.  If you don’t know what that is yet, try a bunch of new things. Maybe one of these things will light a spark, and you’ll find your passion.

That’s a deliciously intoxicating feeling!

It might seem a bit contradictory to work during your retirement. After all, it is called retirement. But maybe you’re not done giving back to the world and have a lot of knowledge and experience to share. Or, you might want to explore new interests and continue to evolve as a person.

One of the biggest reasons to work in your later years is that you’ll be healthier if you stay active. You’ll also maintain your mental edge.

Free Time

Work will definitely cut into your free time. So, if you’re addicted to your morning routine of playing 18 rounds of golf at the local club, going back to work might not be for you.

The whole idea of retiring is doing what you want when you want, and work interferes with this plan.


If you’re thinking about self-employment, you’ll need to think about tax consequences. One reason you might not want to be self-employed is as an employee working for a company, you pay a combined 7.65% Medicare and Social Security payroll tax. This is for your first $127,200 of wages.

When you’re self-employed, you’ll be shelling out double that rate. In other words, you’ll pay 15.3% in payroll taxes in addition to any applicable state or federal income taxes.

You can deduct half of this tax when you file your federal return. This is an above-the-line deduction, so you can take it whether or not you itemize.

But there are benefits to being your own boss. You’ll find everything you don’t like about being tied to a company stripped away. Gone are the days of performance reviews and mandatory attendance at boring HR workshops.

You don’t have to commute, and you have the delicious freedom to work from home.

Intangible Rewards Might Not Be Enough

By continuing to work, you’ll enjoy massive mental and emotional benefits. But intangible rewards might not be enough. That’s why it’s super important to find ways to monetize your passion so you’ll have more income coming in.

You could always try to work for your former employer in another capacity. For example, as a consultant.

You can also work for a nonprofit. These companies pay less, but often offer more meaningful work than you’ll ever find in the corporate sector.

Some May Want to Stay at Their Old Jobs

Sometimes people find that having an open calendar with zero scheduled activities is a recipe for boredom. Some people might benefit from a little structure and working only part-time might provide that.

Often, part-time retirees are happier than full-time ones. The challenge is how to get the benefits of working without having to put up with the disadvantages.

You want the fulfillment but not the stress. So set firm boundaries as to how much time you’re willing to put in. You might also want to take some time off to accomplish your bucket list before going back to work.

Try Phasing in Your Retirement

Retirees who abruptly leave the workaday world can struggle to find the right lifestyle balance.

There are a whole bunch of senior citizens out there with more time than they know what to do with. After slaving away in the corporate wasteland for 30 years or more, it can be challenging to make the transition to retirement life.

They suddenly go from a structured setting where they’re highly active to a more laidback way of living where they’re no longer getting a steady paycheck. This can make it exceedingly hard to adjust to their new way of life.

Some retirees find that post-retirement life is slower than they expected. Soon, they start looking for part-time work to keep their mind occupied.

To overcome these difficulties, consider slowly phasing in retirement.

This could mean gradually cutting back your hours at your job or start working remotely from home.

Social Security Benefits

Depending on how much you make, you may lose some Social Security benefits. The amount you can earn without losing any benefits changes from year to year, so ask your financial advisor for specific advice.

The best retirement strategy might be to wait until you’re older to retire. Continuing to work may increase your Social Security benefits, providing you with a higher income for the rest of your life.

The amount you get is based on the average of your highest 35 of inflation-adjusted earnings. If you keep working, you could replace some early years when you didn’t make too much with higher-earning ones.

This way, you reduce the number of years you spend without earning a paycheck. This gives you more money for retirement.

If you defer Social Security payments for a full year after you’re eligible to receive benefits, you’ll increase the amount you receive by 8%. You’ll receive this amount for the rest of your life.

Write It Down

It can be daunting to try to cobble together a post-retirement career.

To make it easier, write down your dream job and what makes it so exciting. By getting at the very core of what about it you like, you might find other opportunities that scratch the same itch.

Brainstorm ways to make your idea work. If you’re stymied, get input from friends and family.

Here are a few things you could do:

Establish A Management Consultant Practice

If you adore your career but want to spend less time doing it, consider becoming a consultant. Some people of retirement age don’t really want to stop working.  They just don’t want to continue at the same breakneck pace.

Consulting and coaching are ideal second careers for professionals who want a more laidback career. As a consultant, you’ll get the freedom and flexibility that comes with working for yourself by leveraging your considerable skill set to help others build their businesses.

Being your own boss isn’t for everyone. But if it’s something you always wanted to do, running a consulting practice is an excellent way to do it. There are over half a million consultants worldwide and over 53,000 professional coaches.

Give Yourself Enough Time

Keep in mind that this is a crowded field. 54% of coaches are over the age of 50, so you’ll be facing stiff competition. The more time you set aside to prepare, the better you’ll be able to fend off competitors.

Try to give yourself at least three years to make the transition from full-time employment to part-time consultant. Giving your company sufficient notice allows them to prepare for your departure.

You might not want your boss to know about your intentions that far ahead. However, set a business start date for your own personal reference. This way, you’ll have time to make any needed changes to your life.

Like finding a new place to live or leasing office space.

Working for Your Former Employer

When you retire, your old employer might invite you to continue working for them as a part-time consultant. By taking them up on their offer, you’ll be able to channel your expertise and experience into a lucrative second career and at the same time, give back to your old company.

If you’re superb at what you do, you might even make more money than you did when you were working full-time! Besides working for your former employer, you can offer your expertise to other businesses in the same field.

Honing Your Entrepreneurial Skills

Over the years, you’ve undoubtedly gained enough expertise in your chosen field to be able to offer invaluable advice to others. But being a consultant also requires you to hone your entrepreneurial abilities to a razor-sharp point.

Give yourself generous amounts of time to make the transition from full-time employment to part-time consultant. Then, you’ll be able to develop these skills before you start your new career.

You’ll need to know how to be a forceful and persuasive public speaker (which you can learn at Toastmasters). You’ll also have to learn how to navigate a tricky social media landscape.

Too many new entrepreneurs start out by focusing on the more superficial aspects of their venture. It’s easier to obsess about what the color scheme should be on your business cards than to start lining up a roster of clients.

Concentrate on those activities that are most relevant to getting your fledgling business off the ground.

Finding Clients

One of these activities is rustling up some clients. You’ve probably been in your chosen field for decades, so you have an advantage that your younger colleagues don’t have. And that’s an extensive network of contacts who recognize the value you bring to the table.

Leverage this network to find your ideal clients. As your retirement date approaches, let your existing contacts know about your plans because these are people with the highest potential to become your first clients.

Offer your services to these people for free in exchange for their testimonial. You might not even have to do any marketing, because enough former colleagues might take you up on your offer.

You could end up with more business than you can possibly handle!

But if you have to do some marketing, remember that one of your goals should be to highlight your credibility so that people will trust you. Another goal should be to show prospects how you’ll use your keen industry understanding to offer them insights they won’t be able to get anywhere else.

A website you set up for your business that exudes consummate professionalism is one way to do this. This site should also be full of glowing testimonials–an unmistakable sign that you’re great at delivering results for your clientele.

Share Your Passion for Learning

If you always dreamed of being a teacher but don’t have a teaching degree, consider pursuing an alternative certification path.

Alternative teacher certification programs get you in the classroom faster than traditional four-year bachelor programs. By enrolling in one, you can condense several years of college instruction into less than two years.

The program focuses more on practical knowledge than the endless classes on educational theory you have to endure when you’re taking the conventional path to earning your credentials.

By taking this route, retirees are finding it easy to transition from old careers to new ones where they share their passion for learning with students of all ages. It’s a win-win because people who make teaching their second career get to do something they love to do in their twilight years.

Students benefit from the real-world knowledge the teachers bring with them.

This gives them far more credibility to teach the subject in which they have expertise than teachers who spent their entire professional life in a classroom.

Alternative certification was initially created to fill critical teaching shortages. Today, it’s a widely recognized way for individuals to get a degree who have a wealth of practical experience to share.

About 20% of the 35,000 who get alternative certification every year are 50 or older. In most states, candidates must have a bachelor’s degree in the subject they want to teach.

Every state has its own certification requirements. If you’re considering online certification options, keep in mind that most states require a prospective teacher to take a program approved by that state’s licensing board.

Completing an alternative certification program awards you either a post-graduate certificate or master’s degree. What you’re given depends on the program you choose and the guidelines of the state in which you’re seeking certification.

Work in Scenic National Parks

An excellent option for some is to join the National Park service. National Parks are a vital part of who we are as Americans. And as a park ranger, you’ll have the awesome privilege of teaching visitors all about our natural heritage.

Pay is between $13 and $25 an hour for these jobs.

The National Park Service offers excellent opportunities and gorgeous backdrops. As a park ranger, you’ll help the Park Service carry out its mission of “preserving unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.

You’ll be leading ranger programs like evening campground talks or guided hikes. Choose to be a maintenance ranger, and you’ll help maintain roads, trails, buildings, and other park infrastructure.

One fantastic perk is that you get to stay in housing right at the park you’re working at. Although you have to pay rent, you get to wake up each morning to a stunningly beautiful view.

 Interpretative Park Ranger

One of the available jobs with the National Park Service is being an interpretive park ranger, which means you’ll interpret the surrounding beauty for park visitors. As an interpretative park ranger, you get to share a wonderfully scenic place with visitors from all over the world.

And, you can help cooped-up city dwellers find their way back to nature.

To be an interpretative park ranger, you need to have impeccable customer service skills. The Service prefers a four-year degree in any field, and an educational background is helpful because you’ll be doing a lot of teaching.

You’ll be leading education and community groups on walks and talks. You’ll have to steep yourself in the knowledgeable of the history, archeology, biology, and ecology of each park you work at so that you can explain it all to visitors.

Interpretative park rangers point out the best places to hike, camp, fish, and boat. They’ve familiarized themselves with all the exhibits in the exhibit halls and can answer visitors’ questions.

They take people on natural history walks too. If this sounds like it might be something you like, learn more here.

Sell Crafts

If you love making things, you should consider selling them on internet craft sites. One of these sites is Etsy. The online marketplace launched in 2005, and ever since then, it’s become the most popular platform for independent sellers on the planet.

For more than 10 years, makers have used the site to sell a dizzying array of wares. As of 2018, there are 2.1 million active sellers on the site.

On Etsy, you can express your creativity, and in the process, make some serious cash. While it takes a lot of time and effort to make a living selling crafts in cyberspace, it can be done.

If you’re creative and also have some business smarts, you might be able to make a killing on Etsy. You can also work from anywhere in the world you want.

But before you start creating your products, spend some time on the site, and carefully check out how others are marketing their merchandise. If you know someone who’s been selling at the site for a long time, ask him to mentor you.

Write Compelling Descriptions

To attract the most buyers, you’re going to have to learn how to write compelling descriptions for what you sell. Buyers will be searching for precisely what they want. You can make your item more searchable by including as much detail as you can in the description.

List size measurements, like how many inches long or how wide it is. Put in color, condition, care instructions, and what it can be used for.

Make sure your grammar is impeccable, and there are no spelling mistakes in your descriptions. Mirror the professional copy you see on other retailers’ websites. Steer clear of exclamation points, hyperbole, and capitalized words, because this makes you look like a spammer.

To differentiate yourself as a seller, take great photos with great closeups. Closeups are used to highlight interesting features. Consider adding a video to show how to use the product.

Closing Words

An encore career is a way of monetizing your passion after you retire. By creating one that ignites a spark in you, you’ll spend your golden years gloriously fulfilled and happy.

If you can be satisfied playing golf or happily while away the hours mindlessly playing Sudoku, then I didn’t write this article for you. Please disregard every word you read.

I wrote it for all the senior-aged dreamers out there who never lost touch with the child within.

It’s a beautiful feeling to succumb to your passions and see where they take you. This can be quite exhilarating, but also a little scary.

But scary in a good way.

Only you know what’ll make you happy. In this article, I’ve barely scratched the surface of ways to monetize your bliss.

All I know is that when you unleash your passion, waves of happiness emanate outwards from you, and immerse the entire planet in a field of joy.

You’ve bottled up your desires for far too long. Now is the time to make them come true!

Norm Tedford

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