Just because you've left the full-time workforce doesn't mean you have to enter full-time retirement. For many seniors, the years that follow the end of their career represent an opportunity to finally pursue long-held interests they never had time to fully explore. And they're not doing this stuff for free — you can make money doing something entirely new and fascinating. Think of it as a sort of career 2.0. A clean slate. A chance to become fluent in a whole new skill set that not only keeps you busy but keeps you happy and fulfilled.
While the idea of working part-time during retirement may seem contradictory, there are a number of benefits to keeping some kind of job in your later years. "Most people who retire still want meaning and purpose in their lives," says Elisa Robyn, PhD, a former academic dean now working during her retirement as a transitions coach/consultant.
Robyn says many seniors are not "done" with giving back and often have a great deal of experience and knowledge to share. Plus, working during retirement allows you to continue to explore new interests and grow as a person.
More importantly, Robyn also says that humans of all ages are healthier and stronger when they stay mentally and physically active, maintain a social network, and feel a sense of purpose. An encore career, as she calls it, will provide these.
Not to be ignored, of course, is the money that comes with picking up some extra hours, which can help with various living expenses. But even if money is not your primary motivation for going back to work, there's no real downside to having a bit of extra cash to help pay for travel or other leisure activities.
Tom Ingrassia, who retired from his full-time job in education back in 2001, says working during retirement means he has the freedom to pursue the projects that truly interest him — specifically, working in the entertainment industry. "Retirement has proved to be the most productive, creative, and lucrative time of my life, and I have never looked back," he says.
Once you've made the decision to pursue an encore career, you'll need to determine what, specifically, this will look like. For some people, the best choice for their new gig is obvious. But for others, time and guidance is needed to help connect their passions and interests to potential jobs. There are so many exercises that can help with this process.
One common method, says Robyn, is to think about something you've loved throughout your life. For example, if music has been a passion since childhood, consider building a new career or job around music. If working with people is something you enjoy, make your list specific to jobs where interaction is key (i.e., retail, food service, tutoring, or teaching).
But if all your brainstorming efforts still have you coming up short, here are a few ideas, provided by AARP:
- Park ranger
- Dog walker or pet sitter
- Craft worker
- Personal and home care aide
- Repairs (home, car, yard, etc.)
There are a number of other options, of course. You can read the full list here.
Coming out of retirement to pursue a passion isn't entirely without risks. Depending on your financial and Social Security situation, you may have to take into consideration a potential loss of benefits. According to AARP, if you've already claimed Social Security and then return to work, some of your benefits may be withheld. But this is dependent upon the amount of money you're earning in your second career. Since the maximum amount you can earn changes year to year, it's important that you talk with your financial planner or tax advisor before starting a new job.
If you're enjoying the freedom that comes with retirement, make sure to also take into consideration the impact a work schedule may have on your lifestyle. Traveling, meeting with friends or family last-minute, and participating in leisure activities may become more difficult if you find yourself tied to a time clock. That said, there are many jobs that allow a great deal of flexibility but still provide income and fun.
"Ultimately, you need to find something that ignites a spark," says Robyn. Take some time to try a few short-term, part-time jobs, and see what's fun and what's not. She adds: "Experimentation is a powerful tool."