Andrew Parker

How Encore Careers are Turning Golden Years Into Golden Opportunities

An ‘encore career’ is a type of job that essentially serves as a bridge between full-time work and retirement. This type of job allows retirees to stay engaged in work and use their skills in a meaningful way while also earning a paycheck. This trend has been growing since 2011, and 2024 shows no signs of slowing down.

Historical Figures

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Since 2011, the number of encore careers has increased significantly. Approximately 9 million Americans aged between 44 and 70 have an encore job, which allows them to continue working after finishing full-time work. Merrill Lynch conducted a study that found that almost 47% of retirees “have worked or plan to work during their retirement,” while 72% of those aged over 50 but haven’t retired “say they want to keep working after they retire.”

Reasons for Encore Careers

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There are several reasons why many Americans are now looking to encore careers. One of the major reasons is that they want to feel a sense of fulfillment beyond traditional retirement. Some of them are looking to feel intellectually stimulated or want to contribute to society meaningfully. For many Americans, financial problems are the main drive.

Greater Flexibility

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Another benefit of an encore career is that it gives retirees the flexibility to work full-time, part-time, or volunteer. Depending on their financial situations and personal interests, retirees can choose the type of work they want. They can either continue working in their previous field or explore another one entirely. 

Personal Growth

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Furthermore, encore careers also allow retirees to grow personally and continue learning. They can explore new interests and develop new skills, particularly if they choose to explore a new career. If they choose to work in a career like education or choose volunteer work, they can also help to make a difference in the world.

Making a Difference

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One example of positive social contribution is the Encore Campaign for Children and Youth. According to a Forbes report, this group is “aimed at mobilizing one million adults over 50 to help at-risk children in America and combat inequality” and “to improve the lives of millions of kids.” As such, encore careers can help address broader societal challenges. 

The Possibility of Franchising

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Another option for retirees is franchising. This allows retirees to have the independence of running their own business while also following the structure of a proven business model. For those who are looking to use their current skills and experience without the uncertainty of starting an entirely new business from scratch, this can be a particularly attractive option. Studies show that most new entrepreneurs are aged between 45 and 64.

Preparing for an Encore Career

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However, starting an encore career is not as easy as it sounds and requires a lot of careful preparation. Marc Freedman is the CEO and founder of Civic Ventures, a non-profit group. He created the name ‘encore career.’ In an interview, he spoke about how important it is for retirees to get enough training to succeed in their encore careers.

Changing the Job Market

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Additionally, Freedman said that the job market must change to adapt to this increase in retirees with encore careers. He has suggested offering executive education programs for retirees who want to complete non-profit work. Similarly, he has also proposed creating fellowship programs to help bridge the gap between retirees and the industries that require their expertise.

Other Preparations

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As previously mentioned, retirees can choose to continue working in the same field or another one entirely. Some of the most popular fields include non-profits, education, healthcare, consulting, and coaching. These industries, in particular, allow retirees to use their skills and contribute to society positively.

Networking and Existing Skills

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Those considering an encore career should try using their existing network and skills to get one. Career experts suggest that they should seriously assess their own strengths and interests to decide the right career path. They can try reaching out to any professional contacts they have, such as through LinkedIn or by speaking to entrepreneurial groups like SCORE.

Financial Considerations

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Before deciding to transition to an encore career, retirees should also think about budgeting. Like with any career, their income will likely be uncertain for the first few months or even years. Immediately starting an encore career without proper planning can cause more harm than benefits.

How Much Time?

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Another important consideration is the amount of time retirees are willing to invest. An encore career is not simply just a hobby for retirees and requires far more time. Retirees must consider whether they have the time to learn new skills or take classes to help them enter the encore career market.

Doing Research

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Similarly, experts also recommend that retirees conduct thorough research before entering a new field. This can help them understand the realities of this new role. Retirees can try talking to professionals already in the field or shadowing them in their jobs to help them decide if this specific encore career is the right fit for them.

Thinking Ahead

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Retirees must consider how an encore career will impact their retirement plans as well. They should adjust their retirement planning to account for the effect of their new career on income and health benefits. Likewise, a new career can also affect taxes, which retirees must consider before starting such a transition.

Staying Determined

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Kerry Hannon, a job and work expert, has spoken about the importance of staying determined when considering an encore career. She said that if “you present a really positive image [then] people want to have you on their team, they want to work with you.” She also argued that such determination is vital to deal with the inevitable problems that come with starting a new business.

Michael Lowe’s Story

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Michael Lowe is one example of someone with a successful encore career. Previously, he worked as a corporate lawyer before making the switch to create his own business, a distillery called Green Hat Gin. He began learning to make cocktails during retirement and used his savings to start the business, which cost approximately $1.5 million. However, after a year, the company became successful and turned a profit.

Paul Dillon’s Story

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Similarly, Paul Dillon previously worked in a corporate position. However, after retirement, he chose to create Dillon Consulting Services to give veterans and other people information on creating their own businesses. Like Lowe, Dillon also used his business connections to cut costs initially, which allowed him to expand his business even further.

The Challenges

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However, there are still several challenges involved in the encore career movement. For example, there needs to be more accessible opportunities to allow low-income and middle-income families to consider this as a viable option. Some groups, like, are trying to address these challenges by making encore careers more innovative.

Lack of Educational Options

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Traditional colleges do not usually offer programs specifically for older adults looking to change their careers. However, institutions like Notre Dame and the University of Texas have begun offering programs for this exact purpose. They are offering specific educational programs to allow older adults to begin their encore careers or change careers entirely. 

Other Educational Programs

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Likewise, programs like Encore!Connecticut at the University of Connecticut and the Stanford Distinguished Careers Institute provide specific education and training for those considering encore careers. These programs include a mix of academic learning and practical experiences. Their main goal is to provide people with the necessary skills and knowledge for their career changes.

The Future of Work for Retirees

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This increase in encore careers represents a change in how many Americans view retirement. As life expectancy continues to increase and many people want to continue working, retirees are changing the concept of productivity in their later years. This trend will likely continue, which will affect the workforce and societal expectations of aging.

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