When it comes to understanding how people plan for and think about working past age 65, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone more knowledgeable than Kerry Hannon. Not only is Hannon a career transition expert and AARP’s job expert, she’s also the award-winning author of the national bestseller Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps Your Happy and Healthy…And Pays the Bills.
With 54 percent of Americans saying they’ll continue to work after age 65, many people are starting to think about these later years as “Adulthood #2,” Hannon tells Straight Talk. That means finding a new job – and sometimes an entirely new career path – that can offer both financial and emotional rewards.
After writing for U.S. News & World Report and talking with retirees across the country, Hannon found herself inspired by stories of people who rediscovered themselves during their retirement years through new careers, rather than long afternoons on the golf course.
Hannon points out that the need to work during retirement is often about more than looking for extra money to round out Social Security or other retirement savings; often it’s about getting out of the house and finding a meaningful way to pass the time.
“You may be retired at 60 or 65, but you still have 15 years ahead of you to do something extraordinary,” Hannon says.
Working until age 80 may have sounded crazy, say, 40 years ago, but longer life spans are changing the retirement game.
Forbes notes that the most recent actuarial life table from the U.S. Social Security Administration says that by age 65, U.S. males of average health have a 40 percent chance of living to 85, while females of average health having a 53 percent chance of reaching the same age. For married couples of average health, there is a 72 percent change that at least one of them will live to 85.
For those who reach 65 and enjoy above-average health, the likelihood that they’ll live to 85 becomes even higher: 50 percent for men, 62 percent for women, and 81 percent for at least one half of a married couple. And mortality rates continue to improve each year.
So what advice does Hannon offer to those looking for a new career during retirement?
“I try very hard to find a way to inspire people to pick up their heads and look around,” Hannon says. “Do some soul searching. What are the things you’re happy doing? Think back to your childhood, before you got on this path where money ruled everything.”
Hannon also suggests talking with friends, relatives and former coworkers and asking them what they think you do well.
“People often see you and your skills in a light that you don’t because you take those skills for granted,” Hannon says. “Ask them, ‘What do you think some of my best skills are?’”
Hannon notes that some retirees make the mistake of trying to turn a hobby into a new career. While this approach can work for some, it isn’t always the case. She shares a cautionary tale of a Washington lobbyist who retired early and decided to turn her gardening hobby into a full-scale landscape design operation.
“She was miserable,” Hannon says. “It was solitary work. She was a people person, and when she was working alone doing a gardening project it was drudgery. It ruined her hobby.”
Before spending money on furthering your education for your new career, make sure you know what you want to do. If you’re not entirely sure, Hannon suggests taking a single class or becoming an apprentice to someone in your desired field. She shares the story of a pediatrician who decided to turn his love of cooking into a chocolate-making business – but he first took the proper steps to ensure it was the right career for him.
“He volunteered at Dean and Deluca making chocolates,” she says. “Then he was making them for a local restaurant. Now he and his wife sell them on their own site. But they worked bit by bit, making sure it was a good fit.”
Have you thought about whether you’ll work during retirement? Is there a new career path you’d like to take during your later years?