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Semiretirement Careers

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Bottom Line/Personal: After 30 or 40 years of working long, hard days, you may be getting ready to dial it down a little, but you’re not ready for retirement. What are the options? What are things that you can do and strategies you can take to dial down your career?

I’m Sarah Hiner, President of Bottom Line Publications, and this is our Conversations with the Experts, where we get the answers to your tough questions from our leading experts.

Today I’m talking to Nancy Collamer, a leading career coach, speaker, and author of Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit from Your Passions During Semi-Retirement. Welcome, Nancy.

Nancy Collamer: Thanks, Sarah.

Bottom Line: For Baby Boomers, for Xers, the word “semi-retirement,” that’s a creepy-sounding word. How do we wrap our heads around it? That really is what we’re thinking about when we want to lay off the 10-hour days and the long commutes and all the pressure and burden of what we’ve been doing for all those years.

Collamer: Yeah, I don’t want that to be a scary term. It really just indicates the time period between when you are leaving that full-time, high pressure lifestyle and full retirement. Because we used to think of retirement in terms of years; now we all need to think of it in terms of decades. And you want to fill that time with meaning and purpose and to have a reason to get up every day – hence the term “semi-retirement.”

Bottom Line: When someone’s thinking about semi-retirement, do they think about jobs that might be less of what they were doing before, or maybe the same thing they were doing closer to home, or whole new areas?

Collamer: Both.

Bottom Line: All of the above, right?

Collamer: All of the above, yeah, and then some. Let’s start off talking about people who may really enjoy what they’ve been doing, but they’re just tired of doing it full-time, and they’re trying to figure out, “How do I take all this expertise and experience that I have and just downshift a little bit?”

And there are lots of different ways that you can do that. The first and most obvious is just to speak with your employer about going to a part-time or a flexible position. Some people actually leave their employers and they become consultants to their own companies. People often joke that they are semi-retired; what are they doing? They became a consultant.

Bottom Line: And doubled their rate, usually.

Collamer: Yeah, yeah. But there are lots of other things that you can do too. I put all of these things in the broad category of multiple streams of expert income. In addition to doing things like consulting, people become adjunct professors. These days, there are people who have created their own online courses. They write books, they write articles, they speak. All different ways that you can leverage that expertise during semi-retirement. So that’s the first big bucket of jobs.

Certainly, another area that we see huge interest in is what we call encore careers. Encore careers mean jobs that combine purpose, passion, and a paycheck. They’re really second careers for the greater good. This can be anything from going to work for a nonprofit – somebody who had been an executive, let’s say at a law firm, who now goes to work as an advisor to a nonprofit. It also includes people who go and do things like starting their own business, but a business that has an element of social good to it.

As an example, in my book I interviewed a woman who started a company called Cool Jams, which is an online company that sells pajamas for people dealing with night sweats. As part of her business model, she gives back 20% of her proceeds to charities that are meaningful to her. So lots of different ways that you can do those encore careers.

Bottom Line: That’s great. What kind of decisions do they need to do or review of their finances before they make the jump into semi-retirement?

Collamer: With any career change, it’s obviously very important to take a look at your finances. For most people, this is a time in life, though, when a couple of things are going on. First is that hopefully they’ve paid off their mortgage. Not true for everyone, but for most people. Also, household expenses hopefully have gone down.

People also hit a point where they might be able to claim Medicare and/or Social Security, which is a whole ’nother issue – I mean, in general, it’s best to hold off on claiming Social Security for as long as you can so that you’ll get a larger monthly payout. But these are all the different issues that you need to take a look at.

But for most people, they’re at a point where they can afford to take a cut in salary compared to what they were earning before. That opens up a lot of different options for them.

Bottom Line: So they can continue the same but less of what they’ve been doing, or they can do what you call these encore careers – I love that, that they get to bring their passion and their goodwill into it. What else? Anything else that they could be doing?

Collamer: One of the areas that I think has tremendous growth for the Boomers is the whole area of entrepreneurial support services. By that, I mean more and more people are starting their own businesses. You have a plumber or a jeweler or a photographer, all of whom are great at their core business, but they either don’t have the time or the interest in doing all of those other tasks that they need to keep their business running smoothly.

That can cover anything from doing the bookkeeping, social media, marketing, strategic planning – all of those things that you need to keep a business healthy. And people who are coming out of the corporate world oftentimes have those skills, and it can be a great way to work on a part-time basis, oftentimes from your home. Help another small business owner. So I think that that’s a great area of possibility for the Boomers.

Bottom Line: That’s an interesting area. Is there a website or a network or someplace where people can find entrepreneurial startups? Because it’s not so easy to find.

Collamer: I’d say the best way to do that is to go to meetings locally, in your town. Chamber of Commerce. There are all sorts of different entrepreneurial groups that meet, networking groups, and that’s a great place to meet other people who have small businesses. Or quite frankly, just go out on Main Street and take a look into office buildings and see who’s around.

Oftentimes they’re very happy to hire you. You’re somebody who can bring them 30 years of experience. If they’re hiring you on a freelance basis, they’re not paying benefits. It can be a great arrangement for both parties.

Bottom Line: All right. Great advice, Nancy Collamer. The bottom line is if you’re ready to downshift your career, go ahead, you can do it. Number one, stay within your field. Take your skills, but reduce your time; see if you could actually stay within your own company and reduce your time. Or leave your company, but perhaps sell your skills back as a consultant. Or go to your competitors. Go to others that are in the industry.

Similarly, you could do entrepreneurial support, where there are startup companies that need part-time or short-term executive or other kind of skills to help them grow their businesses, but they’re not ready to hire that full-time.

On the third hand, go after your passion. Now might be the time to start working for a nonprofit or working for an area that you didn’t think was possible before, but now that your expenses are going down and you really don’t want to put the same level of hours and commute time in, then you could go to places that you hadn’t considered before in your life. It’s all a great opening for you. This is Sarah Hiner with Bottom Line.

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Nancy Collamer, a career counselor, speaker, and author of Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit from Your Passions During Semi-Retirement. She also writes a semi-monthly career column for NextAvenue.com (PBS) and Forbes.com. MyLifestyleCareer.com

Date: January 30, 2015 Publication: Bottom Line Personal
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