Just because you want to retire doesn’t mean that you’re done working. Nearly one in five Americans age 65 and older is in the workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While 60% of that group has simply stayed on the job, the rest retired and later “unretired.”
Some unretirees return to the workforce because they find retirement unfulfilling…others because they want to earn a few extra bucks, perhaps to take a special trip without bursting their retirement budgets…and still others because they suffered a financial setback and need to earn as much as possible.
Good news: Unemployment rates are so low right now that in many parts of the country, the odds of finding appealing work is very good even for retirees who have been out of the job market for years.
TARGET: $5,000 TO $15,000 PER YEAR
It might be possible to earn $5,000 to $15,000 per year without doing anything that takes up too much of your time—and/or without doing anything that even feels like work. Three ways to earn a modest amount of income in a modest amount of time in retirement—and have a good time doing it…
Be a dog walker, ride-share driver, Airbnb host or another sort of “gig” worker. “Gig economy” companies such as ride-sharing firms Uber and Lyft are always in need of people who want to earn extra money through part-time freelance work. If you don’t enjoy driving, other options include Rover.com, which arranges gigs as dog walkers/dog sitters…Jury Test and Online Verdict, which seeks people willing to serve as “mock jurors” so that lawyers can test their cases…Wyzant, which seeks tutors for students…and the well-known Airbnb, which helps people arrange short-term rentals of rooms or properties. Many retirees appreciate the flexibility of this sort of work—they take time off to travel and work only when they want. In many cases, the work is enjoyable, too.
Example: I know a retired corporate vice president who is earning $1,500 a month walking dogs through Rover.com. He doesn’t need the money—he just loves dogs, and he considers it a good way to get exercise.
What to do: Visit $ideHusl, a website that provides ratings and details about gig-economy employers.
Be an adjunct professor. A local college might be looking for someone to teach a class related to your area of professional expertise. These part-time professor positions tend to pay modestly—usually only a few thousand dollars per class—but that could add up to perhaps $10,000 a year if you teach a class or two per semester. Because the pay is minimal, colleges sometimes will hire people who don’t have a PhD as long as they have relevant professional experience. The main upside of this job isn’t financial: Retirees often find it rewarding to pass along their knowledge to younger generations…and being a college professor conveys more prestige than most other low-paying part-time jobs.
What to do: Visit HigherEdJobs.com, which lists many jobs of this sort. Or look for a “jobs” or “employment” page on the websites of colleges within commuting distance of your home—especially nonelite schools such as community colleges.
Take a seasonal job someplace you would like to take a vacation. Be a park ranger in a national park…or a guide at a fishing lodge…or a ski instructor at a ski slope. These jobs often pay little more than minimum wage, but they could include lodging and provide access to an incredible resort or a place of tremendous natural beauty. These employers often are happy to hire retirees—younger people who take these low-paying seasonal jobs tend to soon leave them for better-paying full-time positions, while many retirees prefer to work only a few months of the year.
What to do: Visit the website CoolWorks.com to find these opportunities…or contact the owners or managers of seasonal businesses where you would enjoy working.
TARGET: $20,000 to $30,000 PER YEAR
If you always wanted to try a different career, an entry-level position in that field could pay in this range—if you were willing to take a full-time position. If you would prefer not to work full-time, returning to your former career on a part-time basis might be an option (more on returning to a former career below). But returning to your old career might not be the only part-time option that could pay you $20,000 or more. You might be able to do something new that leverages your decades of experience in a new way, such as…
Work for a recruiter. If you retired relatively recently after decades in your field, there’s a good chance that you have a broad network of contacts in the sector. These contacts could make you an appealing hire for a recruiter you know who is worth hiring in the field. It might be possible to earn $20,000 or more working for a recruiter even if you take on only a few projects each year—recruiters can earn 20% or more of the first-year income of their placements. If you received half this fee when you take on a project for a recruiter, you could earn $20,000 by arranging just two hires with $100,000 salaries.
What to do: Contact recruiters who work in your sector—if you were recruited by a headhunter in recent years, that might be a good place to start. Explain that you are recently retired, have a wide range of contacts in your field and are interested in freelance recruiting opportunities. The job market is so hot these days that some recruiters—especially solo practitioners—are stretched thin and might be willing to give you a shot.
Become a consultant or trainer. If you have a desirable business skill, employers might be willing to pay you to consult with them or train their employees. Skills in particular demand include sales, marketing and social media—but consulting/training is possible with any business-related skill. Your odds of success are highest if your résumé leaves no doubt that you truly were among the best at this skill during your career. Example: You won awards…or rose to an impressive level at a highly respected company.
Consulting or training can pay anywhere from $40 an hour to several hundred dollars an hour, depending on how in demand your skill is…how impressive your résumé is…and how good you are at marketing your services.
What to do: Let your network of contacts know that you are looking for consulting or training opportunities. Also, network with local business owners at area business association meetings and chamber of commerce meetings.
TO EARN $50,000 OR MORE
If you feel that you’ll need to earn $50,000 or more a year, your best bet typically is to return to the sector where you worked prior to retirement—that’s where your skill set and experience will be most valuable.
What to do: Learn as much as you can about what’s going on in your former sector right now. What employers are pursuing what projects? What are the latest challenges? If you’ve been away for a while, you can catch up by reading the industry press and/or chatting or e-mailing informally with close friends and allies who still are in the sector. When you feel that you’re up to date, brainstorm about specific ways that you and your skill set could help employers achieve their current goals.
Contact people in the field, say that you’re looking to return to the workplace, ask if they know of openings and explain how you would help these employers achieve their goals. (The better job you do explaining how you can help an employer with its latest goals, the better the odds that it will want to hire you. This not only establishes that you would be useful, but it shows that you have remained in touch with the sector—something companies worry about when they hire unretirees.)
Two ways to contact people in the field…
- Network one-on-one with your contacts. Invite former colleagues who respect you to lunch or coffee.
- Attend industry conferences. These can be an effective and efficient way to meet large numbers of people in your former field.
Tip: Some people you meet with will no doubt wonder why you’re unretiring, rather than unwinding on a beach somewhere. Explain that you enjoyed the relaxation of retirement but that the time away reminded you how much you enjoyed the challenges of the workplace, too.