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Why Start a New Career at 60+?

I retired at 62, tired of what I was doing, wanting a change, to start my own business. Many of my generation are doing the same. Retiring from a high paying career during the Great Recession may not have been my smartest financial move, but we really didn’t need to worry about money – then or now.

I was simply ready to start doing something different with the rest of my life. My Dad died at 65 and Mom at 79 so I don’t have those long life genes that some do! Being a Software Development Manager for the rest of my active life was no longer interesting to me.

I did start my own business and have managed to make a bit of side money from it. I’ve landed writing gigs for other sites (like this one!) and written a book or two as well. I’ve enjoyed writing since I learned how in the third grade and tried my hand years ago at short stories.

Now I am considering getting the required training to become a Certified Financial Planner – a new endeavor for me although I worked in the financial services industry for years and have amassed a goodly amount of personal finance expertise.

I’m not considering starting a new career for the money. I’m not even sure I would start a career after getting the training. Learning more about financial planning is just interesting to me and getting another certification would be a recognizable accomplishment.

Why start a new career when you are older than 60?

Many of us (probably not me) will live into our 90’s and most of us are used to viewing work contributions as desirable. Some of us actually need the money, can’t get a job in our current field and need to retrain.

Don’t quit your day job.

If you are currently in your 50’s 60’s or 70’s know that age discrimination does exist. Know that your own body may betray you – by not being able to perform the activities your job requires.

In How old is too old to work?  AARP strategic policy adviser Sara Rix is quoted as saying

“….age discrimination. “It’s pervasive, after 55 or 60, it’s hard to find meaningful employment.”

The article goes on to say:

“Some industries and sectors are more hospitable to older workers. It is easier to be an 80-year-old journalist than a bus driver the same age, Rix cites as an example. Doctors, lawyers, accountants, men and women who are self-employed or own their own business, and those with autonomy to control their work environment can continue to work full-time. Often they can scale back their schedules as desired.”

At this age, you are probably at the peak of your career earnings. If you still enjoy the work, can do the work and aren’t eager to sit in the sun at the beach all day every day, by all means, hang onto that job.

Hang onto it even if your grandchildren complain that you are taking work away from them! Boomers staying on in their careers do tend to take opportunity away from other workers.

If you do want to retrain, and aren’t financially independent, hang onto your day job until you have a new one landed. It is always easier to move from one job to another than from unemployment to a new job.

What are the benefits of starting a new career or job at age 60+?

Money

If you are un or under employed, one obvious benefit is that you have an income. If you need the money, training for a new job might yield more over the long haul than accepting that part time Walmart greeter job.

Brain training

Research shows that learning and doing new things keeps our brain healthy. Training for a new career, learning how to go about applying for that job, getting new on-the-job training are all learning activities that will stimulate your mind.

Social contacts

Research also shows that folks who maintain social relationships live longer and healthier lives. Taking classes and working with others provide additional opportunities to meet new people and develop new friendships.

Giving back

Many older people start to wonder if their lives have benefited others and society and they seek opportunities to give back later in life. Giving back may involve assisting others in the workplace, setting up a consulting business to help entrepreneurs, or working as a volunteer or paid employee in a non-profit cause that has meaning for you.

Feeling needed

When we work, we are typically part of a larger effort. We can see that the part we play in the organization contributes – we feel needed.

Fulfilling a personal dream

If you slaved along for years in a job you hated, so that you had the money required to support yourself and your family and raise your children, later life may provide a second chance to fulfill a personal dream or life long passion. Retraining and pursuing a desired goal can be very freeing and enriching.

Keeping momentum toward something other than old age and death

We know our time on earth is growing shorter with each year. Settling by habit into a retirement routine can eat your days away while not providing much diversion from advancing old age and death. Pursuing new goals keeps your spirit growing.

If you agree that there are benefits in pursuing new career goals after age 60, what do you need to think about before jumping into it?

Considerations when thinking about what you want to do.

Health

All of our bodies decline as we age, no matter how much we work to avoid it. Skin sags, bellys protrude, hair thins and evaporates. The changes going on in our bodies in our later years can lead to bad health – or at a minimum increased body maintenance time.

Before deciding on a new career or opportunity, take stock of your health situation now and peer into your crystal ball to think through how it will be in the next 10 or 15 years. What is your family history? How healthy have your habits been so far?

If the career requires physical strength, endurance or flexibility your aging body might not handle it in years to come.

Length of time you want to continue to work

How many months or years do you think your interest in this new career, activity or opportunity will last? If you spend X dollars and XX months training to enter it – will you get the benefit of those dollars and that time?

Financial situation

Do you need to work or do you just want to do so? Do you have, or can you get, the funding required for the training needed? What changes may be upcoming in your financial situation to require you to need to launch a new career?

Fulfillment of your psychological needs

Will the new career or opportunity really satisfy a yearning? Will it be fun to work at your career day in and day out for most of the rest of your life? What if you train for a few years and find out you don’t really like the work after you get the job?

Training needed and how to pay for it

What training and experience seems to be required? Will you be able to get it?

Current and future potential for you to contribute (i.e are the jobs there)

Are there even any jobs available and how fast is the field growing? Does the career pay well enough to suit you? How much competition can you expect for the jobs out there?

While looking into becoming a Certified Financial Planner I found the Forbes article How to Become a Financial Adviser. The author seems to think it might be a good encore career, saying:

“Financial advisor can be a great profession for someone who wants to head down a new career path. Why? Because it’s a job where having some life experience under your belt really helps

According to a 2009 poll by the Financial Planning Association, 88% of financial planners and advisors say they worked in a different profession first. Richard Salmen, chairman of the FPA and senior vice president of GTtrust, a financial planning firm in Oberlin, Kan., says having a degree in psychology is also useful. “This business is as much financial counseling as it is financial advising,” he points out. “There are more emotional dysfunctions around money in people’s lives than around any other issue. It doesn’t matter how much money you have; those dysfunctions are still there.”

I doubled down on the above as I also graduated from college with a degree in psychology.

So, you think it might be beneficial to pursue a different career and you have considered and analyzed your goals and situation. Don’t jump into it before you reflect on the negatives of working.

Drawbacks of starting a new career or job

Loss of time you could be spending on other projects or people

I have a lot of projects I’d like to finish before I kick off. Among them are researching and documenting and sharing my family genealogy; writing my own autobiography and biographies of my Mother, Father and Godmother; traveling to see the US and other parts of the world; developing deeper relationships with my grandchildren and great nieces and nephews, writing several more books, moving further into the country (our area is being developed) and more. If I focus a few years on getting the training and experience needed to become a CFP – most of these projects would get delayed.

Potential to be locked into a schedule not of your choosing

Today I am able to set my own schedule. Each day is a bright new gem that I spend as I wish. If I tackle training and go to work as a CFP, I will need to meet other people’s schedules. I might lose my flexibility and get locked into a schedule that isn’t pleasant.

Impact on your aging body

Although being a CFP doesn’t require great stamina, flexibility or strength and doesn’t have a social stigma for elders attached to it, some career and job fields do. For example, that bus driver mentioned above may find that his employers and bus riders don’t feel safe riding around with an 80 year old driver.

Here are a few articles you might find interesting if you are a senior or boomer thinking of an encore career.

Don’t let the second half of your life go down the drain. If you need to, or want to, work – don’t accept a job that doesn’t satisfy and enrich your life. Now that the job market is picking back up (finally) after the recession, it makes sense to keep trying for that dream career or opportunity or business ownership.

Have you changed careers? Do you think you will still be working when you are 60+?

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