Quittin’ time at 65 – Says who?

by Laurie MacNaughton, as published in Loudoun Times Mirror © 9/21/2013

It goes by many names: “bridge job,” “encore career,” “recareering,” or simply “delayed retirement.” But no matter what it’s called, the fact remains – as life expectancy edges ever higher, many of us can expect to live another quarter century after the traditional age of retirement.

As a consequence of rising longevity, increasing numbers of Americans are making the decision – some willingly, some less so – to switch jobs but continue working. In fact, more than one in three Americans now works past the traditional retirement age of 65.

And that number is expected to rise dramatically. According to a Gallup poll out in May, 75% of Americans plan to work until they are 70, or “as long as possible.” The reasons cited, however, are far more varied, and in some cases far more nuanced, than just the need for more income. In fact, respondents were evenly divided between those planning to work for financial reasons and those planning to work for self-fulfillment, to stay active, or to continue to contribute to their community.

These facts suggest an interesting question: is the prevailing idea of “old” itself old? Or, put another way, as a society are we operating under guidelines with obsolete assumptions and outdated definitions – ones that say 65 is quittin’ time?

In After the Recovery: Help Needed – The Coming Labor Shortage and How People in Encore Careers Can Help Solve It, noted economist Barry Bluestone states that precisely the areas projected to be most in demand in the coming years represent the most common encore careers: teaching, health services, faith organizations, government, and non-profits.

There are other interesting trends as well: older Americans overwhelmingly represent business startups, with the Small Business Administration reporting that more than five million Americans over the age of 55 are either business owners or self-employed. Furthermore, twice as many high-tech startup companies are established by those aged 55 and older than by those in their 20s or 30s.

A visit to any local networking group will reveal the extent of this trend: startups include everything from micro-farmers who grow herbs and vegetables for local restaurants, to interior design services, private chefs, pet trainers, social media content providers, event planners, and high tech consultants.  Real estate in the greater D.C. region is once again booming, with a consequent wave of new realtors jumping into the field, following retirement from other sectors. Many of these older entrepreneurs find their new careers not simply fulfilling, but lucrative as well.

Not all second careers are seamless transitions between one profession and the next. Careers in the ministry, real estate, health care and many others require training, and some require degrees.

There are many organizations that offer training, including community colleges. Online sites can also be helpful. Workforce 50 (http://www.workforce50.com/), Encore.org (www.encore.org/learn/over-50-and-looking-job), Senior Job Bank (www.seniorjobbank.org/), along with many others, offer both online help and contact information for further assistance.

The so-called leading edge boomers, those Americans now hitting the traditional age of retirement, literally changed the world with their determination to redefine the rules and do things their own way. And there is no indication they’re going to start “listening to the man” just because they’re turning 65.

Laurie MacNaughton [NMLS 506562] is a freelance writer and Reverse Mortgage Consultant at Middleburg Mortgage, a Division of Middleburg Bank. She can be reached at: 703-477-1183 or LMacNaughton@MiddleburgBank.com.


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