The Plot Lines of Your Second Act

The Plot Lines of Your Second Act

I have long contended there is a much better retirement saving strategy than saving increasingly humongous portions of your weekly earnings.

That strategy: Simply planning not to retire.

Think of it. If you don’t retire, and you go right on working, you won’t have to save as much as you get older, because you’ll be earning as you spend. You also won’t have to live most of your days fretting about inflation eroding your fixed income, or your retirement funds being blown up in risky investments.

One of the best things about never retiring is this strategy’s ability to make you feel ever youthful. If you’re 58 today, for instance, and want to be working at 80, you may be vying for a job at that time with a 21-year-old born this morning.

Beat out someone almost 60 years younger for a paying gig, and I’ll guarantee you won’t feel like you’re a member of the over-the-hill gang.

Your next move

So if the best retirement planning strategy imaginable is never retiring, how do you go about doing that? I’m not suggesting you continue working in the same tired job, or even career, the rest of your life. Just the opposite, in fact.

I’m suggesting you explore a few of the things you’d like to be doing the rest of your life, then match those to vocational opportunities ripe for older folks.

Such opportunities do exist, as I learned recently writing an article called “Best Jobs for a Second Career.” In the course of my research, I chatted with Marci Alboher, a New York City-based vice president with San Francisco’s Civic Ventures. That organization is a non-profit think tank probing the work and social purpose of baby boomers, and advancing the movement toward later-in-life work that melds “purpose, passion and a paycheck.”

Says Alboher: “We all know people are not retiring at the same age. The reinvention is widespread … At this life stage, many people are drawn to work that feels meaningful, and will have impact beyond themselves.”

Healthy ambition

Health care is one of the largest fields luring folks intent on what Alboher calls “encore roles.” Within this vast industry are jobs ideal for people with a lot of life experience. It only makes sense that the health care industry, which treats a disproportionate number of older people, would seek a similar demographic to fill staff posts, thus surrounding oldster customers with folks who look like them.

A favorite of Alboher’s is the new and growing field of wellness coaching. Just as career and life coaches routinely find work, so too will wellness coaches be in demand by private individuals and medical practices.

Health care navigator is another intriguing job title sure to attract some folks taking on Act II careers. According to Alboher, navigators help steer people through the increasingly complex health care and insurance landscape.

Then there’s the gigantic field of nursing, a field with tremendous growth potential predicted to continue for years, if not decades. Given the need for nurse practitioners, registered nurses and licensed practical nurses, to name a few, there are opportunities for virtually anyone drawn to the field.

A few others

If you’ve had a hard-knock life, or even just seen a lot in your days, you probably have much to offer as a counselor. That’s a reason theological schools are finding greater numbers of age 50-plus people enrolling, Alboher says. In olden days, ancient wise men were sought for advice. We may be returning to this paradigm, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t profit from the renaissance.

Don’t overlook the advantages of temporary work. Whether it’s working through temporary staffing agencies or as substitute teachers in elementary schools, temporary jobs provide the flexibility many older people seek.

There is also rich potential in transforming your passions into an entrepreneurial venture. Do you love animals? Consider a pet-sitting or dog-walking business. If you have a fascination with yesteryear, you may be well suited to running an antique appraisal or restoration enterprise.

Do you have good organizational skills and an ability to help folks divest themselves of possessions? A de-cluttering consultancy could be a real growth opportunity, especially considering the huge numbers of boomers sure to be downsizing into assisted living or continuum-of-care housing in the years ahead.

You also have a chance to turn something you’d be doing anyway into a labor of love and an entrepreneurial second career. Possibilities include house-sitting, operating a companion service for older people, tutoring children and adults in skills you’ve mastered, or teaching yoga classes.

So don’t assume you have to exit stage left into the abyss of an uncertain financial future in retirement. Your best performance may still be years in the future, in the role you take on as an encore.

5 Responses to “The Plot Lines of Your Second Act”

  1. Anonymous

    I agree with Lorin. This assumes you’ll be able to work forever. Most people won’t. As someone who was out of work for five months with abdominal surgery when I was 30, it can happen earlier than you think. Fortunately, my company kept me on even though they didn’t have to and even let me go part time back into work until I was healthy enough to be full time. I was lucky. A lot of people aren’t.

    I say plan for retirement. If you can continue to work, great, but if you can’t, you won’t be eating free dog food samples.

  2. Anonymous

    This post assumes one is healthy enough to work forever. Too bad of you assume that you’ll just work, never retire, and poor health forces you out of the workforce at a younger age.

  3. Anonymous

    This strikes me as mainly feel-good nonsense. Statistics show that it takes the average over 55 yr old person more than a year to find a job and then that job pays far less than his previous job. There is serious age discrimination added to our high unemployment.

  4. Anonymous

    Seems to me the word “retirement” is obsolete, at least by the conventional definition. For me, I don’t envision or look forward to a day when I’m not working. On the contrary, as long as I have a few functioning brain cells and muscles left, I intend to be earning at least a little money, doing something I care about. This will keep mind and body active, keep me ‘in the game’ and expanding my network, and be fun! I also aim to keep plenty of time open for pure recreating, but nothing takes the place of even a small paycheck.

  5. Anonymous

    You have to love what you do for a loving. Personally, what I would love just now, at 67 with the prospect of having to work until I can’t drag myself into a classroom or an office anymore, would be to QUIT WORKING.

    If you’re going to engage in activities that earn next to nothing, like pet-sitting and house-sitting, why not do something altruistic and volunteer instead? That’s sure what I’d be doing if I didn’t have to work three underpaid jobs to put food on the table.

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