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Returning to School Can Help Retirees Launch Second Careers

Approximately 30 companies have partnered with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) to actively recruit older workers to fill gaps in their employee ranks. These companies realize that not only do older workers bring years of experience; they often have management skills that younger workers may lack. Many retirees are eagerly taking on new gigs, and some are even going back to school to become more marketable.

Who Plans to Work
William T. Connolly, Putnam Investments head of Retail Management, says “For many, retirement is just a planned pause before resuming a career.” Seven million strong, these ‘working retired’ make up almost one third of all American retirees. Only 34% of people surveyed by Robert Half Management Resources said they plan to stop working when they retire, 24% plan to change careers, 14% plan to work as consultants, and 14% plan to cut back on their hours but work for the same company.

Retirees who plan to work in a new field may need to continue their education. According to an online article at abcNEWS, Brian Pusser, Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Virginia says, “The number of adult learners is increasing rapidly. There will be over a million baby boomers enrolled this fall.”

Teachers Are Needed
Some school districts are actively recruiting retired persons to work in classrooms. While some of these are volunteer positions, more schools are hiring retirees as paid employees. For example, the EnCorps Teachers Program is partnering with businesses to recruit and train retirees to teach science and math classes in California schools. California’s Office of the Governor estimates that California will lose 100,000 teachers over the next decade due to retirements.

Teaching is a good second career choice for people who have specialized skills and knowledge. The Peace Corp is also looking for volunteers over the age of 50; with teaching skills in high demand. Retirees can enroll in education programs that help them earn a teaching certificate or degree. For people who enjoy working with children, teaching in elementary through high school provides an opportunity to help shape young minds. Adult and continuing education classes and community organizations and large and small businesses also need instructors. Courses in public speaking and communications can help prepare a retiree to teach classes and groups.

Consulting Offers Choices
Having industry-specific knowledge can result in big bucks for some retirees. As a consultant, they can use their skills to assist others who want take their business to the next level. Offering advice, problem solving, and business analysis, they recommend ways to improve a business. The upside of being a consultant is being able to set your own hours, choose which projects you want to accept, and use your existing skills. The downside could be that pay may be irregular, benefits are often not included, and a consultant may be required to wear many entrepreneurial hats. Some retirees ease themselves into second careers by consulting on projects for previous employers.

Retirees interested in consulting can benefit from courses that help update their knowledge in their field or specialization. With responsibility for administrative duties and other tasks they may not be familiar with, retirees can take courses, such as bookkeeping, using office software, and marketing that can help them with the day-to-day running of a business. Some in-demand fields looking for consultants are real estate, financial planning, writing, business management, and sales.

Seasonal Tax Preparation
Retirees looking for flexible, seasonal work may want to consider tax preparation. People who’ve already worked in accounting, bookkeeping, and other financial areas may already have the necessary expertise. The Internal Revenue Service, an AARP partner, is looking for part-time, full-time, and seasonal tax preparation experts. But even people who haven’t worked in the finance industry can learn tax preparation skills through one of many tax preparation services that offer courses you can complete in a few months. Some tax preparers opt to work in retail locations while others may be able to work from home.

Depending on which company they work for, tax preparers can earn an hourly salary plus commissions. Because the busiest season for tax preparers is from January through April, retirees who like to travel can earn the bulk of their income during tax season and travel during the rest of the year. If you have good people skills and don’t mind the long seasonal hours that may be required, tax preparation can be a good second career choice.

Sales Jobs Offer Flexibility
A job in sales–in department stores, specialty shops, resorts, and a number of other locations including America’s national parks–can offer retired persons more flexibility to enjoy activities outside of work. Some employers view older workers as ideal candidates for retail sales jobs because they tend to be more patient and attentive to customers than younger workers.

Part-time or seasonal sales positions usually start around $8 to $10 an hour but can be as high as $20 an hour depending on previous experience, according to CNNMoney. And retail supervisors can earn as much as $30 an hour.

People with specialized knowledge in areas such as technology or fashion can find themselves earning even more money in sales. Retirees hoping to land a higher paying, more specialized sales job can benefit from taking courses to gain new skills. Although sales jobs can offer a lot of flexibility, some may also require a lot of standing, something that may not appeal to older workers with certain health issues. However, retirees who don’t want to be on their feet all day may enjoy working on the phone as a customer service representative.

Retirement Considerations
For many Americans, not working is no longer an option during their retirement years. Some retirees work because they can’t afford the rising costs of health care, housing, food, and other living expenses. Other retired persons choose to continue working for personal fulfillment or to have a sense of accomplishment. When considering your retirement options, ask yourself the following questions: What do you really enjoy doing? Will you need more education or training to be marketable? How much money do you need to earn? Do you need benefits? How much flexibility do you need?

Take a look at your options–continue in your present job full time or reduce your hours, go back to school and transition to a second career, start your own business, or any of a number of other interesting retirement possibilities. With the national move toward valuing the skills of older workers, retirement can be your new beginning.

Publish date: March 12, 2008