Encore Careers Elude U.S. Workers

Financial challenges are making “encore careers” elusive, frustrating millions of Americans who want to put their skills to work for the greater good. 

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The recent economic downturn and other factors are making it more difficult than ever for Americans to transition to “encore careers” – midlife career changes that allow workers to use their skills and resources for the greater good in their local community.

According to research from the nonprofit think tank, Civic Ventures, as many as 31 million workers aged 44 to 70 have a desires to transition to an encore career that enables them to perform socially meaningful work while still receiving steady income.

However, the study also found that large numbers of encore career job seekers experience significant difficulties in transitioning to more meaningful career opportunities. Two-thirds of the 9 million workers who have currently succeeded at an encore career change experienced reduced or no income during the transition to their new jobs.

“There’s a big payoff from encore careers, for individuals and for our entire society,” said Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of Civic Ventures and author of The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife. “But making the switch is hard. Employers, policymakers and all of us in our own lives need to think creatively about how to make the investments in encore transitions that lead to these new, more fulfilling careers.”

Experts suggest that there are several steps workers can take to prepare for an encore career transition:

  1. Financial Planning

    Financial counselors can help workers compare their work and retirement options, assess their assets and make plans that may include more flexible work schedules. The return on investment in encore transitions depends on several variables including the length and the rewards of an encore career.

  2. Savings Options

    Older workers can use 529 college savings accounts to save for their own education, not just for their children’s. Brokerages and insurance companies have flexible income planning and annuity products to bridge the transition income gap, making it easier for more Americans to plan for encore career opportunities.

  3. Service Opportunities

    Paid or stipend-based national and community service opportunities (e.g. AmeriCorps, VISTA, Senior Corps programs) cover out-of-pocket expenses and provide experience for an encore career. AmeriCorps’ basic health coverage and education award transferable to a child or grandchild (for those 55 and older) make this widely available program a viable transition option.

  4. Entrepreneurship Support

    Boomers and older adults have emerged as the country’s most entrepreneurial age group, creating jobs for themselves and others. Financing, coaching and business planning can help these new ventures succeed and grow.

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