Nancy Collamer is a career coach, speaker and recognized expert on semi-retirement and boomer career trends. She writes a twice-monthly career blog for the PBS web site NextAvenue.org and for Forbes.com. She is the author of Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit From Your Passions During Semi-Retirement (Ten Speed Press, 2013) and a contributor to the books, Not Your Mother’s Retirement (Sellers, 2014) and 65 Things To Do When You Retire (Sellers, 2012). Follow her here: Consulting | Twitter | Facebook.
1MFWF: For many younger workers, retirement seems like the ultimate goal, when they can finally walk away from the daily grind and play golf all day. Is that realistic?
Nancy: Is it realistic? In some cases, yes. But is it desirable? That’s the more important question.
We are living longer healthier lives and as a result, many of us will spend 30+ years in our so-called “retirement.” That’s a heck of a lot of time to spend on leisure activities – even for the lucky few that can afford to do so.
Here’s the issue: When you’re working and busy juggling lots of different activities, leisure activities, like golf or gardening are rejuvenating. But most people find that over time the allure of a leisure-centric life fades. It’s simply not challenging enough for the long haul. Many people find they also miss the structure, routine and camaraderie a work environment provides.
As human beings, we are wired to look for meaning and purpose in our lives. We need a reason to get up each morning. So it’s no surprise that multiple surveys indicate that the majority of boomers express interest in working into retirement, albeit in a more flexible and fulfilling way.
1MFWF: We tend to think of older workers as the folks who are holding onto “traditional” workplace norms, versus millennials who are paving the way for change. But in fact, as you highlight, flexibility can be just as important to older workers as it is to younger ones. How so?
Nancy: Flexibility is critically important to people over fifty for several reasons. First, many boomers experience significant caretaking challenges as they simultaneously care for their children, aging parents, aging spouse, and in some cases, grandchildren. Second, health challenges often increase as people get older. Finally, and on a more positive note, older people want to continue to be contributors at work, but they are at a point in their careers and lives when they’d like to downshift a bit. For companies that are concerned about the impending boomer “brain-drain,” offering flexibility can be a real win-win for both the employee and the employer.
1MFWF: The idea of working into your 70s or 80s can be a scary prospect, but you share dozens of stories of people who have not only successfully transitioned into second-act careers, but are enjoying their work. What are some of the key factors that can make semi-retirement fulfilling and even fun?
Nancy: The book is filled with inspirational stories!
There are lots of keys to success, but I think what’s most important is to be aware and intentional as you plan “what’s next?” Who are you? What do you want your semi-retirement to be about? The more time you spend on introspection defining what you love, do well and find meaningful, the more likely you are to enjoy your semi-retirement.
Of course, introspection alone is not enough. That’s why it’s so important to try things out in small ways—take a class, volunteer, do a small freelance assignment – before committing to a change.
1MFWF: Does a second-act career have to be in the same field as someone’s original career?
Nancy: Definitely not. I’m fond of saying, “It’s not just a second-act. It’s a second chance.” This can be a wonderful opportunity to spread your wings and (finally!) do the things you’ve long dreamed about.
That said, it’s really helpful to look to your past for clues to your future: Is there some piece or part of your work experiences—no matter how seemingly insignificant—that might be worth leveraging as a bridge into your next act? Perhaps you most enjoyed facilitating meetings—a skill that could be transferred over to working as a director for a non-profit. Or maybe you loved mentoring younger workers at your company—an experience that could be a springboard into a second-act as an executive coach. Remember: all things being equal, it will be easiest to create a second-act career that is at least partially related to what you did before.
1MFWF: Your book is directed to workers entering semi-retirement, but might it also be a helpful resource for younger workers thinking about a career change?
Nancy: Absolutely! My daughters are in their mid-twenties and they found the book really helpful as well. The first-half of the book is chock full of resources and ideas for anyone interested in flexibility and the second-half of the book is filled with career change strategies and exercises (based on my nearly 20-years experience as a career coach). While the title includes “semi-retirement” the book is a helpful read for people of all ages who are looking for fun, flexible and meaningful work options.
photo credit: Nancy Collamer