The average lifespan in the United States has jumped from 47 years to 78 years in a century, leaving many people celebrating the extra longevity but wondering what to do during those added years — and how to pay for them, according to author Marci Alboher.
In "The Encore Career Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life," the New York City writer and vice president of Encore.org explains how people can find meaningful new careers.
Whether a person is 40 years old or 70-plus, Alboher writes, "The good news is that you still have time: Time to follow, or discover, your passion. Time to do something that matters. Time to help yourself — and others, too. We all have more time to make the most of our lives."
To start, Alboher includes exercises in her book to help people brainstorm ideas they already have for future work, what they are looking for in a future career, issues they are passionate about, roles and tasks they want to avoid and skills and interests.
The exercises can help those who are undecided narrow the choices down to three top contenders.
Alboher includes a list of more than 30 meaningful careers that are in demand now and likely to experience growth in the future.
Her "Encore Hot List" includes nursing and other health care jobs, social services and counseling, education, nonprofit sector work and environmental jobs.
While new careers later in life can help pay the bills or even be lucrative, Alboher cautions that 67 percent of people who made a switch had an earnings gap. Of those, nearly 70 percent experienced a gap of six months or longer.
Keeping ties with a former job through full or part-time work during the transition can ease the financial strain.
Alboher outlines common financial mistakes to avoid. They include taking Social Security payments too early and failing to plan for health insurance and health care costs.
Hanging on to a job with health care benefits while transitioning, or taking advantage of a spouse's family health insurance coverage can be critical.
An encore career allows people to defer collecting Social Security, which means they will later receive higher payments. They can also avoid drawing down their savings and continue contributing to their retirement accounts, Alboher writes.
She gives a primer on the importance of social networking, both in person and online. Don't be shy about calling someone in a desirable field to set up a phone or face-to-face meeting to learn more about the field.
Build and use Facebook and Twitter networks to connect with your friends and acquaintances who may have valuable contacts, and create a strong, professional-looking profile on LinkedIn, Alboher says.
Using those social media tools can help older people combat age discrimination by showing they are willing to learn and use new technology. Tap into the experience of a relative or friend, or seek out a community class, to learn about those tools if needed.
Alboher recommends volunteering, consulting, serving on a nonprofit organization's board, interning or job shadowing as methods for building connections and learning more about prospective careers.
Going back to school is also an option for gaining skills and credentials.
Other practical tools in "The Encore Handbook" include sample resumes, a budget worksheet, a guide to writing a business plan for encore entrepreneurs and dozens of addresses for informative websites.