Encore Careers: Options for Work and Purpose After Retirement

After decades of having a career, you may find that suddenly retiring to a life of leisure doesn’t work for you. Whether that’s because of financial reasons, a desire to improve mental or physical well-being, or just because you enjoy a certain occupation, you don’t have to stop working simply because you’ve retired. Many people who retire from their primary careers find success and enjoyment in their later stages of life through a variety of options, including encore careers.

As more baby boomers enter retirement age, many are remaining in the labor force. By 2026, the 75-and-older age group is projected to have the fastest growth in terms of share of the U.S. labor force, followed by the 65-74-year-old age group, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

So, if you’re considering your options in retirement, it’s good to know that work can still be very much on the table and that you can plan for an encore career now based on your retirement goals.

How to Plan for Work in Retirement

The first step in figuring out if you’re likely to work in retirement is to determine whether you’re on track to reach your financial goals. If you’re nearing retirement and haven’t come up with a detailed financial plan, it’s crucial to do so to know whether you’ll have enough income to retire on.

From there, you can determine whether you need to supplement your income in order not to overspend, or whether you have enough savings and projected income—such as from Social Security or a pension—to live comfortably.

If you need to supplement your income, then you can consider encore careers based on their ability to provide you with enough pay to close any financial gaps. Based on the amount you need, you can decide whether full-time or part-time work is right for you, as well as what line of work would provide you with the income you need. If you don’t necessarily need the income, then you can focus on work that will fulfill your interests and give you purpose in retirement, such as working at a nonprofit.

Of course, there can be overlap between these two areas: A job that gives you purpose can also give you income. And if you need to find a job for financial reasons, you can choose one based on your interests, much as you might have chosen your first career based on what appealed to you at the time.

What Types of Encore Careers Can Retirees Choose?

Some retirees can transition into retirement with their current employers by moving into part-time or contract work with that same company, perhaps with different responsibilities. For example, a salesperson could transition from a full-time career with their own client accounts into a role in retirement where that person trains new salespeople.

Similarly, a retiree could use the skills they’ve developed over their career to start a company or freelance business in retirement. Whether you’re a graphic designer, writer, IT professional, or a variety of other occupations, you may find success by providing those same services to multiple companies rather than being employed by one. Doing so could also give the flexibility that many people want in retirement.

In other cases, retirees take a completely different route in their encore careers. A doctor could open a restaurant; a lawyer could work for an interior designer; a real estate agent could write a book. Whatever you’ve done up to this point in your career doesn’t need to define your second act, particularly if you have the financial flexibility to try your hand at a new career based primarily on your interests.

Having more time in retirement could also mean that you choose to engage in volunteer work. Doing so could enable you to both use some of your current skills and learn new ones, all while helping others in need.

Any of these paths can help give you purpose in retirement and make your days more interesting and enjoyable, whether that’s because you enjoy pursuing interests, you like the challenge of work, or you’re able to gain more financial freedom by earning additional income in retirement.

Think about your retirement goals and how you can incorporate an encore career into that vision. And if you find that you’d prefer to not work in retirement, that’s OK too! Retirement is yours to define.