10 Second Career Ideas for Retirees

By: Dave Roos
Mature professional.
Ready to leave the rat race? You've got more options than you think. See more corporate life pictures.
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Call it a "second act" or an "encore" career, but the fact is that millions of retirees are veering from the expected retirement routine -- golf, garden, rinse and repeat -- and launching a second career in their 60s, 70s and even 80s. A whopping 74 percent of workers plan to get a new job after they retire, according to the annual retirement expectations survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

Post-retirement workers fall into two general camps: those who can't afford to retire on their current savings and Social Security benefits; and those with a comfortable nest egg who simply want to stay active, stay engaged, pursue a long-deferred dream or give back to the community [source: Brandon].


Regardless of age, it's a tricky time to change careers. As more and more Baby Boomers reach retirement age, the economy is still struggling to regain its footing. The job market is tight for the kind of work that brings in the six-figure salaries to which some retiring executives are accustomed. But there are still plenty of intriguing job sectors out there for retirees who want to put their hard-won expertise to work or try something completely different.

The first of our second career ideas is to migrate your boardroom skills from the cutthroat business world to the more meaningful nonprofit sector.

10: Nonprofits

Many retirees have spent their careers working in high-stress corporate environments where sales figures, earnings and profit are the chief concerns, if not the only ones. If you're considering a late career change to a more personally fulfilling job, you don't need to leave behind all of the skills that served you so well in the corporate realm. Nonprofit organizations need seasoned executives and managers who are ready to use their leadership abilities to serve society rather than just sell it something.

A recent survey by a San Francisco nonprofit called Civic Ventures found that 58 percent of Baby Boomers want a second career that serves their community [source: Mattioli]. Nonprofit organizations come in all stripes, from charitable relief organizations to foundations that promote children's literacy, support the arts and sciences or help craft sustainable energy policy. Search for a nonprofit organization that matches your personal passion and trade the stress of the corner office for the satisfaction of contributing to positive change. Plus, you might find that 40-hour weeks (instead of 60 or 70) leave time for those things called hobbies.


Next, let's look at another great second career option for retirees: education.

9: Education

Mature teacher.
Why don't you lend your vast life experience to those who may need it later?
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According to projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, education will be the third fastest-growing job sector in the decade spanning 2008 through 2018. Teaching is a deeply rewarding profession where you can make a meaningful difference in the lives of your students.

In the wake of the recession, however, as housing prices plummet (and the tax base for school funding dwindles) many public school districts are facing a unique challenge. On one hand, there is a serious teacher shortage, but on the other hand, districts are being forced to drastically cut their operating budgets.


Interestingly, this pickle presents an excellent career opportunity for retirees with teaching or library experience who want to work full- or part-time as a teacher's aide or library aide. As a teacher's aide, you can bring your valuable expertise to the classroom, acting as a mentor to a younger teacher or just lending an extra pair of hands to an overcrowded classroom. Library aides help out with all of the normal library duties (checking out books, reshelving, sending out late notices, fielding research questions) and can fill in if necessary.

There are also teaching opportunities for retirees without prior teaching experience. Many business, engineering, math and computing departments at community colleges seek out professionals with significant experience in the field to teach their classes. That doesn't mean that you can walk straight out of your job and into the classroom, however: You'll most likely need to receive a master's degree in education, which can be completed in one year of full-time study, or two years of part-time evening or online classes.

Next we'll look at second career opportunities for retirees in healthcare.

8: Health care

Health care and social assistance is by far the fastest growing job sector in America [source: Bureau of Labor Statistics]. As with education, health care is another tremendously rewarding career with lots of human interaction and hands-on care. Aging Baby Boomers will soon require more specialized medical assistance -- nutritionists, physical therapists, speech pathologists and other professionals -- and there is a growing need for individuals certified to offer home health nursing care. Home health aides and nurses can assist the elderly with daily household tasks and also provide help for families with special needs children [source: Hannon].

If you're considering a second career in the healthcare industry, you will probably need to go back to school for a medical assistant degree, a home health nursing degree, or a master's degree in a specialization like physical therapy or speech pathology.


Next we'll look at some great second career idea for retirees with accounting experience.

7: Bookkeeping and Tax Preparation

Mature accountant.
If you have accounting experience, you could do very well working only a few months each year.
Headhunters/Getty Images

Running a small business is a daunting task, especially if your entrepreneurial strengths lie more towards designing modernist furniture than writing up a balance sheet. If you're ready to retire as a full-time CPA or corporate accountant, there are ample opportunities for a freelance career as a bookkeeper or a seasonal tax preparer.

Bookkeepers can bounce around between several small businesses, depending on their needs. Maybe one company only needs help handling payroll for 10 employees, but another company needs the whole package: accounts payable/receivable, creating financial reports, tracking investments and the like. The bulk of bookkeeping work is usually in the middle and the end of the month, leaving some time to pursue other retirement hobbies [source: Hannon].


Tax preparation is terrific work if you'd rather squeeze all of your income (and stress) into the four-month window from January through April. You can offer your services to businesses and individuals alike, charging by the hour or by the service. Keep in mind that you'll need to acquire a Preparer Tax Identification Number from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) [source: Hannon]. You don't want to cross those guys.

For the next second career idea, try this nifty trick: Don't leave your company.

6: Consulting

Believe it or not, there are plenty of people who actually like their jobs. According to a 2009 survey from the Society for Human Resources Management, 86 percent of employees indicate "overall satisfaction" with their jobs and an impressive 41 percent say they are "very satisfied." So what do you do if you don't want to leave your company, but simply want to have more time to pursue other interests in addition to your perfectly satisfying job?

One solution is to try consulting. Some companies will hire back retired employees as part-time contract workers in the very same departments and with the very same responsibilities as before [source: Mattioli]. The benefits for the company are having an experienced and loyal employee who costs less than before (many consulting positions don't carry health insurance or other benefits). As for the worker, she gets to keep working with people she likes, but for less hours a week and with more freedom to travel or simply avoid rush hour traffic.


Of course, you could always leave the nest and try your hand as an independent contractor, particularly if you have serious expertise and cache in a consulting niche like management, information technology, finance or marketing. If money isn't an issue, you could offer your services through an organization like the National Executive Service Corps that recruits retired executives to give managerial and strategic operations advice to nonprofits.

If you made quite a name for yourself as an executive, maybe it's time to pass on your secrets to the next generation as an executive coach. Find out more about this in-demand mentoring service with our next second career idea for retirees.

5: Executive & Career Coaching

Executive coach.
If you want out of the rat race while teaching others how to win it, consider a second career as an executive coach.
Alistair Berg/Getty Images

Nobody knows more about navigating the rat race -- and winning it -- than an experienced corporate executive. If you've built an impressive resume over the course of your career, you could parlay that achievement into a second career as a mentor and coach for the corner-office crowd. You can either sell your services as an independent contractor or receive training and certification from a popular coaching service like ActionCOACH, which has locations in 26 countries [source: Mattioli].

Again, this doesn't have to be full-time work. Executive coaches charge from $150 to $500 an hour, depending on experience, so you can make plenty of retirement spending money without sacrificing your tee times [source: McCarthy]. Career coaching is a particularly good second career choice for retirees with solid experience in human resources or executive headhunting. It can even be a career option for retired psychologists who can help unemployed execs find their true calling.


But what if you're sick and tired of office politics and wearing a pantsuit to work? Our next second career idea for retirees might be right up your alley.

4: Bartenders

Some people spend their entire working life cooped up in a cubicle, stuck in a lonely lab or snapping together widgets on a faceless assembly line. When retirement finally arrives, they are ready to escape solitary confinement and find a second career that lets them actually interact with other humans and maybe even make them smile.

Bartending is a second career that's a good match for sociable retirees. All it takes is a quick course at a bartending school and you're ready to sling drinks and make small talk at bars, restaurants, nightclubs and anywhere else where folks are looking to unwind. Tending bar doesn't have to be a young person's game. The main criteria are a good memory for drink recipes, an equally good memory for people's favorite drinks, a warm personality and the ability to listen [source: Boswell].


As a retiree, you can take advantage of second careers that didn't even exist when you were starting out, like blogging. Learn more on the next page.

3: Bloggers & Columnists

Mature writer.
Start a blog and share your myriad life experiences with the world.
Kim Steele/Getty Images

Blogging might not look like a real job at first. For starters, you just sit there in front a computer, preferably in your underwear, sharing your off-the-cuff insights on everything from organic gardening to foreign policy to professional wrestling. But if you're a compelling writer with a strong voice, and you give yourself time to develop a small following, a good blog can become like an open conversation with the world.

To make a living as a blogger, you have to become savvy with Google Ads or get picked up by a paying blog network. For a more traditional route, you can apply to be a columnist for a publication, online or print, in your area of expertise. Liz Ryan, for example, is a widely published career advice columnist who was formerly a human resources executive for a Fortune 500 company.


It's best to start small and aim for a very specific niche -- recreational bow-hunting or small business accounting -- and sell yourself to trade publications in that field. Get ready for a lot of rejection, but be persistent and you could find yourself with a satisfying second career as a writer and a little extra cash to spend on a nice thesaurus.

If the fame from your blog and columns starts to go to your head, you might start entertaining crazy thoughts like our next second career idea for retirees: politics.

2: Politics

If it seems like all politicians were formerly lawyers, that's because they were, in most cases. And if you start to sense a connection between the low public esteem for lawyers and the low public opinion of most politicians, that's because there is. Of all of the former lawyers-turned-politicians, Fred Thompson is of particular note, because he was not only a charismatic trial lawyer from 1975 to 1992, but then a fairly well-known actor starting in 1985, before being elected a U.S. Senator from Tennessee from 1994 to 2003, and then returning to acting on "Law & Order" before making a bid for the presidency in 2008.

Whether you're a former lawyer (U.S. President Barack Obama) or a former oil baron (former U.S. President George W. Bush) or a former finance mogul (New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg), there may be a future ahead of you in public service. Try running for the school board, the county comptroller or some other position where you can start small. If you get a taste for it, you might have landed yourself a rewarding second career fighting for the rights of the little guy, or maybe even the big guys (hint: the big guys make bigger campaign contributions).


If you're still having a hard time deciding on a second career choice, perhaps that's because you're only thinking about working for somebody else. Maybe you were always meant to be an entrepreneur -- or at least a franchisee. More on franchise ownership next.

1: Franchise Owner

Subway franchise.
Opening a franchise can be a lucrative second career for retirees.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

It's never too late to be an entrepreneur that is, if you have loads of cash on hand that you don't mind losing. Unfortunately, the fact is that 30 percent of new small businesses close within the first five years. But if you still dream of being your own boss, the safer route is to buy into an existing franchise.

There are over 800,000 different franchises in America and franchise ownership is becoming a popular second career option for Baby Boomers. Thirty-five percent of Decorating Den store franchisees, for example, are over 50 and the same percentage of Caring Transitions store owners are between 55 and 60 [source: Hill]. But even with successful franchises, there is no guarantee that your store will succeed. There are still many variables to contend with -- location, the local market demographics, quality of employees and things of that nature -- that can equal big profits or big problems.

You should be ready to invest a serious chunk of cash -- between $150,000 and $1 million -- for the franchise rights, and then be ready to work as an owner-operator for a couple of years to get the business off the ground [source: Williams]. This means long hours, so make sure that you still have the energy to do 14-hour days covering shifts for missing employees.

There are many franchise opportunities in some of the second career options we've already covered, like tax preparation services, home health care and beauty salons. If you are a strong manager and frugal with finances, you might find big success and rewarding work as a franchise entrepreneur.

For lots more creative career options, head to the links on the next page.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Boswell, Laura. AARP. "Older Bartenders Pour Into Profession." January 11, 2011 (Accessed May 1, 2011.)http://www.aarp.org/work/working-after-retirement/info-01-2011/older-bartenders-pour-into-profession.html
  • Brandon, Emily. US News & World Report. "Five tips for finding your second career." April 26, 2006 (Accessed May 1, 2011.)http://www.usnews.com/usnews/biztech/articles/060426/26secondcareer_retirement.htm
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-11 Edition. "Overview of the 2008-2018 Predictions" (Accessed May 2, 2011.)http://www.bls.gov/oco/oco2003.htm#occupation
  • Employee Benefit Research Institute. "2011 Retirement Confidence Survey Fact Sheet #5: Changing Expectations About Retirement"(Accessed May 1, 2011.)http://www.ebri.org/pdf/surveys/rcs/2011/FS5_RCS11_Expects_FINAL1.pdf
  • Gustavson, Jennifer. New York Daily News. "Think hair cut: Cosmetology is a draw for many 9-to-5ers." August 3, 2009 (Accessed May 1, 2011.)http://articles.nydailynews.com/2009-08-03/news/17930028_1_empire-beauty-school-cosmetology-hair
  • Hannon, Kerry. AARP. "5 Great Seasonal Jobs for Retirees." January 2011 (Accessed May 1, 2011.)http://www.aarp.org/work/working-after-retirement/info-11-2010/5-great-seasonal-jobs-for-retirees.html
  • Hannon, Kerry. US News & World Report. "6 Tips on Planning a Second Career." August 20, 2008. (Accessed May 2, 2011.)http://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/articles/2008/08/20/6-tips-on-planning-a-second-career
  • Hill, Catey. Smart Money. "Franchises for Boomer: What You Need to Know." February 28, 2011 (Accessed May 2, 2011.)http://www.smartmoney.com/personal-finance/retirement/franchising-for-baby-boomers-1298400384060/#ixzz1LDD5uqDv
  • Mattioli, Dana. The Wall Street Journal. "Second Acts: Career Paths for Worn-Out Executives." April 25, 2008 (Accessed May 1, 2011.)http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120767069301298203.html
  • McCarthy, Anna. Marketwatch. "Executive coach coaches the invisible boss." June 18, 2009 (Accessed May 1, 2011.)http://www.marketwatch.com/story/executive-coach-coaches-the-invisible-boss
  • Society for Human Resources Management. "2009 Employee Job Satisfaction" (Accessed May 1, 2011.)http://www.shrm.org/Research/SurveyFindings/Articles/Documents/09-0282_Job_Satis_SR_Exec_Sum.pdf
  • Williams, Geoff. AARP. "Starting a Business Over 50." March 9, 2011 (Accessed May 1, 2011.)http://www.aarp.org/work/self-employment/info-03-2011/starting-a-business-over-50.html