Kiplinger's Personal Finance|July 2020
CHANDA TORREY FOUND RETIREMENT wonderful for the first two weeks. Then, not so much.
Torrey, 50, of West Palm Beach, Fla., retired in mid 2019 as a Red Cross regional chief development officer. At first, she thought retirement was “paradise,” she says. “But after a few months, I didn’t know who I was. Not having a goal or something to do every day had an effect on my mental health.”
Torrey’s experience is not unusual. Retirement may sound wonderful in the abstract, and for some, it’s a perfect opportunity to leave the working world behind and travel, volunteer or spend time with grandchildren. But for others, a job is a necessity, either for their finances or for their psyche.
And now the fall-out from the COVID-19 pandemic has left some older people facing particular problems. Some have been forced into retirement before they were ready, and many new and existing retirees have seen their savings plummet along with the stock market.
How do you assess your next step? First, ask yourself some questions. Do you want to work full-time? If your finances don’t require full-time work, is part-time a better fit? Are you eager to tackle a whole new career, or do you want to continue primarily in the field you just left? Do you want something that can be all-consuming, such as starting your own business, or a more low-key job with fewer responsibilities? (For more self-assessment advice, see the box at right.)
The outlook may seem grim for finding a job now, particular for those over 50. But there are new possibilities for older job seekers, says Marci Alboher, vice president of Encore.org, a nonprofit that encourages seniors to use their skills and experiences to help communities. “I think we’re going to be seeing needs and opportunities where they weren’t before,” she says.
For example, with many jobs moving online in March, remote work is likely to become more acceptable to employers than in the past—and many older Americans might be willing to venture into that arena after experimenting with Zoom, Skype or other video chat services and becoming more comfortable with the technology. Plus, remote work is a trend that will likely gain momentum. A recent report from the Brookings Institution predicted that telecommuting would continue long after the pandemic ceases.
Torrey knew what she wanted to do for an encore career. For years, she had thought about starting a website that sells unique gifts from other companies. But she didn’t have the time and energy to launch it until she retired. “I did not go back to work for money,” she says. “I needed to learn something new, to challenge myself.”
For $2,000, she hired an expert to show her how to develop a website and to troubleshoot problems for her. Torrey’s background in nonprofit organizations was helpful because she was able to figure out how to make things work with limited resources.
Last November, her site, Gifterworld .com, went live. She does not sell directly to customers; rather, the companies she links to give her a percentage of the sale. Torrey also offers a free concierge service that will scour the internet for just the right gift.
She currently makes about $600 a month from her site; in a year, she anticipates her income will be $1,500 a month. In five years, “it will be easy money,” she anticipates.
The work is wonderful and terrifying, Torrey says. “The scariest moment was when I clicked publish and the website went live. I thought I would swallow my stomach,” she says. “I was worried about people judging me and finding something wrong. I ended up selling three items that first day.”
E-commerce will continue to be a field with plenty of opportunities. Another growing field is health care, with needs ranging from care workers to medical technicians to people who can handle the administrative work related to the medical industry. That includes the relatively new area of patient advocacy.
AnnMarie McIlwain, 59, was in a good position to become a patient advocate. McIlwain is a former business consultant to the pharmaceutical industry, but she always wanted to be an entrepreneur. She tried to start an online job search site, but it was never profitable.
But after taking care of her father-in-law, who had advanced cancer for many years, McIlwain learned that she was very good at supporting and negotiating his medical needs. “I did a business plan and concluded that I could be both competitive and successful” as a patient advocate, she says.
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