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Working in Retirement: How to Find a Job That Works for You

Category: Work and Volunteering

January 8, 2012 — Which category do you fall into:
– Can’t wait to retire, never want to work again
– Have no intention of retiring
– Don’t want to work anymore, but have to for survival
– Want to stay busy, but in a job different from what I did before

In our experience most people fall into one of these categories or somewhere in between. If your profile matches one of the last 2 categories (that is, you intend to work), it is extremely important that you invest some time planning just how you are going to find a job that meets your needs. This article, which springs from a suggestion by Topretirements’ member Dave Ellison, will explore the “how to find work in retirement” part of the story. Part 2 will provide suggestions for the “Best Places to find work in retirement“.

Working in Retirement Vs. an Encore Career
In his book, “Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life”, Mark Freedman makes the meaningful distinction between “working in retirement” and an “encore career”. If finances are your major driver you will be “working in retirement”; you need to find a job that will pay enough to meet your needs. If your retirement goal is to do something significant, meaningful, rewarding, or just plain fun – you are looking for an encore career. But, even if money is your major reason for working, it does not necessarily rule out an encore career.

Most Retirees Will Come up Short
You are not alone if a review of your retirement budget finds you coming up short; the majority of baby boomers are going to have do some belt tightening in retirement. The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) reported that only 14% of those surveyed were very confident they will have enough money to live comfortably in retirement. Retirement savings are not what they should be either. Indeed the non-profit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies found that about a quarter of American workers will be forced to live on their social security payments alone, which will average $2,048/month per couple in 2013. The same survey reported that the majority of Americans plan to both delay retirement past age 65, and to continue working after they retire.

What Is Your Plan?
Retirement is a do-over on life – if work is part of your retirement, we recommend you take control. You will have a lot better chance of success finding employment in retirement if you have a plan. Otherwise you run the risk of not finding work, just taking the first thing that comes along, and/or missing the potential that could have been yours. Here are some key elements that might be in your plan:
Locate where there are more jobs. In the next installment we will focus on where to find the best retirement jobs. In the meantime, stay away from areas with high unemployment and narrow employment options. Look for healthy economies with diverse employers.
What kind of work would you like to do? If your intention is to capitalize on the working skills you already have, research areas that have concentrations of employers looking for those skills. If part-time work will do the trick for you, think about areas with significant tourist based or seasonal businesses. Those employers typically need seasonal help for work in restaurants, hotels, RV parks, golf courses, amusement parks, tourist attractions, mail order businesses, etc.
Would a new skill help? Tens of thousands of jobs in this country go unfilled because workers don’t have the skills to do them. Community colleges are doing a great job of trying to help train those workers. So, consider retiring to an area with a good community college. Study their offerings to see what skills are in most demand, then go back to school.

Target your employer. You can dramatically improve your chances for finding a decent job if you invest the time to figure out who you want to work for. So research the potential employers in your area, and visit them to find out what it’s like to work there. Or, check them out online on sites like and, where people talk about what it is like to work in different companies. If there is a business you patronize and like, that can be valuable. You not only know something about them, but you also have an in because they know who you are. If you choose who you want to work for your enthusiasm will help sell why you should get the job over someone else.
How are you going to find that job? It might have been a long while since you last looked for a job. Unfortunately, the Internet hasn’t necessarily made that process easier. Employers are over-run with online applications – you can send out hundreds of applications and chances are no human being will ever see them. The old-fashioned ways are best. Visit your targeted employers in person so they can see they are dealing with a serious person. Referrals from friends and former associates will be much more successful than cold calls – the fact that someone is willing to vouch for you is a big plus. Be wary of ads on craigslist or other job sites, where many would be jobs are actually scams. Look up the company on or to see what customers say about them. Your Linkedin and Facebook pages might be useful, or at least reveal contacts who might be able to help. Look in the classifieds and store windows for help wanted ads. If a company looks busy and prosperous, they probably have a need for some good part-time help.
Practice makes perfect. If your new job involves an interview have a rehearsal first. The ideal solution is to role play with a friend, hopefully someone who has conducted hiring interviews before. That way you can practice what to say about gaps on your resume, why your experience makes you better than a younger candidate, plus why you are right for this job. And while you are at it, have your friend review your resume – does it clearly target the position you are targeting?
Don’t shoot yourself in the foot. There are so many potential ways to blow a job interview, all of them avoidable. Learn as much as you can about the company so you sound intelligent and enthusiastic. Don’t talk money and benefits until it’s clear they want you. Be positive about yourself and former bosses. Don’t be unreasonable about your schedule – e.g.; don’t demand an April vacation if you intend to help prepare tax returns!

Finding Your Encore Career
An encore career is a career change made later in life, one where the objective is to find satisfaction and make a difference rather than just making money. That new career might be paid, unpaid, or paid but only a fraction of what you earned before. That choice is up to you. The job finding tips we listed above are all relevant to finding your encore career. This article in the Huffington Post, “More Boomers Aspire to Social Careers” also has some excellent advice.

For many people an encore career means helping others. Perhaps teaching children, mentoring small businesses, working in a library or shelter, helping older people, or taking care of orphaned pets at an animal shelter. The choices are almost infinite, limited just by your interests and the facilities around you. As with any job search, finding the best encore career involves work and planning. Start by listing your interests and goals – that should guide your search. Then talk with as many people and organizations as you can; you will learn so much from each. Visit your nearest community college to find out what potential skills you might acquire to help you get a job that fits your needs.

The Bottom Line
Maybe working in retirement wasn’t what you had in mind after all those years at the office. But if that is what it takes for a happy retirement, our advice is to be pro-active about finding work that meets your needs. And if what you have in mind is an encore career, go for it! We don’t think you will regret that decision. In fact, some recent studies found that having a purpose in life is an important factor in staving off cognitive declines. Finally, we recommend watching the PBS Newshour segment on Vita Needle, where the average age is 74. One of their employees is 100!

For further reading:
Part 2: Best Places for Working in Retirement
5 Ways to Find Second Act Careers
Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life” (the article might require a subscription but you can find the book at Amazon or your local bookstore)
No Job in Retirement: Opportunity Knocks
Transamerica Retirement Survey
Adventurous Careers (scroll down this Blog category and you will see a number of articles we have written about retirees who are volunteering in their encore careers)

Comments: What kind of jobs have you had in retirement? Are you working in retirement or did you decide to go for an Encore career. Please share your experiences and thoughts in the Comments section below.

Posted by Admin on January 7th, 2013


  1. Here are three quick examples from my book: work at home (yes, it can be legit). Marie shared her story of working at home for Alpine Access; work for the Peace Corp (about 5 percent of volunteers are over 50, and they pay medical, a living allowance, and a transition payment when you return home); go to (see the tab for “Older and Bolder” under “Find a Job” – work in a park, ski resort, etc.).
    Jan Cullinane, The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement (John Wiley & Sons)

    by Jan Cullinane — January 8, 2013

  2. I took early retirement from the College where I was serving as VP for Information Services in 2005 at the age of 61. I received a nice three year early retirement package which included my health insurance. In 2007 I had the opportunity to go back to work as the Director of our local public library. It was a fun five years of learning about a new facet of serving a new community and developing new programs. The unique thing was that I was able to pull from my past experience with building projects to help build a new public library after the previous building was destroyed by an arsonist. This role also provided an opportunity to learn about small town municipal government. After retiring again in January 2012, we did some traveling, but by spring I thought I should see if there was some other opportunities to serve. I learned that the city was looking for someone to plant and maintain the city flower beds. So now I am the Flower Crew Chief for our small community. I have flexible, part-time hours and find working with my hands and creating beauty through the flower beds a new challenge which I am thoroughly enjoying. I get to hire a couple of college students to work with me which again has links to my past experience. I also get to work with many different city offices and staff and have really enjoyed a new level interaction with the “guys” in the trenches. As long as I am physically able, I plan to work in this role. I guess I can truly say I have been blessed by the post-retirement opportunities to serve my community through part-time work and a wide range of volunteer roles.

    by Dave — January 8, 2013

  3. As a retired teacher, substitute teaching is an option I will consider. I say consider because my hope is that I won’t have to rely on supplementing my income with substitute teaching. Yes, the stresses of test scores and multiple reports, lesson planning, and pile of papers to correct aren’t there when you substitute teach, but it just isn’t the same as being in the classroom. What I loved most about teaching was the impact I could have helping a child feel good about themselves as they learned and became more confident. The mental stimulation for me was also gratifying. Those qualities of teaching are somewhat lost when all you are doing is substituting. So in a pinch, yes, it will help add $ and perhaps fill time, but won’t be the satisfying job I enjoyed for 48 years! I think volunteering in the classroom will be more to my liking, but that won’t supplement retirement income. I’m hoping the politicians won’t force me into the work force again!

    by Angela — January 8, 2013

  4. I retired at 62 because I had no choice. I lost my job in 2011, I was a welder. I have no 401K or any type of insurance. I have no choice but to go back to work. I am also very able to do something new but don’t know where to start. I have been a welder all of my life. I am lost! I have never been without a job. What should I do?

    by Dennis — January 9, 2013

  5. I would like to add under “target your employer” a good way to find a job. Ask the employers you might want to work for what staffing agencies they use. Most use one or two and have developed strong relationships with them. So, if you interview with one of those agenices and they like you, chances are they employer you want to work for will see you since their agency vouches for you. Much easier than cold calling a potential employer’s HR dept and asking them for an interview.

    by scott — January 9, 2013

  6. How do I print this off?

    by kmb — January 9, 2013

  7. Right click your screen and see if print shows up.

    by Edward — January 9, 2013

  8. For work, look into driving jobs. Just be sure you want to do what the job asks of you. If you can’t drive at night, don’t do it. If you only want part time, and job requires over-time, don’t do it. Simple. Be sure you can and want to do what the job requires.

    by Edward — January 9, 2013

  9. I retired at 62, not by choice company was cutting back. I took a CDL class, and now, I drive part-time for a major company 10 days per month or more, and that keeps us afloat!

    by james — January 9, 2013

  10. Don’t rule out using “Craigslist” just be careful & use common sense (if it’s too good to be true- it probably is a scam). I have found 2 fairly interesting jobs since I had to take an early retirement in 2011. The pay is not always the greatest, but you can get a sense of what employers are looking for & there are interesting jobs.

    by Trish — January 9, 2013

  11. The NY Times has a very timely article on this same topic today, Over 50 and Under No Illusions: How 5 Older Workers Took Their Chances and Reinvented Careers.

    And today’s news brings another really timely article from WSJ MarketWatch on how boomers can become entrepreneurs

    Keep the helpful tips on this topic, they have all been very useful.

    by John Brady — January 13, 2013

  12. […] we list a selection of some of the best places to find work in retirement. See Part 1: “Working in Retirement: How to Find a Job That Works for You” for more on strategies for finding the right job for […]

    by » Best Places to Find Work in Retirement Topretirements — January 26, 2013

  13. I have never been able to get a job that I really wanted and that used my educational background I have had to take jobs to survivie so I have come to hate work because it provides absolutely no satisfation. Suggestions about new schooling don’t help since I cannot afford tuition even at a Community College. I will probably have to resort to crime in order to survive. Seems like a lot of wealthy people visit this site .

    by Jeff — January 27, 2013

  14. […] to start a new, totally unrelated career. We’ve written in the past about these so called Encore careers, which many people find liberating and fulfilling. We have also profiled a dozen baby boomers with […]

    by » 10 Ideas to Help with the “What Are You Going to Do When You Retire” Question Topretirements — April 2, 2013

  15. […] Further Reading: Best Places to Find Work in Retirement How to Find a Job in Retirement That Suits You […]

    by » 5 Dream Jobs for Your Retirement Topretirements — August 11, 2014

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