Purposeful Ideas for Retirees Seeking a Second Career or a Big Life Change

Lots of people “retire” to a whole new second career or a very different way of life. In fact, for the majority of retirees, retirement no longer means pursuing a life of leisure. Retirees today are finding new purpose for their “golden years.” Some people want to change their life completely. Others just want a new career at 60 years old.

second career

However, let’s face it, the hardest part of a big retirement change is figuring out what new thing you want to pursue. It can be difficult to create a meaningful and purpose driven life.

Explore these resources for identifying and achieving success in your second career or changing life completely:

Go Back to School: Are You Ready for the “Ivy League” of Retirees Seeking a Second Career?

A handful of highly prestigious universities are offering year-long programs of study designed to help accomplished professionals discern how to best use their skills and interests in a meaningful second act. Spouse’s are usually included in the program.

These opportunities cost from $16,000 up to $65,000 and are open to people who:

  • Have worked at least 20 years and have achieved some degree of success
  • Are looking to use their accomplishments in a new direction
  • Desire some kind of personal transformation
  • Want to take advantage of all of the intellectual opportunities offered by a prestigious university

Here are some of the most esteemed programs:

Notre Dame: The University of Notre Dame offers the Inspired Leadership Initiative (ILI). ILI is a program for accomplished individuals from all disciplines (business, non-profit, academic just to name a few) who have completed their chosen careers and wish to spend an academic year at Notre Dame experiencing intellectual immersion, local and global community engagement, and many of the rich resources the University has to offer to pivot to their next stage in life.

Stanford University: The Stanford Distinguished Careers Institute (DCI) seeks to improve the life journey of accomplished individuals in midlife by helping them renew their purpose, build a new community and recalibrate wellness – physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Harvard: Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Initiative is designed for corporate executives and professionals interested in applying their skills to social problems.

The University of Texas at Austin: UT Austin’s TOWER Fellows Program allows individuals to explore, discover, reflect, and prepare for whatever they decide comes next. The program seeks participants who are eager to pause, think, and create a new, enriching professional and personal journey for the next stage of their lives.

University of Minnesota: The University of Minnesota Advanced Careers (UMAC) aspires to: 1) enrich the development of adults in the second half of life; 2) connect experienced talent with community needs for the common good; and 3) re-imagine higher education as an inter-generational enterprise.

Not Sure a Prestigious University is Your Style? Create Your Own Program of Discovery and Success!

Writing about the highly selective programs above almost gave me hives. It definitely gave me that pit in my stomach that I had applying to college (and seeing my kids apply to college). That is not my idea of an ideal retirement experience.

The good news is that you don’t need a prestigious university to find a new purpose in life. You do need time and the discipline to explore ideas.

Here are 15 tips for finding a new retirement career, a whole new life or meaning and purpose for your retirement:

1. Figure out How to Give Yourself the Gift of Time

If you are working full time, it can be difficult to really focus on what you want to do next. Many successful retirees have given themselves a few months or a year or more to really explore what they want to do.

However, most retirees don’t want to be stressed about finances while trying to figure out how to make an impact in the world. And, giving yourself time usually means giving up income.

Having a detailed retirement plan can help you feel confident about giving yourself time to figure out your ideal future. Could you:

  • Take a sabbatical from your job instead of quitting?
  • What about an extra long vacation?
  • Go part time in your current career?
  • Move abroad, somewhere more affordable than where you live now?

Try any of these different scenarios in the NewRetirement Retirement Planner to figure out an amenable way to give yourself time.

2. Consider Your Long Term Financial Needs

When evaluating ideas for your second career, you need to keep your long term financial needs in mind. In addition to figuring out how to fund a period of time to identify what you want to do, you also need to understand whether or not you need your second career to be a source of income.

After all, volunteering is a viable second act, but it is not going to pay the bills. (Explore 6 ways to make a volunteer impact.)

Discover your financial needs with the NewRetirment Planner.

3. Take Classes at Your Local University or Community College

Whether you just want to explore new ideas or if you feel like you need to learn some things for your next act, your local college can be a really valuable resource. You can enroll in or even audit classes.

4. Consider Businesses Other People Are Creating

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Get some inspiration by looking at the types of things other people are doing with their second careers.

Here you can find 12 business ideas for people over 50. You might also want to check out Encore.org. They describe themselves as, “an innovation hub tapping the talent of people 50+ as a force for good.”

5. Read

Reading is an excellent way to grow and learn. Whether you are following specific people in your area of interest on Twitter or diving deep into a text book, reading is powerful.

Reading has been found to enhance connectivity in the brain which is ideal for figuring out your next act. (And, as a side benefit, regular reading may help slow the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.)

While reading a wide variety of things is great for general inspiration, Tom Schreier, the founding director at Notre Dame’s Inspired Leadership Initiative, recommends three books specifically for figuring out your second career:

  • Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, Richard Rohr: In Falling Upward, Fr. Richard Rohr seeks to help readers understand the tasks of the two halves of life and to show them that those who have fallen, failed, or “gone down” are the only ones who understand “up.” Most of us tend to think of the second half of life as largely about getting old, dealing with health issues, and letting go of life, but the whole thesis of this book is exactly the opposite. What looks like falling down can largely be experienced as “falling upward.” In fact, it is not a loss but somehow actually a gain, as we have all seen with elders who have come to their fullness.
  • Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All, Tom Kelley and David Kelley: David and Tom Kelley identify the principles and strategies that will allow us to tap into our creative potential in our work lives, and in our personal lives, and allow us to innovate in terms of how we approach and solve problems. It is a book that will help each of us be more productive and successful in our lives and in our careers.
  • Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans: In this book, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans show us how design thinking can help us create a life that is both meaningful and fulfilling, regardless of who or where we are, what we do or have done for a living, or how young or old we are. The same design thinking responsible for amazing technology, products, and spaces can be used to design and build your career and your life, a life of fulfillment and joy, constantly creative and productive, one that always holds the possibility of surprise.

Find some other relevant book recommendations in the Retirement Survival Kit.

6. Expand Your Horizons, Say “Yes!”

Perhaps you don’t really have any idea at all of what you want to come next in your life. In this case, you might want to try saying “yes” to everything for a period of time. Experience a wide variety of new adventures and see what really resonates with you.

You don’t really know where inspiration will strike. As you explore second careers, you will likely benefit from new experiences. For example, can you:

  • Attend concerts
  • Go to lectures
  • Meet with people outside of your normal social sphere
  • Travel
  • Visit a museum
  • Try a new sport
  • Experiment with different hobbies

7. Say “No Thank You”

On the flip side, you do have limited time to figure out your second career. Ha, let’s face it, you have limited time, period.

As such, it is really important to learn to say “no.” You need to stay focused on the things you really care about and that will mean saying “no” to a lot of other things.

It is especially important to say “no” if you have started to gain momentum and are figuring out what direction you want your second career to take.

8. Write

It is not enough to simply experience things and consume information. Thinking about life is useful, but what you really need to do is process your thoughts.

Writing makes fleeting thoughts in your brain become more concrete.

Whether you are keeping a journal to record your interests or writing business plans, putting pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard) is a disciplined and powerful way to be clear in your thinking.

9. Talk to People!

Like writing, talking about your ideas, interests and plans is a great way to make them more concrete.

If you can explain what you are thinking and feel good talking about it, then you may be on the right track.

However, don’t be worried by the naysayers. People have a tendency to be negative, but their doubts do not have to determine your future.

10. Find Mentors

Once an idea for your future begins to form, you may want to find a mentor to help you coax the idea along.

Use LinkedIn or your own personal network to find someone doing what you want to do and ask them for help!

However, your mentor does not necessarily need to be someone in your field of interest. Your mentor could be a good friend who knows how to ask the right questions, provide encouragement and offer some outside analysis.

11. Hire a Retirement Coach

A financial advisor or an online retirement planner can help you with your finances. A retirement coach can help you be mentally and emotionally prepared for what happens when your career ends.

Use of a retirement coach is gaining in popularity. Learn more about retirement coaching.

Or, to search for a coach, use the search tool at Retirement Options, an organization that provides certifications specific to retirement. You can also check out the International Coach Federation to find a credentialed coach. Just type “retirement” in the keyword box to find someone who specializes in that area.

12. Take Action, Try Things Out

As you begin to develop some ideas for what you want to do with your second career, start taking action and doing things related to your goals: volunteer, conduct surveys, find a client, dive in and get your hands dirty.

Having a bias to action means that you are taking steps and moving forward. Try things out!

13. Set Goals

“All successful people have a goal. No one can get anywhere unless he knows where he wants to go and what he wants to be or do.” — Norman Vincent Peale

If you are starting your quest for a second career without any idea of what you want to do, set short and long goals for figuring it out. For example:

  • Journal for 30 minutes every day
  • Write three business plans in the next two weeks
  • Talk to five people in different careers
  • Go on a two week retreat to read books and brainstorm ideas

If you already have an idea, set very specific time based goals to make it happen.

14. Problem Solve

You are going to encounter all kinds of problems with achieving a second career. The secret to success is going to lay with your ability to overcome adversity, problem solve and persist with your goals.

Thomas Edison embodied the ultimate positive attitude about failures when he said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Keep going! You will figure it out and, if you have chosen the right endeavor, you are probably having fun, even without the ultimate achievement.

15. Stay Focused and Disciplined

If you aren’t actively pursuing your goal of figuring out your next career, you are wasting your time.

Write to do lists and stay on track. Figure out how to measure progress.

Whatever You Choose to Do, See How it Impacts Your Retirement Financial Plans

You may be pursuing a second career because you want meaning and purpose in your life. However, whatever you choose to do does have financial implications. The NewRetirement Planner allows you to model any type of future retirement income from a second career.

It can be exciting to see how your endeavors impact your plans.

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Do it yourself retirement planning: easy, comprehensive, reliable

NewRetirement Planner

Take financial wellness into your own hands and do it yourself retirement planning: easy, comprehensive, reliable.

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