Unretiring: 5 Meaningful Job Options for Older Workers

Whatever your reason for heading back into the job force, you want it to make a difference.

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- Posted on Mar 10, 2020

An older professor standing in front of a blackboard with math equations.

You’re retired, and you’ve got hours of free time. So...how are you going to fill them up? Maybe you have a list of projects you’ve tried to get to over the past few decades, and maybe something additional beckons. It’s called work, but it’s wrapped in a tantalizing new guise. It may be a version of what you’ve always done, or something completely different, but one thing is certain. You want it to have meaning.

“While a lot of people continue to work in their older years because they need the money, almost as many people continue to work because the work is meaningful to them and they find fulfillment in it,” Susan Weinstock, vice president of financial resilience for AARP, told Guideposts.org.

Finding fulfillment is deeply personal and unique to the individual. “It can be all kinds of things—helping children, helping other older people, working in the community,” Weinstock said. “It can be a part-time job that brings in a little cash and, at the same time, offers an opportunity to get out and meet people, which—particularly for women—is very, very important.”

There is a wide world of possibilities, but Weinstock offered a few ideas to point retirees in the direction of meaningful work:

1. Become an entrepreneur
It’s an urban myth that all the world’s successful entrepreneurs are 20something young men, Weinstock said. Research has shown that “the highest success rates in entrepreneurship come from founders in middle age and beyond.” Older entrepreneurs have a great shot at success because they tend to have assets for funding, networks of contacts, and the “soft skills” required to interact effectively and harmoniously with others. “Generally, we don’t recommend liquidating your 401k to start a business,” Weinstock cautioned. “Better to find your funding elsewhere and leave that money, because you’re not going to have time to make it up.” The Small Business Administration is an excellent resource.

2. Teach
Classrooms are always looking for substitutes. Experience is a valuable asset and retirees have loads of it. If you were an engineer in a previous life, for example, and you have a knack for math, you may want to try teaching it.

3. Lifeguard
If you’re a good, strong swimmer, you may want to train for lifeguard certification at your community pool. “You’re already there swimming laps, so why not add a couple of hours and get paid for it?” Weinstock said.

4. Care for children or older adults
Childcare is a chance to put valuable know-how to use again. “It’s also great for kids to have experience with older people,” Weinstock said. “Maybe their grandparents live out of town and they can’t spend a lot of time with them.” Working as an in-home caregiver for older people is another way to provide a much-needed service. These jobs provide training to caring individuals, as well as flexible schedules, work that’s close to home, and the opportunity to develop important relationships.

5. Volunteer
Offer your specialized skills to the community. Even retirees who are disabled can do desk work in all sorts of fields. One option is the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program. Volunteers help low-and moderate-income Americans file their taxes—free of charge.

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