You’ve written extensively about finding a new career in midlife. What challenges and opportunities do you see for women seeking to do just that, at age 40 and beyond?
The opportunities are similar as they are for men. When you’re making a career change, it’s important to go slow. Don’t do anything rash. You need to do your homework to see where the opportunities are—nonprofits, small associations, and small businesses may be good places to start.
I advise people to moonlight and do the job first to be sure it is something that they really want to do. Add any education, skills, and certificates needed ahead of time. It can take time. The most successful career shifts take at least three years.
I usually refer people to “Kerry’s Fitness Plan”:
You need to be physically fit. A career change takes stamina. You need to be up for it. Being fit gives you energy and exudes a can-do, positive attitude that potential employers and clients will value.
You need to be financially fit. The biggest stumbling block to a successful career change is money. Generally, when you start over in a new career, you will take a pay cut from your previous job’s salary and, if you are starting your own business, you will have start-up costs and may not be able to pay yourself while the business gains traction. So anything you can do to sock away savings, pay down debt, downsize your lifestyle, refinance your mortgage, or move to a smaller home, helps. This can take time.
And when you are spiritually fit, you have the ballast to weather the inevitable setbacks and stresses of starting over. This isn’t big time religion, but a meditation, or a yoga practice, perhaps–something that helps you find a calm center. For me, it’s walking my dog for miles in the countryside.
What is your best advice to these women? Do you have examples of unusual jobs or careers that women may not be thinking about, but may wish to consider?
I love jobs that ride the age wave. These are jobs and services that people in their 50s and 60s can provide for the aging population in their 70s and 80s. There are new ones coming online all the time. They include: senior massage therapist, senior fitness trainer, home modification pro, senior move manager, and patient advocate. See my book Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … And Pays the Bills for more ideas, or this article I wrote for The New York Times.
You also write about financial matters. What challenges do you see for people in midlife, and for women in particular?
Women need to take control of their financial lives. A man is not a plan, as we all know. Women tend to be the CEOs of the households, but still are fearful of investing and making decisions about saving for retirement. This is imperative. Most women will be single after 65 for some portion of their lives, and they will need to take control of their financial lives. And it turns out studies show that women tend to be better investors then men once they take action. For more, please read this special section I put together for PBS Next Avenue.
What do you advise women in midlife when it comes to sound financial planning and management?
Do it. Stop avoiding it. And educate yourself. This is not rocket science. Start a money book club or a money-circle discussion group. A club can force you to read useful books you might never have picked up on your own. A money-circle group lets you and your friends hold regular conversations about finances and help each other.
What resources do you recommend?
For advice on a second act that’ll provide purpose and a paycheck, go to Encore.org. Two excellent books beside my own that can also help you get started: The Encore Career Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life and Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit from Your Passions During Semi-Retirement
Two excellent, comprehensive personal-finance books are Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz’s The Charles Schwab Guide to Finances After Fifty: Answers to Your Most Important Money Questions and Jonathan Clement’s Jonathan Clements Money Guide 2015. Online, visit the Investor Protection Institute’s site, whose free guides explain stocks, bonds and mutual funds. Two good money sites oriented toward women: DailyWorth.com and LearnVest.com. Also, check out site for the nonprofit Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement, especially its Investment 101 tutorial.
Connect with Kerry Hannon:
Kerry Hannon is a nationally recognized authority on career transitions and retirement and a frequent TV and radio commentator who speaks about and offers advice on career and personal finance trends.
Kerry is a columnist for The New York Times, a contributing writer for Money magazine, a contributing editor at Forbes magazine, a columnist for PBS’s NextAvenue.org and the Second Verse columnist at Forbes.com. She is also AARP’s Jobs Expert and Great Jobs for Retirees columnist.
Kerry is the author of the recently published Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness. She is also the author of eight additional books, including the gold-medal award–winning What’s Next? Updated: Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties and Beyond, which USA Today hailed as “a road map for those striking out on their own.”
Kerry’s book, Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … And Pays the Bills, is a national bestseller. The Wall Street Journal called it “a must read for anyone mulling what kind of work will work for you in the next phase of your life.”
Kerry has been a columnist, editor and writer for Forbes, Money, USA Today and U.S. News & World Report. Her work has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. She has appeared as a financial and career expert on ABC News, CBS, CNBC, NBC Nightly News, NPR, PBS and numerous radio stations nationwide.
Kerry’s new book, Working After 50 For Dummies (Wiley) will be published in the fall of 2015.