Making it Easier to Do Good in the Encore Stage of Life

Robert Chambers

By Amy Singer

Robert Chambers, a former banker, was working as a car salesman when he spotted a problem. Low-income buyers were getting gouged by high-interest rates or turned away altogether. So Chambers started a nonprofit that provides car loans at low-interest rates to low-income buyers, helping hundreds of people get out of a vicious cycle in which having no car means being unable to get to and from work.

Chambers, as Encore.org founder Marc Freedman, notes in a talk at the recent Business Innovation Factory summit, is just one of 9 million people who have moved into encore careers that benefit others.

With 10,000 people a day turning 60, Freedman proposes it’s time to create gap years for grownups, education programs for people in the second half of life and other pathways to channel the talent of people like Chambers into jobs for the greater good.

“There’s this ripe moment where you realize that time matters more than it did when you were 20 years old,” says Freedman, author of The Big Shift. “Yet there is enough time left to do something significant. Now people have the opportunity not just to leave a legacy, but to live one.”

And there are plenty such people. Half the children born since 2000 in the developed world are expected to see their 100th birthdays, Freedman notes in his talk. With the period known as retirement now stretching as long as 30 years, we need to reinvent this stage of life, he says.

Freedman recalls a speech Chambers, a 2006 Purpose Prize winner, delivered during a White House event honoring innovative programs: “I was old enough to know injustice when I saw it and experienced enough to do something about it.”

Click here to watch Freedman’s talk.