Many people are taking the opportunity to move into what is being called an encore career: work in later life that ideally combines personal meaning, income and social impact. In fact, an estimated 31 million Americans ages 44 to 70 find an encore career appealing, according to recent research from MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures.
Purpose Prize winner Adele Douglass, 65, launched her encore career in her mid-50s by drawing from the passion she had for animals and creating a nonprofit promoting the humane treatment of farm animals. She cashed in her 401(k) to help make the transition. Recent research from MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures found that finances play a major obstacle for people who want to switch to encore careers.
Six years ago Mark Goldsmith, winner of the 2008 Purpose Prize, founded Getting Out and Staying Out, a nonprofit program working to keep New York City’s young men out of prison for good. Recidivism rates – the proportion of people who return to prison within three years of their release – hover above 60 percent nationally. In New York City the rate is about half that.
Boaz and Ruth in Richmond, Va., has restored abandoned buildings and homes, generated employment opportunities and changed lives. The neighborhood has seen crime rates drop by 61 percent since the organization's arrival a decade ago. "Eighty percent of the buildings here were boarded up," says founder Martha Rollins, a 2006 Purpose Prize winner. "We're trying to fill the emptiness."
A recent survey concluded that 12 million people ages 44 to 70 are interested in using their experience to start nonprofits or businesses that serve the greater good. The MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures survey also found 50 percent of respondents were “very serious” and expect to carry out their plans.
Edward Moscovitch and Barbara Gardner have been named Purpose Prize fellows for their work in founding and advancing the Bay State Reading Institute. The nonprofit works with 37 Massachusetts elementary schools helping teachers find new, innovative approaches in teaching children to read.
Experience Matters' centerpiece program is Encore Fellowships, placing highly skilled executive retirees in half-time positions for a year (a $20,000 stipend underlines that it's a serious commitment). Fellows' accomplishments range from strengthening a museum's finances to developing a long-range plan to make senior centers more efficient and effective. (This story also appeared in USA Today.)
Analysts predict a groundswell of opportunity for those who find themselves working past 65. "Our research confirms that there's an interest in doing work that has social significance, offers a degree of flexibility for work-life balance, that leverages and values experience and that offers the level of income needed for financial sustainability," says Phyllis Segal, vice president at Civic Ventures.
In what might be a surprising trend, a Kauffman Foundation report notes that boomers make up a rising share of entrepreneurs.That's not surprising to Detroit-based Purpose Prize winner Randal Charlton. He says said the trend is being driven by people living longer and boomers' genuine interest in civic ventures.
The recession's toll on jobs and retirement savings has kept a lid on the number of people transitioning to socially conscious careers in the second half of life. To make such moves more financially feasible, Civic Ventures supports midlife internships and encore fellowship programs, including a new initiative by Intel. The group also has also started the annual Purpose Prizes, $100,000 awards to five people over 60 who devote their encore careers to social causes.