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Retirement is no longer viewed as a brief period of rest at the end of life. It has become an integral element of the American dream, says Civic Ventures founder and CEO Marc Freedman, who has studied the cultural history of retirement. “People scrimped and saved and deferred gratification to get to it as soon as possible – not even 65 or 62, but in your 50s,” Freedman says.

Nine million Americans between ages 44 and 70 are in encore careers, up from roughly 8 million in 2008, according to Civic Ventures. Encore careers are attractive options in the United States and Canada, where boomers approaching retirement face pension shortfalls and longer life expectancies. (This article also ran in the Canadian publication Money.)

In the United States, as many as 9 million people between 44 and 70 have transitioned to an encore career or put off retirement to stay in the workforce, and an estimated 31 million more would like to join them, according to a new report by Civic Ventures and the MetLife Foundation.

Career change among the boomer set is trending. New research from Civic Ventures shows that as many as 9 million people ages 44 to 70 are already in encore careers that combine personal meaning, continued income and social impact. That’s up from an estimated 8.4 million in 2008.

As many as 9 million people ages 44 to 70 already have chosen encore careers, putting their experience to work for the greater good, according to a new MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures study. Another 31 million are interested in joining them, adding to their list of job benefits personal meaning and a connection to something larger than themselves.

Today, thanks, in part, to an organization called Civic Ventures many people of traditional retirement age are asking themselves what is next for them. Research from MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures shows that as many as 9 million people ages 44 to 70 are already in encore careers that combine personal meaning, continued income and social impact.

Starting a business isn't just an activity for young, scrappy dreamers. Entrepreneurs age 55 and older are more experienced in weathering economic downturns, and some studies suggest this is a growing segment of small business owners. "There's definitely a boom in boomer entrepreneurship," says David Bank, vice president at Civic Ventures.

Our notions of old age are old fashioned, reflecting a time when the typical 60-something was physically worn out from laboring in an auto plant or some other factory. In recent years, scholars in a range of academic disciplines report seeing signs of a new stage of life between the prime working years and full retirement. (This article also appeared in National Journal.)

The good news about living longer is typically greeted with dire mutterings about living standards plunging as spendthrift boomers live to a ripe old age. Yet there are strong reasons to believe that the age apocalypse won't arrive as advertised. "The narrowing of time left to live changes people's values and priorities," says Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of Civic Ventures. "Now there's enough time because of increased life expectancy to do something about it."

Reuters columnist John Wasik announces his top book picks of the year, including The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife, by Civic Ventures founder and CEO Marc Freedman. Wasik writes, "If you're hitting the sweet spot between middle age and retirement, you need to read this book." (This column also appeared in the Chicago Tribune.)

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