American Association of Christian Counselors
American Association of Christian Counselors

Encore Careers: The Boomer Alternative to Retirement

Encore Careers: The Boomer Alternative to Retirement

By Kathie Erwin, Ed.D.

Baby Boomers are in rebellion again—this time against the traditional concept of retirement. Yes, rather than head into the sunset to play golf or bridge in a 55 plus community, the trend among Boomers is to continue working after retiring from their primary career. This Boomer trend is not merely economic, it is also aspirational as described in the popular new terms, “encore career”, “re-careering” and “second act”.

During 2012, the oldest among the boomer generation celebrate their 66th birthday and qualify for full Social Security benefits. So why not take the money and get out of the rat race? Some Boomers may not be able to support their active lifestyle on lesser income and are skeptical about solvency of Social Security while others have added expenses from care of elderly parents.

To look at the positive side of encore careers, Boomers are still redefining the world on their own terms. For these Boomers, the golden years are that “second act” in which they bring experience, interests and life awareness to choose their next career. A study by Met Life Foundation and Civic Ventures (2011) estimated that 8.4 million Americans are choosing encore careers with emphasis on work that enhances personal and social values which the study describes as a source of “abundant talent”.

For Boomers with low debt and even a modest Social Security or investment income, the options for an encore career are limited only by the imagination. The exhausted neurosurgeon can take time to play violin in the local symphony and teach music students. The marketing executive who earned the million frequent flyer miles by spending most of the month away from family can become an urban  gardener, growing extra food to sell at local market with a portion set aside to share with neighbors. The teacher who invested years and much of her salary in a disadvantaged school can take time to write curriculum concepts for the next generation and become a volunteer mentor to new teachers. Even a hobby such as ceramics, sewing, home remodeling or cooking has the potential to develop into an encore career.

If there is a need to continue earning income, the corporate world may be looking for the younger and frankly cheaper employees. Being aged-out of a career for Boomers is more of a detour than a disaster. Increasingly, Boomers are choosing to be self-employed with personal service work, consulting based on first career skills or starting a home based business.

These solo ventures that seemed too risky during the young to middle adult years now are within reach. AARP, who advanced the title “re-careering”, offers practical advice on how to find financing for the second act new business. Boomers can also turn to another fountain of experience and free mentoring from retired business leaders who volunteer with SCORE: Service Corps of Retired Executives.

Boomers who are Christians also see this “encore” as the right time to dedicate a year or more to missions, study for lay leadership or pastoral ministry and engage with socio-political issues that could threaten the expression of their beliefs. Always an activist generation, Boomers may be the greatest untapped resource the church has ever known.  In “A Vision for the Aging Church”, Houston and Parker (2011) give a rousing challenge to the church to properly utilize the talent and wisdom of aging members, then ask the provocative question:

“…What could happened to our nation and the world if an army of spiritually inspired, successfully aging elders entered the fray, grounded in the gospel?” (p. 22).

To build on their question, what if Boomers brought their career experience in education, healthcare, law, marketing and creative arts into the church for member services and outreach programs that exceeded anything in the social services realm? What if the Boomer generations’ increased lifespan, greater vitality and desire to continue work well into the golden years is part of God’s plan for restoring the church as the center of society?

Boomer believers can shake up the system of relegating older adults to a quiet, polite weekly morning program and break out into a force that radically alters the way Christians deal with aging. What if that is the Christian Boomers’ next revolution? Imagine what might happen if they actually take up the challenge.

Talk Back: How can you help your Boomer and older adult clients take up gain a new perspective in life and embrace an encore career? Take a moment to share your thoughts below.


 Want to learn more about working with the Boomer generation and older adult clients? Don’t miss the 2013 AACC World Conference, September 11-14th, in Nashville, TN! Dr. Erwin will be presenting a 3-hour pre-conference workshop on this topic and we are also featuring a brand-new conference track dedicated to Aging, Baby Boomers, and Later-life Challenges. Register now take advantage of our “Holiday Savings” Rate by calling 1-800-526-8673! Click here to submit a workshop proposal to present!

Kathie Erwin, Ed.D., Assistant Professor at Regent University, is a National Certified Gerontological Counselor, National Certified Counselor and Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Largo, FL. Author of five counseling books, ethical thriller novel and an award winning screenplay, Dr Erwin’s latest book is Group Techniques for Aging Adults, 2nd Edition.





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