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Is an 'Encore Career' an Option for You?

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Middle-aged Americans who want to switch careers later in life have a problem: While they'd love to follow their passion, they don't have the savings in the bank to pull the move off. In the end, it's all about the "income gap."

That's a cultural problem, as data show millions of Americans are already in what social observers call "encore careers" and millions more want to join them. A November study from San Francisco-based Civic Ventures, a self-described baby boomer think tank funded by the MetLife (MET) Foundation, says 9 million Americans between ages 44 and 70 have second careers, up from 8.4 million in 2008.

Americans who want to switch careers have a problem: They don't have the savings to pull off the move.

In addition, 31 million more Americans in the same age group are "interested" in second careers. Civic Ventures describes encore careers as careers "that combine personal meaning, continued income and social impact." They're also sometimes considered an alternative to retirement.

But it's the second attribute that may stop many baby boomers in their tracks from pursuing -- or sustaining -- encore careers.

That's what Civic Ventures found in a follow-up study released Wednesday on baby boomers and encore careers.

In that study, the organization says financial challenges are "hampering the plans of tens of millions of people who are interested in encore careers."

The study says two out of three Americans engaged in encore careers saw reduced income or no income at all in transitioning to different vocations later in life.

"There's a big payoff from encore careers, for individuals and for our entire society," said Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of Civic Venture, in a press release. "But making the switch is hard. Employers, policymakers and all of us in our own lives need to think creatively about how to make the investments in encore transitions that lead to these new, more fulfilling careers."

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