In Your 50s? A Second Career May Be the Thing

NEW BERLIN, Ill. ( TheStreet) -- You may be nearing retirement, within 10 or 15 years of that magic date, and you may be thinking to yourself "I'm just going to play golf all morning and go fishing all afternoon ... it'll be a dream!"

Reality may just show up and slap you in the face. You've probably known people around you who cashed it in and moved to a retirement community, complete with the golf membership and afternoon karaoke parties. But you want something more from life. You're really not ready to just "stop."

If you're retiring with a need to work and a passion for carpentry, volunteer opportunities at Habitat for Humanity may be the start of something great.

Or maybe you wake up one day to discover you're in your 50s or 60s and you've got no idea if you have enough money saved -- or perhaps you've developed a health issue that is going to cause your health care expenses to be out of this world. Maybe your children or even grandchildren have "come home to roost" and your household costs are much more than you ever dreamed, so you're not saving like you should be.

It doesn't even have to be a specific event such as those described. It could just be that, in spite of all the effort you've put in, you just don't have enough. It could be that your best alternative is to continue working for a longer time than you had planned.

But -- jiminy! -- I've worked at this job for 25 years and am sick to death of it!

Enter the second career. There's no shame in it. In fact, you can prove yourself once again, and you'll be surprised at how invigorated you can be. Remember that we humans are always adapting, always learning, and if you're paying attention you're always seeing things you'd like to experience. Why not consider doing something a bit different?

It could be that you've acquired some sort of special skill or interest over the years, but you've never really pursued making a career out of it. Who knows? Maybe the fact that you're a minor expert on bookbinding or trainspotting could be parlayed into a career -- one where you'll look forward to each working day. The key here is to identify that activity (whatever it is!) that brings out your passion, that brings you actual joy in the doing.

Make fun of your work
As they always tell you in those touchy-feely career seminars: It's time to think outside the box. You've identified that you don't want to (or can't) just stop working. Now's the time to turn your work into something enjoyable. After all, you may have spent more than half your life in a job you are looking to rid yourself of, so why not start the process early and define your job for yourself?

It may not be realistic to pursue becoming an astronaut later in life, but if you've got the background and the passion, who am I to tell you that you shouldn't? Let your hair down. Put your records on. Whatever it takes to get your juices flowing! And then map out a plan to get yourself from point A to point B. Go back to school if necessary. Talk to professionals in the industry you're interested in. Maybe the ideal second career is not to be the star in the show, but maybe the guy or gal on the sidelines.

For example, having a passion for carpentry could garner you volunteer opportunities at Habitat for Humanity; certainly former President Jimmy Carter has made homebuilding for the charity something of a second career, although he has no need to be paid and isn't. Or maybe you enjoy quilting -- hand-made quilts are quite valuable, and that skill could be developed into a career, either selling the quilts yourself (such as via Etsy.com) or by supplying a local artisan shop. Or possibly the answer is to work as a part-time consultant in the same type of work you've done for your career.

There are myriad possibilities. You just have to decide.

The point
From a financial standpoint, the real issue here is that earning something -- even if it's only half of your needed expenses -- can have a very real impact on your future available funds. Not to mention the fact that staying active will help you to feel better, remain healthy and engaged in your later years and contributing to the greater good. Depending upon your chosen pursuit, you may be able to reduce your health care insurance costs and continue to increase your retirement savings, all while doing something you truly love!

It's all up to you. It's time to make the decision: Is a second career in your future?

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This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.