The outdated notion of retirement as one last long vacation before we die is dead. For proof, browse the shelves of any large bookstore or search online for new titles exploring the emerging trend of post-retirement work.
Too many of these books do little more than rehash the same ideas, but here are three we liked:
The first is “Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life” (PublicAffairs Books, $24.95) by Marc Freedman, founder and president of Civic Ventures, a San Francisco-based think tank. The author is also co-founder of Experience Corps, the largest not-for-profit national service program engaging Americans over 55, and The Purpose Prize, the nation’s first prize for social innovators over 60.
Another book by Freedman in 2002, “Prime Time: How Baby Boomers Will Revolutionize Retirement,” foresaw many of the trends others regurgitate now. His latest work may be just as visionary. Freedman, who interviewed hundreds of people in their 50s and 60s for the book, coined the term “encore career” to describe work that will offer not only continued income to Baby Boomers but also new meaning and the opportunity to help society.
From appeals lawyer to community pastor, health care executive to advocate for the homeless, truant officer to critical-care nurse, Freedman fills the book with “encore stories” of people who found work that mattered in their second half of life. By 2030, he foresees Boomers will provide the “backbone of education, health care, nonprofits, the government and other sectors” essential to our national well-being.
To be sure, not everybody will want to work after retirement and, among those who seek work, many will do it just for the money. “Encore” does provide a list of resources to find new jobs but its main purpose is to inspire, not guide by the hand.
For those who want both inspiration and personalized advice, we recommend “Don’t Retire, REWIRE!” (Alpha Books, $18.95), a revised and expanded second edition of a 2002 book we liked then and like even more now.
Authors Rick Miners and Jeri Sedlar, who are husband and wife, share 25 years of executive search and counseling experience. Through hundreds of interviews with pre-retirees and working and non-working retirees, they discovered the happiest are those who knew what they were retiring to, not simply retiring from.
People tend to underestimate the things they like about their work, the authors contend, from the structure work provides to the social and emotional needs that it fills.
“The key secret for success in this next stage of life is to know what you’ll be leaving behind when you retire, then figure out how to replace that in the future,” Miners and Sedlar said.
As they approach and even enter retirement, many people also have never taken the time to figure out what they want (and couples have not taken the time to talk about what the each person wants). Through real-life stories, self-scoring quizzes and exercises, this smartly-written and logically organized book helps us discover our primary “drivers” or motivators. (A big driver for us, for example, is to have accomplishments.)
Drivers remain fairly constant throughout our lives, but how we go about fulfilling them will change in retirement. One way is through meaningful work, which the authors show can be anything from continued regular work for wages, work for a fee (as we do with our writing,) running your own business or working for free as a volunteer.
A third book worth mentioning is “Working After Retirement for Dummies” (Wiley, $21.99,) a useful reference guide listing numerous resources and chock-full of practical advice (although more real-life examples would have helped.) The book is almost four in one - from a discussion of assessing one’s talents to a primer on retirement finances (this is the weakest part,) another on Medicare and Social Security, and finally on finding or creating your ideal retirement job.
Humberto and Georgina Cruz are a husband-and-wife writing team who work together in this column. Send questions and comments to AskHumberto@aol.com or GVCruz@aol.com.