Survey: Recession Stalled Encore Career Changes
The recession's toll on jobs and retirement savings has kept a lid on the number of people transitioning to socially conscious careers in the second half of life, according to a new survey by Civic Ventures and MetLife released today.
Although slightly less than a third (31 percent) of Americans between 44 and 70 are interested in switching to an occupation that makes their community or the world a better place, only 9 percent of people in that age group actually work in such an encore career, according to Civic Ventures, a Bay Area think tank on boomers and work.
That level is equal to what it was in 2008, the last time the organization polled midlife and older Americans about career interests. The total number of people 44 to 70 working in encore careers grew by 600,000 between 2008 and 2011 but isn't statistically significant because it's in keeping with the rise in the population for that age group during that time.
The realities of having to work longer to save for retirement and the relatively high cost of transitioning to a nonprofit career have held people back from making a change, says Jim Emerman, a Civic Ventures executive vice president. "It's not necessarily an easy or sure thing," he says.
Four in 10 people interested in switching careers don't feel financially secure enough to make a change under current economic conditions, according to the report.
On average, career changers currently working for nonprofit or philanthropic organizations started thinking about a transition when they turned 50, and took about 18 months to make the change. More than two-thirds (67 percent) of them reported making significantly less income than in their previous positions or earning nothing at all.
Nearly four in five (79 percent) said they went without a paycheck for six months or more, and 36 percent said they had no income for more than two years. The majority of those people relied on savings to get them through the transition, says Nick Crofoot with Penn Schoen Berland, which conducted the survey for Civic Ventures and MetLife.
Lisa Roger, 53, a former software project manager who now works for a government agency that assists poor families in Norwalk, Conn., says she knows firsthand how difficult but rewarding such a move can be. Roger and her husband lived on a substantially reduced income for 14 months, including unemployment benefits and savings, while she followed her dream of pursuing more meaningful work.
"I don't make the same salary and I'm OK with that," says Roger, who participated in the news conference on the study. "I work two miles from home, I have good health benefits, and the work is incredibly rewarding. I know I'm making a difference."
To make such moves more financially feasible, Civic Ventures supports midlife internships and encore fellowship programs, including a new initiative by Intel, which offers $25,000 stipends to retirement-eligible employees who train to work for nonprofits.
The group also has started or helped other nonprofits start similar programs in several California cities and in New York City; Portland, Ore.; Phoenix; and Albuquerque. The annual Purpose Prizes provide $100,000 awards to five people over 60 who devote their encore careers to social causes.
The survey is the third report that Civic Ventures and MetLife have published since fall 2011 to get a better picture of midlife and older Americans' plans to work before retirement. Other findings from the latest research show:
People are delaying retirement: Of the people surveyed, those who aren't yet retired expect to work until they're 65.8 years old -- two and a half years longer than they thought they would be working before the recession. On average, people in encore careers expect to work until they're 66.5.
People want flexibility, fewer hours: Those who are interested in having an encore career would like to work in that capacity a little more than half time (23.5 hours a week) and for about 8.5 years.
People prepare for transitions through volunteer work: Twenty-three percent of the 9 million Americans involved in nonprofit encore work prepared by volunteering with local programs, 20 percent enrolled in classes or other training programs, and 13 percent volunteered with a religious group.
Read more: Interest Spikes in Encore Careers
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