The New Retirement - Working Elsewhere
It Isn't Your Father's Retirement
It was March 2012. Our employer was offering early retirement and separation incentive packages. Before us stood a consultant explaining how our retirement, cut short, would work. He started by explaining that in the past employers handled retirement (pensions) and health care directly on behalf of their employees. Larger companies had finance people and accountants on staff who worked with the sheer volume of the employees for investments and discounted rates for insurance. All you really had to do as an employee was show up at work, put your years in, and retire. Today, he explained, this is no longer the case. Even if some of these benefits are available to employees, there generally are a mix of choices to make and what is offered is deficient for full retirement. Ultimately, he explained, you as the employee have to take the initiative to provide for your own retirement. The consultant then explained the mechanics of several products, targeted for people who were later in their careers. It was good information, but there was a lack of personal attention for each person in their situation. In short, very few of us in the room could afford to retire. We simply had not saved. If we left our current employer, we would need to work elsewhere. It was determining that "Elsewhere" that we feared and was not part of the consultant's package. My article's target audience are those people who are about five to ten years from retirement and know that they will have to have some type of supplemental income during retirement.
What Will Be Your Elsewhere?
For many of us, our retirement will not look like our fathers' retirement. I believe many of us will be working in some capacity much of our lives. The irony of it is that few of us have prepared for what that work will look like later on in life. Think of getting prepared for work during retirement in terms of your career today. It took many years for you to get where you are now. It started as early as high school by selecting certain elective courses. After high school your career training became more focused by either entering a trade school, the military, a professional apprenticeship, or college. It is safe to say that generally it probably took you ten years to truly enter your career, perhaps longer if you made a major career change. Today, we are not preparing for our "Elsewhere". Yet, we know that at some point we will have to leave our high-paced career for the good of ourselves and our employer. The difference from our fathers is that once we leave, we will still work. For many of us, we are at that transition period now and we are doing very little. We are equivalent to a high school drop-out, albeit with a much higher income stream.
With a lifetime of experience, you should have a good idea by now of what you like to do or would have always liked to do. You should also know what you dislike. The stronger your retirement stream will be, the more flexible your post retirement work can become in terms of level of income and post career employment choices. Cheer up! Technology is on your side. Never before has the individual been so empowered for self initiative with access to information and letting the world know who you are and what you can do. I believe many of us will be filling out forms that read "Sole Proprietor" for post career hobbies and interests that become our income stream and tied to the internet in some capacity. The trick is that it will take some time to develop your new work - development that has to occur while you are still employed full-time in your current career.
The Culture Has Not Caught Up
Unfortunately we live in a culture that still operates on our fathers' career model. We are expected to work full-time right until retirement, then come to a full stop with no transition into another form of work during retirement. In a poor economy, the work place suffers at both ends of the age spectrum in this scenario. The work place becomes full of cranky old people who don't like where they are working, cannot afford to retire, yet have no idea how to start a new career now in preparation for retirement. At the same time, the work place lacks young people with their drive, idealism, and appreciation to have a job in something that they have prepared for. Most of us would give up some working hours in our current career to pursue our "Elsewhere", especially if encouraged by our employer. At the same time we would be working with a part-time, recent college graduates in their career field. The college graduates probably already have at least two part-time jobs. Why not make one of them in a career they trained for? For now, most of us will have to devote hours to our "Elsewhere" while working full time and fulfilling family obligations.
The Author's Elsewhere
I started my "Elsewhere" in 2009 with an online fly store for fly fishing. I realized that I innately Iike working on intricate things with my hands and I enjoy fly fishing. I've tied flies since the age of 14. At the prompting of my son, I went retail with some of my favorite flies. I have also produced fly tying videos as well as some comedy fly fishing videos.
Also included in my "Elsewhere" is freelance writing. This endeavor is more in line with my current career. My career in writing entails explaining scientific/technical content to a broad audience. My "Elsewhere" writing follows the same theme of explaining technical subjects to a broader audience, but in the context of fly fishing. I am also expanding my writing to include other areas of interest.
Initially my plans were to have my "Elsewhere" came into full effect seven years out at retirement. It gave me seven years of building a customer base and to learn about running a business. However, with the early retirement offer, I saw an opportunity and applied for it. I joked with my work cohorts that it was a "Once in a lifetime career ending opportunity" that I could not afford to pass up. My plan was to retire early, work full-time at "something" that would hopefully contribute better to my "Elsewhere" while allowing me more time/flexibility to develop my "Elsewhere". My retirement application was denied. Later, I was assigned additional lateral work duties from a vacated position. So, for now it is back to the original plan.