A few months back, before my realization that I was hitting sixty, I became very restless. Ever since we moved to the tiny town that we now live in, I have not worked outside the home, with the exception of one summer. This was not necessarily out of a desire to retire, but because the area does not offer much in the way of employment opportunities, particularly for a woman over 50.
I have appreciated not working, don’t get me wrong. I have had the opportunity to travel, become a DIYer, volunteer and explore the satisfaction of keeping a home. And the thought of going back to a 9 – 5 job makes me shudder. But, as a child of the 60s and 70s, I very much identified myself by my career. And, after 10 years of answering “I play a lot” when someone new asks me what I do, I began to feel incomplete and, worse, irrelevant.
Recent studies show that up to 76% of “second act” people intend to continue working past retirement. Turning 60 or 65 is no longer seen as the “end” of your life, but rather a time to reflect and repurpose your life. The October 2009 issue of the Journal of Occupational Healthy Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association, says a recent national study determined that retirees were healthier, both mentally and physically, if they kept working at least part-time.
Finding a job, however, is not easy. USA Today says:
The stark reality is that most of today’s middle-age workers who want to continue working after 60 or even 65 will need to find a new source of income. While nearly half of baby boomers expect to work past 65, only 13% of current retirees surveyed this year by consulting firm McKinsey & Co. actually worked past that age. Forty percent of current retirees were forced to stop working earlier than they had planned, the survey found. The average age when current retirees left the workforce: 59.
Although age discrimination is illegal, AARP surveys indicate that at least 60% of respondees have experienced or observed it in the workplace. That, plus the lack of opportunity to go back into my field of project management led me to wonder about starting a business of my own. The only thing I knew about were direct sales companies and I do not do selling – I’m uncomfortable and ineffective at it. After a lot of research, however, I did find something that I thought I could do and building the (small) company has become part of my reinvention.
Some people have said “Are you nuts? At your age?.” But it has been a life changing thing for me. There has been and remains a steep learning curve for me. I hadn’t realized how stagnant I had become until I had to step out of my comfortable box and confront things that were difficult. My mind feels alive again and my business, which has to do with social media, makes me feel that I’m somewhat in the mainstream again.
I don’t know where the business will go, but I’m willing to follow wherever it takes me. Besides the bit of money it might make me, it gives me a sense of purpose, a feeling that I am a vital person with something to contribute. What could be better than that?