Route 66: Post-retirement plans should start before you retire
Career consultant Thomas Herbert says there’s a new breed of retirees who are looking to do what they love once their current career ends, and wouldn’t mind making a little money while doing it.
J ohn O’Brien says he doesn’t intend to stop working after he retires next year as an electrician. “I’m sure I’ll do some side jobs and help out on projects when I can. I just don’t see myself sitting at home,” says the 64-year-old resident of Chicago’s Portage Park neighborhood.
But the electrical work won’t be the focus of O’Brien’s life after he retires. “Oh, no,” he says. “My wife wants to travel, I’ve got grandchildren to play with and I want to work on my golf game.” And? “Well, I really like to sing.” Recently, O’Brien sang for his mom during her 85th birthday party. Before he knew it, he was signed up to play three more parties. “People wanted to pay me,’ he says. “I mean, money. Real money. It was only a hundred bucks or so, but I’m getting paid to sing. Imagine that?”
Actually, O’Brien’s wife imagined it a few years back. “She was always telling me there were enough old Irish people in Chicago who’d pay to hear me sing some of the old songs,” he says. “So why not? I figure I can sing on a weekend here and there when I retire, make a few bucks, stay out of some trouble. Sounds like a good idea.”
O’Brien’s not the only one who’ll look to develop a passion into some profit once the Social Security kicks in. Career consultant Thomas Herbert says there’s a new breed of retirees who are looking to do what they love once their current career ends, and wouldn’t mind making a little money while doing it. “There are so many people who’ve been telling their kids to do what they love and they don’t do it themselves,” Herbert says. “Then they retire, have some free time on their hands and realize ‘hey, I can do this.’”
Herbert points to various interests that can be profitable, post-retirement, naming woodworking, writing, cooking, babysitting, dog-walking, home repair and more. “I know a guy who loves detailing cars,” Herbert says. “He uses his garage, charges $75 to $150 and gets in every nook and cranny. He makes those cars look better than new.”
But capitalizing on an interest won’t happen overnight. If you’re nearing retirement, you should think about a few ways to prepare yourself for your life ahead. Herbert offers five suggestions:
1. Do what you love:
Find something that you enjoy doing and start building your skills in that area. For example, if you want to be a travel writer, start writing about traveling, “I know people who’ve reinvented themselves in a variety of ways,” he says. “We have friends who’ve always enjoyed cooking so when they retired, they created a small catering business. We have friends who enjoy taking photos so when they retired they began a portrait business.”
2. Brush up on your business acumen:
If you don’t know anything about running a business, take a few seminars, read a few books and talk to a few people. “It’s practically impossible to hit the ground running when you’re starting a new endeavor,” Herbert says. “You’ll need to learn things about taxes, about marketing, that you might not already know.”
3. Spread the word:
It’s a lot easier to transition to a post-retirement career if people know that you’re already good at what you plan on doing. Referencing his previous examples, Herbert mentions that people who enjoy cooking should not only take photos of the meals they’ve created and share them online, they should also host dinner parties for their circle of relatives and friends to make them aware of their culinary talents.
4. Pick a place:
One of the key elements of your retirement is where you’ll live. While you can certainly make a choice based on state income taxes and quality of services, it’s also important to live in an area with residents that will appreciate your postretirement services. Although there are some jobs that will allow you to work remotely with clients, there are others, like the aforementioned cooking and photography, that will require you to be in close proximity to your customers.
5. Tech up:
If you’re not running a tech-aware business, you may be losing clients. “I know a woman who makes beautiful quilts and sells them at art shows, fairs, outdoor events, things like that,” Herbert says. “She built a small website to show off what she does and now takes in orders from around the country. She’s taking orders online, chatting with customers — it’s opened up a whole new world.”