By Judy Nelson

In a recent study conducted by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, 80% of working retirees say they continue to work not out of necessity, but out of a desire to keep working.

Some people are puzzled by this concept. As one of the 80% of retirees who still works and loves every second of it, I find these people puzzling. I can’t imagine not working.

I retired eight years ago when the stress of my job became too much to bear. I was the CEO of a nonprofit organization caring for abused and neglected children. I wanted relief from the stress of running an organization, constantly trying to raise money, and an arduous commute on L.A. freeways (I commuted over three hours each day).

So I found my encore career (link to previous article) as an Executive Coach. As I said, I love every second of it. It is important to say, however that it isn’t perfect, nor have I been perfect in my path. There are things I would do again, some things I would do more of, and certainly some things that I would never do again.


What I Would Do Again

Over 30 years, I had 2 Sabbaticals from my traditional jobs, three months each. They were called “sabbaticals,” but what I didn’t realize at the time was that they really were practice for retirement. I discovered that I loved working alone.

As a result I think everyone should practice retirement if they can before they retire. Be sure it’s for you because it’s not for everyone. If you need to be around people and plan to work at home, think again! If you love to lead and there’s no one around to follow, there could be some disappointment.

When you do retire, I would play for as long as possible (or affordable). I took a month to do nothing related to work, including art, photography, writing, travel and even took a history class. It was incredibly freeing to do these types of “work” before launching an encore career. I learned and laughed a lot.

I found professional personality assessment related to the workplace was a major help. I took several tests but found that the Workplace Big 5 Profile (which I’m now certified to give) was exceptionally reputable and well-researched. I was astonished at how accurately it described my personality at work, the things that energized me, and the things that drained me. I learned that I’d probably been in the wrong job for 30 years!

What I Would Do More

There are some things that I wish I had done more of when I got started in my encore career. The first thing I would do more of is use my network more effectively. By identifying and narrowing my niche and then testing it on potential clients (my CEO colleagues), I would have saved a lot of time and money on marketing.

On the same note, I would have researched marketing options more, and certainly prior to spending money on any of them. If you have an extensive enough network, you may not need to market. I didn’t need to market, but I didn’t know that for the several months.

Another area I would spend more time on is organization. Starting with a business plan. I recommend creating or paying whatever it takes to create a real business plan and then use the plan. It’s also important to keep that inbox clean. It’s an inbox, not a storage box. In addition, I would use my calendar more to set a work schedule. So decide what’s important and calendar it, whether that’s the gym, play, research, walking, nothing, calls, personal time, etc.

What I Would Not Do (Again)

Of course, what would this article be if I didn’t share some of my mistakes? I made a few, but maybe sharing them will keep you from making the same ones.

I would not get into the habit of sitting all day again. It’s important to set regular times to move around. It’s good to get out of your chair and change your neck position, etc. Along these lines I would get to the gym more, maybe four times a week, as well as scheduling a regular walk every day. Exercise is important in your encore career (as well as weight management). I wouldn’t let this fall by the wayside again.

There are feasts and famines in your encore career, too, by the way. So I would set aside more money for the famines, which in my business means no referrals. I would use the famine time to organize files, photos, and other projects that can wait for the feast periods to pass.

I would also not spend so much money at the beginning on certain things again. For instance, I started out buying an 800 number, but realized a regular phone was fine. Unfortunately for me, the first number I bought was confused with a porn line. I cancelled it. I wouldn’t pay for extensive web development and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) right off the bat either. If most of your referrals come from your network, this is unnecessary. In fact, it’s safe to say I wouldn’t put any money out at all at first unless it were tied to the business plan and the niche you are pursuing.

There are things I might have spent more on, too. The first thing that comes to mind is the cheap business cards I had; I should have invested more in those first business cards. I also might have invested in IT support. Unless you have a high toleration for frustration, an IT person is a great investment!

I also worried about silly things. The first was the concern about concealing my home phone and address. These are available to anyone, so worrying about it is a waste. Also, I had misguided concerns that I might miss something in any interesting feed I saw online, so I signed up for all of them. The result was that I was so swamped with emails and alerts that I missed anything that might have been interesting in the feed.

So there you have it. The things I would do again, do more, and not do ever again. Most of all, I would make sure that when you start your encore career you by begin looking for areas of interest that were energizing, as well as avoiding draining areas. Remember, you are working to be energized and enjoy your life so only do what is energizing and fun as much as possible in your encore career. I’m happy to say that I’m 95% there.