Traditional retirement generally requires you to work and save consistently for 30 or 40 years so that you can have an extended period of leisure in your golden years. But there are other ways that you could allocate work and leisure time to suit your lifestyle after 50. Work sabbaticals, mini-retirements, and other career breaks could help you transition from full-time work to a lifestyle that suits you, and so you can continue to work in some form until older age or even indefinitely. “Retirement is becoming a temporary hiatus, akin to a sabbatical, and then it’s being moved to a point later in life where it will likely be 10 years as opposed to 30,” says Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of Civic Ventures and author of Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life. “People want to take these breaks to get some rest and relaxation before moving on to another phase in their working life.”
Here are a few alternatives to traditional retirement that you could consider as you plan the combination of work and leisure that will suit your lifestyle after 55.
Some companies allow workers to take a sabbatical and then return to their job. Sabbaticals provide you with a length of time long enough to fully relax and even try something new. This could be just what you need to energise you for the next season of your work life. While paid sabbaticals can be more difficult to obtain given the economic decline, there may increasingly be opportunities to negotiate for extra unpaid time off, which benefits employers looking to save money, too.
Some people try to space extended periods of leisure time—often called mini-retirements—throughout their lives instead of retiring in their 60s. No combination of two-week vacations has the impact of a two or three month mini-retirement. During this time you should remove yourself from your daily routine and try to avoid cell phones and e-mail as much as possible. The goal is for you to step outside of a reactive lifestyle and be able to take a fresh look at things with new ideas. A mini-retirement could also provide you with the break you need to plan your retirement years and what you want them to look like.
Focused career breaks
Focused career breaks can be a period of 3-6 months off work, usually to accomplish a specific project or pursue a particular interest. You might have something that you have always wanted to try but just never had the opportunity to do so. Taking a focused career break will give you this time and allow you to gauge what you are good at and passionate about. While gaps in your resume might not seem beneficial, focused career breaks actually reveal that you are able to take initiative and work independently. Career breaks can also be used to transition into a new and more enjoyable job.
There is a large trend towards adult education, re-careering and personal reinvention which will become a standard part of an individual’s later years. You might want to move into a whole new work area and kick off a second career. With health and vitality on your side, at 50 or 60 you are still looking at 20-30 years of active work life, providing you with the time you need to develop a new career. This might entail further study or investigation into opportunities in your desired new area of work. With the freedom of not having children to raise or educate, you have the freedom to venture into whole new areas of work that could provide the fulfilment and reward you are looking for in your later years.
Some people don’t want to retire completely, but wouldn’t mind having more control over how they spend their time. Entrepreneurship offers you the ideal way to make a career shift toward something that is more relevant personally and societally and provides the freedom you desire in your later work years. Your 50’s and 60’s are the perfect time to move towards the job you want now rather than working at something that you don’t want in the hope that you can save enough to retire later. Baby boomers between the ages of 55 and 64 had the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity over the past decade. As a baby boomer, your decades of experience and lifetime’s worth of accumulated friends will provide you with a huge advantage in starting a business.
Overall, there are a number of alternatives to traditional retirement that can provide you with the combination of work and leisure to suit your lifestyle after 55. You just need to break out of the mould of traditional retirement thinking and pursue what you are passionate about.