At least 6 percent of Americans between the ages of 44 and 70, or 5.3 million people, are working in second careers with charities, governments, schools, or other institutions that benefit society, according to a new survey.
And half of the people in that age group who aren’t already involved in so-called “encore careers” say they would like to find such employment.
Even so, the survey found that many older Americans wanted more flexibility in their jobs and schedules than they thought most nonprofit groups could offer.
The survey was commissioned by Civic Ventures, a charity in San Francisco that seeks to engage older Americans in civic activities, and paid for by the MetLife Foundation, in New York. It was based on telephone interviews with more than 1,000 people.
The number of people who are working at nonprofit groups or want to do so “is a huge talent pool,” said Phyllis N. Segal, vice president of Civic Ventures. “This is a potential boon to nonprofits looking to carry out their mission.”
Working in schools or at other organizations that promote education is the biggest draw for people pursuing a second career. Thirty-percent are employed with education charities, schools, or similar groups.
Twenty-three percent of those employed in encore careers work in health care, while 16 percent work for government and 13 percent for other types of nonprofit groups.
Survey respondents interested in encore careers said they were motivated by a desire to stay active, productive, and challenged. More than a third cited practical concerns such as a need to continue making money and receiving health benefits.
However, the survey found that even those enthusiastic about encore careers had significant reservations.
Eighty percent said they were concerned about being able to take time off from work when they needed it. Seventy-one percent were worried about being able to balance work with taking care of family members and other responsibilities.
But most people already working in encore careers didn’t see those concerns as an issue, according to the survey. Just 27 percent said they were not able to take as much time off as they would like, while only 15 percent said they were having trouble balancing work with other tasks.
The majority (59 percent) devoted 40 hours or more per week to their job.
“This is a highly skilled and educated work force, but it’s also a highly committed work force,” said Ms. Segal. “They’re highly satisfied with the income and the benefits and the flexibility they receive.”
Ms. Segal also noted that many of the things older workers wanted in their jobs — such as flexibility and a sense of purpose — were characteristics that people in their 20s and early 30s have told researchers are important.
“By making workplaces attractive to people who are interested in encore careers, nonprofits will also make workplaces attractive to younger people,” she said.
Changes in Policy
Survey respondents also cited additional steps that employers and policy makers could take to make second careers more appealing.
Seventy-two percent said they’d like to see an end to financial penalties for continuing to work. Sixty-four percent wished it were easier to use the Internet to find jobs with nonprofit groups, government, and other institutions.
Sixty-one percent wanted more education and training that would qualify them for second careers.
The survey found that people already working in encore careers tend to be in their 50s, highly educated, and female.
Sixty percent are age 51 to 62, while 24 percent are 44 to 50, and 16 percent are 63 to 70.
Eighty-eight percent come from professional and white-collar jobs, while more than two-thirds (67 percent) have at least a college degree.
Fifty-six percent are women. Forty-two percent reside in the suburbs, compared with 30 percent who come from cities and 28 percent from small towns or rural areas.
People who expressed an interest in finding “encore-career” work, but hadn’t yet made the leap, were slightly younger on average.
Fifty percent of people between 44 and 50 said they wanted such jobs. That compares with 46 percent of people 51 to 62, and 34 percent between 63 and 70.