Don Causey was beginning to plan his retirement, selling off his profitable sporting newsletters, when his life took a horrific turn. While on a safari on a long-anticipated trip to Africa, a tree tumbled onto him, breaking his back. The process of getting a medical transport to take him from a remote village back to Miami proved arduous and costly.
Today Mr. Causey's back is healed, and at 70 he finds himself in a post-retirement career -- consulting for a company that sells travel memberships that include medical evacuation benefits. It's a profitable part-time gig that he believes is an important service to travelers. Plus, he said, "It keeps my mind alive and keeps me connected with a community I care about, just in a different way."
Like Mr. Causey, most Americans are crafting their own version of meaningful work in their later stages of life. It's a direction that brings balance and an ability to be impactive in a whole new way.
This later-in-life stage "encore career" can last from a few years to 20 or more. While 9 million baby boomers already have entered their encore phase, another 31 million will soon make the leap in that direction, according to Encore.org, a nonprofit that promotes "second acts."
The concept of an encore career is being buoyed by a convergence of trends: financial realities, layoffs, long life spans and the desire for a more purposeful existence during the aging process.
"It's a way to leave a mark that makes things better for future generations," said Marci Alboher, author of "The Encore Career Handbook." "But usually it's not quick or easy. It's a slow metamorphosis involving baby steps, detours, persistence, creativity and a do-it-yourself spirit."