For some fortunate older adults, 2020 and 2021 have proved to be financial boon years. They spent less than in normal years because they weren’t traveling, weren’t eating out, weren’t paying for theater tickets and expensive excursions, and those who are invested in the stock market have seen their portfolios soar. However, the stay-at-home years have been tough on older adults who were not prepared for an abrupt cessation of income. Many in this latter group had been hoping to bolster their retirement fund a bit more in their sixties or seventies, but the Covid years brought a reduction in hours or even a loss of income entirely. Some even found themselves in the position of having to help adult children and their families weather an income crisis, thereby depleting what savings they had already accumulated.
One study found that more boomers “retired” in 2020 than in any other year on record. In Q3 of 2020, 28.6 million people in the boomer cohort reported being retired. That is 3.2 million more than in Q3 of 2019. That brings the total number of retired boomers to 40% of that population cohort.
However, these numbers are a measure of two things: 1) labor department calculations that reflect individuals who are on a payroll, and 2) data that is drawn from Census Bureau in-person and phone surveys that do a bit better in reflecting non-traditional work. Forty percent seems like a very high rate of unemployment for people between the ages of 58 and 75 (boomers), but regardless of whether that number is a true reflection of how many boomers are not earning an income, it clearly indicates that there are a significant number of individuals who either want or need to earn more money before they can say they have enough to keep them in food, clothing, and housing through the end of their lives.
Being employed and drawing a paycheck may be the traditional way of earning an income, but it is certainly not the only way, especially in the 21st century. Anyone over 50 who has been working steadily at something has the right to call themselves “skilled” or a “veteran” of that enterprise. Opportunities to apply those skills are out there, sometimes in less obvious places:
- Teach what you know. Check out opportunities to teach or mentor students at a junior college
- Many high school students are struggling to regain ground in the wake of Covid. Mentors and tutors are in demand. Inquire at a nearly school or through a professional tutoring organization like Varsity Tutors.
- Offer your knowledge/skills online through sites like Job Monkey and Upwork.
- Use social media. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date so recruiters can find you. If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, you can set one up easily. The things you need to access on LinkedIn are all in the “free” version, so it won’t cost you a penny. You can also search out companies who hire people with your skills through LinkedIn’s search function.
If you are someone who would prefer to do something entirely different than what you did for the last 20+ years, consider some of the following:
Start a micro-business. Examples are endless; here are a few:
- Dog walking
- Sewing and alterations
- Meal preparation
- Personal assistant
- Landscaping and yard work
Turn a hobby or interest into an income.
- Interested in homes? Get your real estate license and start as a paid apprentice to an established realtor
- Love flowers? Get hired as a flower arranger at a supermarket
- Like to cook? Do cooking demos for food companies
- Enjoying around kids? Coach a little-league team, get hired as a crossing guard, work at a municipal playground
- Love to stay in shape? Become a personal trainer or work at a gym
Work from home:
- Tutor online
- Write, blog, edit or run a website. If you have skills in this arena, people will pay you to do these tasks
- Take an online course in medical billing and recording, then work from home at these jobs. They are in demand.
- Know a second language fluently? Be an online translator
- Pet sit at your home
- Make and sell jewelry, paintings, clothing, or other crafts online. Websites like Etsy make it easy.
In addition to working for money, there may be other ways to find money in later life:
Tap your house. Your home, if you own it, is a key asset in your retirement portfolio. If you live in an area that has seen a healthy growth rate in property values, you may be able to take out a small mortgage and use it to pay off bills or pay for medications. Or, depending on your circumstances, you might consider a reverse mortgage.
Appraise your life insurance. Your policy is part of your net worth. According to research by Coventry Direct, every year older adults allow $100 billion in life insurance policies lapse. If your original reason for purchasing the policy has diminished or no longer exists, you may want to consider cashing it in now. Your policy could be worth more to you now than you realize.
Sell stuff. Many older adults are already concerned about what they are going to do with all the things they have accumulated over a lifetime. Ebay, NextDoor, Facebook, and other online sites are great places to advertise and sell what you no longer need or want. Cleaning, preparing, pricing, and uploading items, then interacting with prospective buyers and sending the items on their way can be a full-time job in itself!
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