Skip to main content

Boomers’ new jobs give back

Resource type: News

USA Today |

18 Jun 2008 Original Source By Janet Kornblum Baby boomers who came of age in the era of John F. Kennedy’s civic call to arms are now, in the second half of their lives, not just asking themselves what they can do for their country, but they’re actually doing it. A new telephone and Internet survey, touted as the first of its kind, indicates millions of boomers are either quitting their old jobs or coming out of retirement to pursue new careers that not only give them personal meaning but also contribute to society. The survey at (margin of error: plus or minus 3 percentage points) by the non-profit MetLife Foundation and San Francisco Civic Ventures, a national think tank, shows 6% to 9.5% of adults age 44 to 70 are pursuing “encore careers” that give them both an income and meaning. That is 5.3 million to 8.4 million people. And half of those not already in encore careers say they are interested in moving into such jobs. Researchers were surprised by the high numbers, says Allan Rivlin of Peter D. Hart Research Associates, which conducted the survey. He believes the findings are evidence of a “growing social phenomenon. Millions of Americans are already blazing a trail and working in encore careers.” Encore careers are defined as those that combine income, meaning and social purpose. They include jobs in the medical, education and non-profit sectors, such as teachers, social entrepreneurs and nurses. These are fields already facing job shortages, says Marc Freedman, CEO of Civic Ventures and author of Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life. It’s impossible to say whether this truly is a new phenomenon, because there are no previous surveys for comparison. But the trend for the past few decades has been moving toward earlier retirement, Freedman says. “We are seeing that being reversed now,” he says. And given that the boomer population is so large – 78 million to 79 million – the movement could have a tremendous effect on society in general. “What’s the healthiest, best educated, largest generation in American history going to do for what could easily amount to the second half or at least a third of their working lives?” Freedman asks. These people are not going to go to the beach and just “hang out 20 or 30 years (waiting) to die,” says Phil Borges, 65, of Seattle. At 45, Borges quit his orthodontist practice to become a photographer; he then founded a non-profit that uses digital storytelling to connect children worldwide. Borges agrees he’s on the leading edge: “I think more and more people are being drawn in to contribute. There are so many issues to tackle.”

Related Resources



Global Impact:

United States


Civic Ventures, retirement