Thursday, February 3, 2011

Retired and working. How I did it.

Since quitting my full-time job at the newspaper nearly a year ago my life has been moving forward at warp speed. Early on a friend said "getting retired" takes planning, effort and focus. "Maybe," she said, "you just need to dive off the high-board." That's what I did. What can I share about the experience, so far?
It's been exciting, fun and a bit stressful not knowing if or exactly how my plan would come together.
At 64, I am not ready to hang it up in terms of working. But what I did hope for was something a bit more flexible than the 10-hour Monday through Friday newsroom grind that had been my work life for 25 years. What I've found is plenty of part-time opportunities. As a writer, my skills are in demand. It looks like I can have as much "work" as I want to take on. The trick is to keep the contract pipeline full but not over commit or get boxed in to deadlines that conflict with family and travel.
New career option
The interesting thing is that I'm not alone in my desire to keep my hand in the world of work as a semi-retired baby boomer. And while the job market may be dismal as a whole, a recent survey says there are lots of hiring managers looking for people like me.
Working in retirement is the new reality for many baby boomers maybe more for the enjoyment than the money. As a generation of people who have been fully engaged in the work world, we're just not ready to walk into the sunset at age 62, 65 or for me, maybe not for a long time. I love the interaction with people. Besides the flexibility, part-time work offers me income that extends the life of my retirement savings. has created a list of jobs that "suit this new set of retirees who see work as a choice, not a burden." What do those jobs look like? They offer good pay and flexible hours, make use of professional-level skills and are "not too hard to get."
SmartMoney came up with this ideas after looking at new research that showed "far more people who are working in retirement are doing so because they want to, not because they need to."
Employers who have cut back on operating overhead appear to be more eager to add part-time people. The pool of professional jobs that appeal to retirees is growing. A survey by of 2,400 hiring managers found that 13 percent plan to hire part-time employees in 2011. Another 34 percent said they will hire contract or temporary workers this year. That's up from 11 percent who said they'd hire part-time workers and 30 percent who said they'd bring in contract or temporary workers in 2010, the survey showed.
These workers usually don't get benefits such as health care coverage. But that's easier for retirees to manage, especially those on Medicare.

As a part-time self-employed freelancer I have had to make some adjustments:
  •  I set up an invoice billing system to keep track of my work. It's simple. I have a file of Un-paid invoices that I've sent to clients. When I get a payment back I move it to the Paid Invoice File. At the end of the year, I can tell the IRS what I've earned. 
  • Secondly, I've reorganized my desk. That was a big job because I brought home boxes of "stuff" from my desk at work and then had to make room for it in the home office.  
  •  As a consultant and freelancer I am now tracking my tax write-off expenses...mileage to and from meetings, for instance. I've got to look into more of the tax details of self-employment. Networking expenses with clients and potential clients. I am my own boss. That's been exciting.
  •  I've become diligent about keeping my calendar up to date. I'm a bit paranoid that I will miss a meeting with one of my paying clients.
Now I  have three revenue streams to support my semi-retired life: Social Security, investment income and part-time employment. All that with the flexibility to block out a week to go to Mexico or for a few days of skiing in Idaho. My "smart" phone allows me to keep up with my home e-mail and stay up with client requests.
Who do you know?
It has taken me nearly 11 months to reach this point. During that time, I set up a new IRA account with Fidelity Investments. I contacted the Social Security Administration and set up monthly benefit payments to start in January and I began networking with business contacts who might be interested in my skills as a writer, business news commentator and informed expert on women, money and retirement. I've tried to stay true to my new career focus on business news and women and money. I do have one paying gig that's a little off target: -- writing an energy advice column for my local public utility. I said yes because of the steady income and the flexibility it offers.
All this feels good. My anxieties about the future are in check at least in the near term. My recommendation to those wanting to make a change: Start putting some flesh on the idea by talking to those who might be willing to pay for your services as a contract employee or part-time employee. Make up a household budget to see where you stand with expenses, then add in Social Security and chances are you can make it happen.
For more, check out these Web sites. Founder Art Koff has put together a job search Web site for older workers.,  The best part-time jobs for retirees. The Wall Street Journal provides regular reports on retirement planning.

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