How to plan for a post-50 career change

Professionals change careers for many reasons. Some do this to earn a higher salary, while others seek a better work-life balance.

Career changes can renew a person’s passion for work, which can become stale in people who have been doing the same job for years. While it’s not necessarily a bad time to make a career change, there are times when such a change is more risky. This is the case for people over 50. Many people over 50 may not have the financial commitments they had when they were younger as children have grown and moved out of the home. This can make a career change after 50 more palatable; However, some people in their fifties may be reluctant to give up the security of an established career in favor of something new.

Reluctance about job prospects after 50 can also make some less likely to jump into a new career. Although hesitation about a career change after age 50 is understandable, a recent survey by the American Institute for Economic Research found that 82 percent of workers who took part in the survey were able to successfully transition into a new career after age 45. In addition, projections from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that labor force participation for those aged 65 and older would increase significantly by 2022, nearly doubling from 1990 levels.

These figures suggest that a midlife career change is not necessarily the same as a later career change. This should give working professionals the confidence they need to make a successful transition to a new career.

Those considering a career change after age 50 can also take these steps to make the transition less risky.

go back to school Much like young people attend college before entering the workforce, adults over 50 who want to make a career change may need to go back to school to improve their career prospects. Distance learning and part-time training can make juggling work and school more manageable.

Pay off as much debt as possible. Financial freedom can be an ally for those in their 50s who want to make a career change. Career changes often require a pay cut, so individuals who are able to pay off their mortgages, consumer debt, and/or car loans before a career change may find that the transition to a lower income is smoother than if they still have such significant financial commitments.

Make plans to delay retirement. As BLS data shows, those looking to delay retirement are certainly not alone. Postponing retirement gives individuals more time to save, and a financial advisor can help adults over 50 create a new retirement plan that reflects their willingness to work longer hours. Deferred retirement also means deferred withdrawals from retirement savings, which can protect you against loss of income due to a career change.

Downsize your lifestyle. Even a career change after 50 that requires a significant drop in income can be doable for professionals who are downsizing their lifestyle. Empty nesters may consider moving to smaller homes, while travelers may reduce the number of trips they take each year. Retrenchments won’t necessarily be easy, but they can be rewarding for individuals looking for new career challenges.

A successful career change after 50 is entirely possible for people who are willing to make some sacrifices in order to be happier in professional life.

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