How to plan for a post-50 career change

Professionals change careers for many reasons. Some do so in pursuit of a higher salary, while others seek a more even balance between their personal and professional lives.

Career changes can renew a person’s passion for working, which can grow stale for individuals who have been doing the same job for years on end. Though there’s not necessarily a bad time to change careers, there are times when making such a transition carries more risk. Such is the case for individuals over 50. Many individuals over 50 may not have the financial obligations they had when they were younger, as children may have grown up and moved out of the house. That can make changing careers after 50 more palatable; however, some individuals in their 50s may be hesitant to leave the security of an established career behind in favour of something new.

Hesitance about job prospects after 50 also can make some less likely to take the plunge into a new career. Though hesitancy about a career change after 50 is understandable, a recent survey from the American Institute for Economic Research found that 82 per cent of workers who responded to the survey were able to successfully transition to a new career after age 45. In addition, projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that labor force participation among individuals aged 65 and over would increase significantly by 2022, nearly doubling the rate of participation in 1990.

Those figures suggest that a midlife career change is not necessarily the same thing as a late-career career change. That should give professionals the confidence they need to successfully transition to a new career.

Individuals mulling a career change after 50 also can take these steps to make such a transition less risky.

Go back to school. Much like young people go to college before entering the professional arena, adults over 50 who want to change careers may need to go back to school to improve their career prospects. Remote learning and part-time schooling can make juggling a career and school more manageable.

Pay down as much debt as possible. Financial freedom can be an ally for individuals 50 and over who want to change careers. Career changes often require a pay cut, so individuals who can pay off their mortgages, consumer debts and/or auto loans prior to making a career change may find the transition to a lower income goes more smoothly than it might if they’re still carrying such sizeable financial commitments.

Make plans to delay retirement. As BLS data indicates, individuals who want to delay retirement certainly won’t be alone. Delaying retirement affords individuals more time to save, and a financial advisor can help adults over 50 come up with a new retirement plan that reflects their willingness to work longer. Delaying retirement also means delaying withdrawals from retirement savings accounts, which can provide peace of mind against a loss of income resulting from a career change.

Downsize your lifestyle. Even a post-50 career change that will require a significant drop in income can be doable for professionals who downsize their lifestyles. Empty nesters can consider moving into a smaller home, while travellers can cut back on the number of trips they take each year. Cutbacks won’t necessarily be easy, but they can be worth it for individuals looking for new career challenges.

A successful career change after 50 is entirely possible for individuals willing to make some sacrifices to be happier in their professional lives.

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