How people define retirement is changing. For most people it doesn’t mean that they will completely stop working. Instead, Americans are looking for encore careers to help them find meaning, stay engaged and generate income. Yet finding that next encore career can be more challenging than you think.

Pre-retirees generally expect to work in retirement. Roughly 72% of Americans under age 50 say that they want to keep working after they retire, according to data in the Age Wave study. However, far fewer people actually end up working at all in retirement. A little less than half of retirees, 47 percent, said they have or planned to work during retirement, which leaves a huge gap between those that expected to work and those that actually end up working. Engaging in an encore career can do wonders for retirement satisfaction. By continuing to work, retirees can receive huge emotional and mental benefits by finding engagement in their work – a community, meaning and mental stimulation. But the desire to keep working for the emotional benefits likely won’t be enough by itself.

Most retirees who continue to work in retirement state they do so because they both find meaning in what they do and to supplement their finances. Thus, when looking for that encore job you need to look for two key elements: job satisfaction and financial benefit. When looking for an encore career, try to leverage your current employment and connections. Perhaps your encore career is with your current employer, but you won’t know if you don’t ask. Work your networks and connections to find an opportunity. Non-profit organizations can also be great destinations for encore careers as these organizations often pay less but provide meaningful work opportunities. If you’re okay with the financial aspect of the job taking a back seat to workplace meaning, non-profit work could provide a great way to stay engaged.

Coaching and consulting opportunities can also serve as great encore careers. These roles can allow you to leverage your skill set to help others.  By working for yourself and picking your clients, you also gain flexibility and freedom to do what you want. While running a business isn’t for everyone, it can be exhilarating for many. Finding an encore career can feel daunting. One place to start is by setting a goal for yourself. Write down your dream encore job and, more importantly, why it is your dream job. This gives you a place to start. Then write down how you could get yourself into that job. If you don’t see a clear path ask others for help. Also, look at they why it’s your dream job and see if there is another job that could also provide those same benefits. Goal-setting and exploring the process that you will take can help you achieve better results.

Retirees who leave the workforce “cold-turkey” all at once can struggle to find the right lifestyle balance in retirement. All of a sudden you go from working five days a week, generating a paycheck, and interacting with your co-workers to having a cleared schedule, less of a built-in social setting and the need to generate your own income source from savings. Instead of leaving the workforce all at once to enter retirement, individuals can benefit from phasing into retirement. For some, phasing into retirement might mean just cutting back hours. For others, it could be a completely new encore job. Still for others it could mean telecommuting or taking on a role with reduced responsibilities at the same company. In addition to the emotional and social benefits of continued work, there are huge financial benefits. In fact, perhaps the single best strategy to improve retirement security is to work longer.

By working longer, you reduce down the number of years you are not receiving a paycheck, shorten your retirement period, reduce the impact of inflation on your retirement savings and avoid having to spend your investments sooner. Working a little bit longer can also help you defer Social Security for another year. If you defer Social Security for a year after your full retirement age, your benefit payments will increase by 8 percent for life. That can be a much-needed retirement income boost. As Social Security is the primary income source for the majority of American retirees, making smart claiming decisions is crucial to a financially secure retirement. When planning for retirement, consider the benefit of an encore career or phased retirement. Financially and emotionally you could live a more secure and enjoyable retirement by working longer in a job you find meaningful.

This was originally published in Forbes

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