The Birth Of The Second Career and How to Navigate It

You know how our parents and grandparents used to go into work every day to the same office, to do the same job with the same boss their entire adult life? They would work hard at their firm or company for 40 years and when they hit 65, they would retire, take their social security and live happily ever after for their last five to eight years. That’s how life went just a few decades ago— get a job, that job becomes a career, work that one career, and retire from that one career.

While that may have worked for the generations before us, there is one small problem for those of us today— we are living longer. Our parents’ and grandparents’ life expectancy was a decade shorter than what we’re projected to live these days and that means we need to be planning for many more years in retirement than they did. To me, that means breaking away from that one career path and diversifying our job preferences to better fit a healthy work-life balance.

The Work-Life Balance

We need to be pacing ourselves. If we are to live longer, that means we will have to work longer to save for our retirement. Sadly, as a nation we aren’t doing a great job of that right now. The Employee Benefit Research Institute reported that 46 percent of all American workers have less than $10k saved for retirement and 29 percent have less than $1k. (1) So it definitely seems that the only option is prolonged work, but I believe it HAS to be done right. We need to find jobs that we can keep up with physically and that will keep up with us mentally.

It’s just not possible to keep working after the typical 40-year, 70-hour work week stint. When our parents’ 40-year careers were over, they happily took their social security and spent their last few years visiting family and sitting around to rest. But if we’re going to work into our 80s and live into our 90s, we need careers that won’t drain us of all physicality.

To work longer, we need to stay healthier. And if I’ve learned anything, it’s that corporate America isn’t going to help us with that. Increased levels of job stress have been directly associated to increased rates of heart attack, hypertension and other disorders. (2) According to a work stress survey, 83 percent of Americans are stressed at work. (3) That’s almost all of us!

If you’ve worked yourself to the bone for 40 years and are on your second bypass surgery caused by the stress of your job, chances are you won’t have it in you to keep working during retirement or enjoy any bit of the rest you have. So how do we combat this? Many people are changing the way they look at their careers paths. Instead of just one, it’s becoming two.

The Second Career

Just one career— oh how the times have changed. While the baby boomer generation was fixated on one career that offered financial stability, a recent study shows that younger generations are more concerned with finding happiness and fulfilment with their work. (4)

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker currently holds 10 different jobs before they hit 40 years old. (5) In my opinion, that’s a little excessive and I’m in no way advising this strategy to find a work-life balance. Jumping between that many jobs can only lead to more financial stress and that’s no way to live. What I’m going to suggest is the idea known as the second career.

With all our innovations, new technologies and entrepreneur-minded ways in the last 20 years, the new trend is to work in a job for 20-ish years and then move on to something else, the second career.

Your first job is where you work hard, pay off your house, and save for your kid’s college and your retirement. But once people are hitting 40 years old, they are leaving their previous stressful and taxing jobs and shifting to a second career to start working at something they enjoy.

About 4.4 million workers between ages 50 and 70 have started their second career. (7) These men and women have figured out how to turn their passions into careers. And here is where we can find that crucial work-life balance. It’s the “retire while you work” mindset that we are all looking for.

You don’t have to keep at the work you are doing today forever, especially if it makes you unhappy, stressed, and unwell. Sure, you have bills to pay, groceries to buy and retirement to save for, but with a second career you are choosing work that makes you happy. It’s about finding your “why”, and what you are passionate about and want your life to stand for during this next phase.

I’m not saying you have to wait until you’re 55— do it much sooner if you can. In a perfect world you would do that job today. That’s part of why saving and setting up your 3 Buckets can make all of this come together quicker than you imagined.

What Will Your Second Career Be?

So if this second career is going to last us until we’re 75 or 80, we need to find the right work that is not only good for our body, but is also good for our soul and mind. This second career is all about what you want to do. If you’ve done a good job of managing money in your earlier years, this second career doesn’t have to be so focused on finding financial stability. Instead this job can focus on finding your enjoyment.

Sometimes a second career can be something you always wanted to do but fear of failure or not making enough money prevented you from following your dream. Sometimes it comes from a side hobby you’ve had for years. And sometimes it can come completely out of the blue. I’ve heard of people opening restaurants, being hired as consultants or working for non-profits as their second career. The sky is the limit! So when you’re thinking about your own second career, here are a couple things to keep in mind:

Will you work for yourself or for someone else? A second career either means starting a business or getting a new job. You should take some time to figure out the difference between say opening a flower shop or working at flower shop. Opening a business can have great financial benefits down the line, but can also come with added stress. Whereas working for someone else can offer stability, but maybe not as much freedom. It’s up to you to decide which will be more life-giving to you.

Get an insider look and talk to people in the field: Once you decide what you want to do, volunteer, interview, and talk to friends and family who are in that field. They will know better than anyone the demands, expectations, joys and frustrations of the career you are looking at.

“The most important thing is to talk to people in that career,” says Jean Wilczynski, a financial advisor with Exencial Wealth Advisors in Old Lyme, Connecticut. (7)

Be realistic about the money you need to make: Hopefully you have gotten rid of any debt, own your own home and have been putting money into Bucket 3 by this point, but you should always stay on top of your finances. While most second careers are generally pay cuts, you still need to make sure you are making enough money to support yourself. As you get older, illness and injury rates increase, so in your second career make sure you are still thinking ahead to these types of possibilities.

Learn new skills: You need to be a marketable commodity when you’re switching jobs and starting businesses. Think about what skills you might need to brush up or learn from scratch to make yourself an enticing hire.

Do some research: There are so many websites dedicated to the second career. Have a look around and see what has been working for others. There are vast resources available for you, so take advantage! Here are a few:,,

Start dreaming today: Let the dreams of your second career be your motivator and hope. Viewing your current situation as part of the journey instead of a prison sentence will make every day until your second career more enjoyable and manageable. Remember, nothing is ever set in stone. You are in control of your life and you can make it anything you want it to be.


  1. 12 Terrifying Retirement Facts Keeping Boomer-and Their Advisors-Up at Night by Financial Planning
  2. Workplace Stress by the American Institute of Stress
  3. Work Stress on the Rise: 8 in 10 Americans are Stressed about Their Jobs, Survey Finds by Huffpost Healthy Living
  4. Job Hopping is the ‘New Normal’ for Millennials: Three Ways to Prevent a Human Resource Nightmare by Jeanne Meister
  5. How Many Jobs Will the Average Person Have in His or Her Lifetime? by Scott Maker
  6. 7 Tips for Launching a Second Career by Maryalene LaPonsie

Any opinions are those of David Adams and not necessarily those of Raymond James.

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