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The fact that you’re retired doesn’t mean you can’t pursue what you love and make a little income on the side while you’re at it. Many side jobs can be done from the comfort of your home, making them ideal for seniors and those with limited mobility.
According to a 2019 Prudential report, 31 percent of independent contractors or “gig workers” are baby boomers, and 34 percent of boomers who work only as contractors are retirees.
Some retirees work to fill the gap between their expenses and their income from Social Security. Others have filled that gap with products such as annuities and work to stay social and active.
“It’s pretty important, I think, to continue working in some way for financial reasons, but also for social reasons [and] health reasons,” says Steve Vernon, who spent more than 30 years as a retirement actuarial consultant. Now retired himself, Vernon maintains what he calls his “encore career” as president of his retirement advising firm, Rest-of-Life Communications, and as a research scholar at Stanford University’s Stanford Center on Longevity.
There is a whole world of post-retirement opportunities to choose from. It’s just a matter of getting out there and figuring out what works for you.
“This can be hard work, but don’t give up. It’s worth it,” says Vernon. “Act as if you know what you’re doing and just go do it.”
You’ve spent years gaining expertise in your jobs and hobbies. Now it’s time to decide how they’ll fit into your retirement lifestyle. No matter where your strengths lie, there’s bound to be a fun (and lucrative!) opportunity for you.
Good writers will always be in high demand. The key to standing out in a sea of mediocre writers is to highlight your skills and expertise. Whether you write for business or pleasure, there are many ways to monetize your skills. Once you’ve published a few works or have steady contract work, writing can provide a reliable source of side income.
It may not be a get-rich-quick route, but according to Vernon, most post-retirement work isn’t — at least at first.
“You might not make income right away,” he says. “Maybe you’re volunteering or you’re offering your services at a low cost to get in the door.”
Don’t get discouraged if things don’t work perfectly right away.
“I didn’t really find my stride for about five years,” Vernon says. Now, he’s thriving!
- Self-publish a book: E-books, audiobooks and physical copies are now easy to self-publish through Amazon, Audible or your own personal website.
- Help people write their resumes: You’ve likely written your fair share of resumes in your working days, so why not put that knowledge and expertise to good use?
- Become a freelance proofreader: If you have an eye for detail and a solid understanding of grammar and syntax, consider editing and proofreading.
- Start a blog: Determine a niche you identify with and create a running list of content ideas. Once your blog is up, monetize it through advertisements and affiliate links.
- Grammarly Blog: Everything you’ve wanted to know about writing and editing is answered in these informative and bite-sized articles.
- Grammar Girl: Founded by Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl has been included multiple times in Writer’s Digest’s 101 best websites for writers.
- Purdue OWL: Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab is a hub for writing, research and ESL learning. They offer articles as well as instructional videos.
- Writer’s Digest University: With more than 76 online workshops taught by professional writers and authors, WDU is perfect for all skill levels.
Teaching and Tutoring
If your passion lies in teaching, you’ll find there are plenty of flexible options for making some extra income. Most of them allow you to work on your own terms and from the comfort of your own home — no teaching degree or certification required.
Vernon recommends looking into the prospect of self-employment in order to circumvent the typical challenges, such as ageism or bias, that come with being an older worker reentering the workforce.
“When you’re self-employed, you can’t discriminate,” he says.
- Sell curriculum online: Create teaching materials for any grade level and sell them to full-time teachers who may be too busy to write their own curriculum.
- Shoot video courses: Tech-savvy teachers can create video explanations and tutorials from the comfort of their homes and monetize them via Youtube and other platforms.
- Teach English online: Many English teachers travel to another country to teach, but going online eliminates geographical barriers and widens your audience potential.
- Substitute teach: If you have previous teaching experience, it’s easy to become a substitute teacher. Plus, you can choose when and how often you want to work.
- TeachersPayTeachers: The largest and most popular online marketplace for educational resources, TeachersPayTeachers allows you to sell original curriculum.
- TeacherLingo: This online networking community offers teachers a space to share insight and classroom ideas. They regularly welcome contributors or one-off blog post ideas.
- Skillshare: If your area of expertise skews toward the more creative side, join this platform of teachers to demonstrate your tips, techniques and skills.
- Udemy: Upload video classes to help more than 50 million students worldwide learn new skills and advance their careers.
Consulting is a great way to continue putting your career expertise to use throughout your retirement years.
“While you’re still working in your regular job, start putting your radar out for jobs you want to do,” Vernon recommends. “Start thinking about it before you need to.”
No matter your previous line of work, you can likely carry that knowledge into a consulting career. The key is networking, marketing yourself, setting competitive rates and knowing when to say “no” to a client who you can tell won’t be a good fit.
- Become a life coach: Life coaches counsel and encourage their clients on a variety of personal and professional goals. The trick is identifying obstacles that hinder goals.
- Consult your former employer: Your former employer was likely sad to see you go, so consulting is a great way to maintain that relationship while setting your own hours.
- Try horticulture consulting: If consulting sounds appealing but you prefer sunshine and fresh air, consider garden consulting.
- Explore financial and retirement consulting: Use what you’ve learned thus far in your retirement journey to help others set themselves up for success.
- Consulting Mag: Get the latest news in leadership and corporate strategy. The magazine also hosts recognition dinners for women in consulting and lists the top firms to work for.
- MindTools: Brush up on best practices for time management, problem solving, decision making, communication skills, project management and more.
- Zoom: It’s completely feasible to be a stay-at-home consultant with an online video meeting tool such as Zoom. Schedule meetings, invite participants and share your screen.
- UpWork: If you’re looking for clients as a freelance consultant, Upwork will connect you to businesses and individuals looking for your services — and handle all the payments.
Though many remain in their career field after retirement, plenty don’t — and Vernon says it’s essential to broaden your horizons and consider the unconventional.
“Does your resume tell you who you were or who you are now?” he asks. “You need to shift your mindset.”
Turning your passion into an income stream may come easily for retirees who are both business-savvy and musically talented. Running a successful music side hustle takes years of practice and experience combined with the knowledge of how to market yourself and manage clients and projects.
- Compose and sell songs: You can go through the usual streaming services, such as Spotify, sell to other musicians or write for film or TV to earn performance royalties.
- Give music lessons: Offering music lessons is a great way to share your knowledge from the comfort of your home. Offer 30- and 60-minute lessons at different price levels.
- Book gigs: Depending on where you live, there may be a thriving local music scene. Get connected with local venues and see if you can score any paid gigs.
- Mix and master: If you have an ear for levels and prefer to EQ rather than play, offer to sell your mixing and mastering services to musicians in your network.
- The American Association of Independent Music: This organization aims to provide community, advocacy, education and opportunity for independent musicians.
- Soundfly: Become a mentor on this instructional platform to offer feedback on students’ work and help them grow their skills and experience.
- GigSalad: For retirees looking to get connected with local gig opportunities, this platform provides leads and payment processing all in one place.
- MusicTheory.net: If you’re used to playing by ear but need to brush up on your knowledge of music theory, this site offers free lessons, exercises and tools.
Art and Photography
Gone are the days of the “starving artist” trope. Artistic retirees can leverage their years of practice to provide masterful work to the right audience. The trick is finding a niche and knowing the value of your work. If you’re not sure what to charge, look at what others in your industry with your skill level charge.
According to Vernon, diving in and trying out different things is the key to finding an “encore career” of your own.
“There is some homework needed here — homework into the jobs out there and the kind of work that’s out there, but also the homework of assessing yourself,” he says. “What are your strengths?”
- Sell your photos online: Whether you choose to sell through a personal website or a platform such as Shutterstock, make sure to leverage Instagram to boost visibility.
- Create digital scrapbooks: If you have an eye for layout, create digital scrapbooks for people. You’ll spend less on materials and your creations will last a lifetime.
- Make handmade goods: There’s always a market for quality handmade goods. Knit items, soap, candles, jewelry and other goods sell really well on online platforms.
- Take private commissions: If you have fine art skills — whether in painting, drawing, sculpture or otherwise — you can make good money accepting commission work.
- Etsy: Set up an online store, organize your inventory and orders, and print shipping labels all through this platform. It’s also a great place to browse other creatives’ wares.
- SquareSpace: As a creative, you’ll want an online portfolio to showcase your work. SquareSpace is a popular option with beautiful layouts that require minimal setup.
- Adobe Blog: A creative industry authority, Adobe’s blog features inspiration and news in art, design, photography, typography and more.
- Hi-Fructose: This online contemporary art magazine features work from artists who don’t adhere to a specific genre. They’re always discovering new artists and love submissions.
Caregiving and Child Care
Caring for a child or someone who is sick or impaired is one of the most rewarding things you’ll do, and for those who seek more interpersonal interaction in their work, caregiving can be the ideal fit.
One thing to keep in mind in any post-retirement career — caregiving, consulting, teaching or otherwise — is that your relationship to your coworkers may be different from what you’re used to.
“If you’re trying to get a job where someone else hires you, there’s a good chance that that person is going to be younger than you,” says Vernon, who says he’s gotten used to being “by far” the oldest person on the Stanford Center’s research staff.
“It’s a new world,” he says. “You’ve got to be open to working with people of all ages.”
- Start an at-home daycare: If you have friends and neighbors with young children, offer daycare services. Just make sure to check any licensing or insurance requirements.
- Become a nanny: While there are no formal requirements for this job, it’s a good idea to get certified in CPR and first aid and enroll in infant care and water safety classes.
- Do after-school pickups: Some busy parents need someone to pick up their children from school and watch them for a few hours. This is a great option if you want flexible hours.
- Care for a sick or impaired adult: Offer to provide caregiving services, such as cooking, cleaning and transportation, for an older adult to relieve their primary family caregiver.
- Caregiver Action Network: This nonprofit provides free resources, education and support to caregivers all over the nation.
- National Alliance for Caregiving: For more than 20 years, the NAC has been advancing research and innovation in caregiving. They also work to raise public awareness.
- Healthy Kids, Healthy Future: This organization promotes healthy eating, exercise, reduced screen time and breastfeeding resources for new mothers.
- Child Care Aware: Child Care Aware works with more than 400 child care referral agencies worldwide to help families and caregivers find quality child care.
Travel and Real Estate
Retirees who have lived in a location for decades have a unique advantage when it comes to travel and real estate. Their robust knowledge of their region makes them prime candidates for becoming knowledgeable tour guides and travel agents. If you’d rather let travelers make their own plans, consider renting a spare room in your house or flipping houses to attract new families.
If you’re new to the travel or real estate industry, look into taking classes in the particular area you’re entering. If you want to be a tour guide, consider joining your local Toastmasters to practice your public speaking.
“Networking is really important. Training is really important,” Vernon says. “If you’re going to training, you’re meeting other people. The training is part of the networking.”
- Rent a room in your home: If you have a spare room, unused basement space or a vacation home, make some passive income by renting it out.
- Stage houses: For those who have a keen eye for layout and design, consider staging homes. A beautiful portfolio and solid online presence is a must here.
- Become a local tour guide: Many travelers prefer private, low-key tours from locals who know where to find the well-kept secrets. Let your tours reflect your interests.
- Flip houses: While you don’t need a real estate license to flip houses, having one will help you get the best deals and will allow you to sell other people’s houses in your down time.
- Airbnb: Airbnb is one of the largest home-hosting platforms. You can choose whether you want to rent your entire home or a specific room and vet guests before they arrive.
- Tours By Locals: Sign up to become a local tour guide in your area. The company handles the rest: payment processing, training and marketing.
- QC Design School: From interior decorating to home staging and professional organizing, this site provides training and certification — all online.
- The Travel Institute: If you’re looking to become a licensed travel agent, this site offers training and certification while keeping you up-to-date on industry news.
Ride-Hailing Services and Delivery
Making money with your car is an attractive option for retirees who want flexible hours, decent pay and minimal social interaction. However, Vernon suggests you find some sort of peer community to support you during your entry into post-retirement work — even if it’s not among those in your specific field.
“Maybe you form a little group of friends who are in the same boat, and you go have coffee,” he says. “That’s more important than ever today — paying attention to supporting people emotionally, because it’s really hard.”
- Drive for a ride-hailing company: All you need is a valid license and a clean driving record to drive for a ride-hailing company, such as Uber or Lyft.
- Become a personal shopper: Download a grocery shopping app such as Instacart to shop for and deliver groceries to people — whenever you feel like it, on your terms.
- Deliver restaurant food: The demand for delivered food has skyrocketed, and apps such as DoorDash, Uber Eats and Grubhub make it easy to become a delivery driver.
- Rent your car: If you find in retirement you’re not driving as much as you used to, or if you have access to good public transportation, consider renting out your car.
- HyreCar: If your vehicle doesn’t meet the required standards to drive for Uber or Lyft or deliver food, rent a car easily through HyreCar.
- Turo: Become a host and rent your car on Turo. For little to no work, drivers make an average of $700 per month. Alternatives include Getaround and TravelCar.
- RideGuru: Get connected with other ride-hailing service drivers in your area to share insights and tips, ask questions and browse the latest ride-hailing service news.
- Hurdlr: As a driver, you’ll want an app to track your miles and tax deductions in real time. Gridwise and MileWiz provide comparable services.
Making money while cuddling with pets is a win-win situation for animal lovers. Pet ownership comes with a lot of responsibilities, and busy families will often offload some of this to responsible dog walkers, pet sitters and groomers. If your love of animals matches your entrepreneurial spirit, you’ll find pet care an enjoyable and lucrative option.
- Start pet sitting: Whether it’s just for a friend of a friend or you chose to take it on as a part-time job, pet sitting is a great way to spend time with animals while making money.
- Walk other people’s dogs: Busy pet owners can’t always squeeze in the time to walk their furry friends. Leverage technology to connect with owners who could use you.
- Start a pet grooming business: While this requires a bit more training upfront, a good fur trimmer and nail clipper is always in demand.
- Become a pet photographer: If you have a knack for catching tails mid-wag and tongues mid-lick, consider starting a pet photography business.
- Rover: Whether you want to board a dog, housesit, just drop by for a visit or walk dogs, Rover has a variety of options for people looking for pet care.
- PetSitter.com: This online platform will help connect you to pet owners in need of a sitter. The trick is amassing a collection of regular users who “favorite” your profile.
- National Association of Professional Pet Sitters: As a member of this organization, you’ll have access to education, certification and resources for your pet sitting business.
- Animal Behavior College: From professional dog grooming to dog training and even aquarium maintenance, ABC helps people pursue a career in pet care.
The culinary world is full of endless possibilities. Many dream of pursuing a job in the culinary industry but opt for more stable careers during their working years. Use retirement as a time to finally pursue your passion for food in a risk-free setting, as you’ll only be relying on it for side income.
- Become a personal chef: After determining your niche (think gourmet, family-friendly, vegan, etc.), advertise yourself and build a roster of regular clients.
- Cater private events: Easier and more cost-effective than opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant, private catering is a great way to monetize your culinary skills.
- Teach cooking classes: Whether you use your own kitchen or a rented space, teaching cooking classes is a fun way to share the joy of cooking with others.
- Write and sell a cookbook: If you have decades of experience cooking meals for family and friends, consider featuring your favorites in a cookbook.
- Rouxbe: This online culinary school offers classical training for home cooks. Receive one-on-one attention from chefs and earn a certificate upon completion.
- MasterClass: Watch and learn with these culinary arts training videos from legendary chefs worldwide, including Wolfgang Puck, Gordon Ramsay and many more.
- Le Cordon Bleu: Often considered one of the greatest and largest culinary schools, Le Cordon Bleu offers online degrees in culinary management, hospitality and more.
- New York Times Cooking: These recipes, guides and beautiful photographs will inspire you to cook your most memorable meal yet, from trendy new dishes to classics.
Things to Consider When Working During Retirement
Once you start making a steady income in retirement, make sure to coordinate it with your Social Security benefits.
If you receive early retirement benefits throughout 2020, the Social Security Administration will deduct $1 for every $2 you make above $18,240.
If you will reach full retirement age in 2020, the Social Security Administration will deduct $1 from your benefits for each $3 you earn above $48,600 until the month you reach full retirement age.
Full retirement age varies depending on your birth year, and certain exceptions and extenuating circumstances will affect these calculations. If you haven’t yet researched the impact of your income on your retirement benefits, it’s best to consult the Social Security Administration’s guidelines directly.
Earning money in retirement can reduce the financial strain that comes with aging. If your budget is tight, this extra income can cover essentials and medical expenses. If money isn’t an issue, you can use the money from your side hustle to go on a vacation or contribute to a grandchild’s college education fund. Either way, taking up an “encore career” is a great way to meet people and have fun — which is what life in retirement is all about.
6 Cited Research Articles
- AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/ppi/2015/caregiving-in-the-united-states-2015-report-revised.pdf
- John Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Keep your brain young with music. Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/keep-your-brain-young-with-music
- National Center for Education Statistics. (2012). Table 2.Average and median age of public school teachers and percentage distribution of teachers, by age category, sex, and state: 2011–12. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/sass/tables/sass1112_2013314_t1s_002.asp
- Prudential. (2019). Gig Workers in America. Retrieved from https://www.prudential.com/wps/wcm/connect/4c7de648-54fb-4ba7-98de-9f0ce03810e8/gig-workers-in-america.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CVID=mD-yCXo
- Ride Share Guy. (2019). Lyft & Uber driver survey 2019: Uber driver satisfaction takes a big hit. Retrieved from https://therideshareguy.com/uber-driver-survey/
- Social Security Administration. (2020). How Work Affects Your Benefits. Retrieved from https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10069.pdf