Smart Strategies for Retirees Seeking Work


Smart Strategies for Retirees
Seeking Work

Dwindling savings are forcing some older individuals to reenter the workforce.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published in the September 2009 issue of Kiplinger's Retirement Report. To subscribe, click here.

Bob Long retired from his job as a math teacher in Bethesda, Md., in December 2007 and moved to Ocean Pines, Md., near the beach. He spent most of the next year settling into his new community and playing golf. He taught a few times as a substitute teacher.

Then the recession struck. In late 2008 and early 2009, Long worked for two months to fill in for a teacher who went on maternity leave. After that, he taught about once a week or once every two weeks, and he plans to do the same this school year. “It was a nice way to stay involved with teaching, without the stress of full-time teaching,” says Long, who is 63. 

The small income that Long received also meant he could spend less from his retirement account during the market meltdown. “I didn’t feel guilty buying a new set of golf clubs this year,” he says. “I didn’t have to be quite as cautious as I would have been otherwise.”

Whether you retired five years ago or five weeks ago, the relief of walking away from the daily grind may have given way to pining for a paycheck again. After all, the recession has shaken people’s confidence in their financial security. In a recent survey, just 20% of retirees reported that they are very confident about having a secure retirement, down from 29% in 2008 and 41% in 2007. The survey also found that 72% of workers expect to work after they retire.

Certain kinds of employment can be attractive to retirees. “They may have had a high-stress job with long hours, and the new job could be the opposite,” says Craig Skeels, a certified financial planner with Apex Wealth Management Group, in Oxnard, Cal. “It might be a part-time job that still allows them to travel with their family or friends.”

Skeels had a retired client who loved the theater and got a job at the local community theater. “It prov-ided some cash flow, and it was something she really enjoyed participating in,” he says. Another retired client found a part-time job as a travel agent.

Earning a paycheck means you spend less from your nest egg, allowing it to continue to grow. And you may be able to contribute to tax-deferred accounts, such as a 401(k).

There are challenges to returning to the labor force. It may be tough to find a job now, with unemployment in double digits in many parts of the U.S. Returning to work could affect your pension and Social Security benefits (read Impact of a Paycheck on Retiree Benefits). And, frankly, age discrimination is a concern.

The health-care field offers many opportunities, and jobs that may appeal to older workers include medical record keeper and pediatric assistant, according to, a job-related Web site for retirees. Other areas that could suit older workers include retail, customer service, accounting and hospitality work. identifies employers that are “age friendly.” To see the list and search job postings on, you have to become a member, which costs $6 for 30 days.

Job-Hunting Strategies

Consider registering with local temp firms. Temporary jobs help boost your résumé and can lead to permanent work. Ask whether your previous employer could use you—full-time, part-time or as a consultant. Another option is starting as a volunteer. “If you volunteer, you might find out that’s the way to get your foot in the door,” says Terry Nagel, managing editor of, a Web site established by Civic Ventures, which promotes meaningful employment and community service. Members of boards of directors may get appointed to paid jobs, she says.

Offer to do project assignments. “Employers have hiring freezes and have projects that need to be done,” says Art Koff, founder of Older workers who don’t need benefits can save the company money. Although full-time job postings have declined on Koff’s Web site, project job postings have increased over the past year. 

Your Encore ( matches retired engineers and scientists with its member companies on a project basis. And CVS ( has a program that puts senior workers in hourly, management, corporate and pharmacy jobs.

Community colleges can be a great resource. You can enroll in a certificate program, which is short-term instruction, in a variety of fields. Community colleges are well-connected to local employers, says Judy Goggin, a vice-president with Civic Ventures, and “offer a lot of career counseling and exploration.”

Think about whether you want to stick with your previous profession or apply your skills to a new field. “Those skills stay with you. They didn’t stay in your desk drawer when you left,” says David Opton, chief executive officer of ExecuNet, a job search Web site for executives. Networking is especially vital in this economy. Join alumni associations, and attend conferences and trade shows in your field of choice.

Chuck Patton says the key to his success in finding a new job was networking with people who knew his abilities. He retired in late 2007 as president of a Virginia Beach timeshare company. Four months later, he says, “The economy started to head south, and I thought I’d better get back to work.” Patton, who lives in Branson, Mo., has worked in the timeshare industry for 25 years. 

After working as a consultant for four months, Patton spent a month job hunting before landing a full-time position as vice-president of marketing for a timeshare company. “I wanted to maintain the lifestyle I had while working full-time,” he says. Also, he says, “It will be a longer time before I have to tap my 401(k), so I’ll have more money to spend per year.”

In creating your résumé, first summarize your expertise and qualifications. Highlight three to five skills, says Robert Skladany, chief career counselor at He recommends listing dates only for your most recent job and grouping earlier employment under a category such as “Work History Prior to 1990,” for example. “Employers hire people based on their capabilities, not their work history,” he says. 

Be aware that managers may be concerned that older applicants could have health problems, low energy levels or limited familiarity with technology. Before an interview, thoroughly research the company and the job opening. In the interview, exude energy and play up your experience and skills. Explain in detail how you can fill the managers’ needs. “Once they have the sense that you have the solution to their problem, it will become a business conversation and age won’t matter,” says Opton.

For more authoritative guidance on retirement investing, slashing taxes and getting the best health care, click here for a FREE sample issue of Kiplinger’s Retirement Report.