Great Jobs for Retirees
Your career job is ending. It’s time to consider how to earn extra cash in retirement working at something you’ve always wanted to do.
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Maybe you straight up need the cash in retirement. Maybe you want to have a fun job just for kicks and the bonus pocket coin. Or perhaps you just want to give back working in a helpful job you didn’t have time to take on as your career job took off. The work is out there. Here are 22 jobs you might consider in retirement for fun and cash rewards.
Become an Adjunct Professor in Retirement
If you were a professional in your career job, colleges and universities are always on the lookout for adjunct professors or lecturers. Some may require a master’s degree; others just a college degree and professional experience to share with students. I taught visual and print journalism at two esteemed J-schools – one required a master’s degree, which I have – for 10 years while holding down a full-time job.
The side hustles added several thousand dollars to my annual household income, and, more, it was richly fulfilling to work with students eager to learn. How do you get an adjunct teaching job? Reach out to community colleges, colleges or universities where you live. Depending on your specialty – say, accounting – contact the department head in that particular school and inquire about becoming an adjunct.
Teach at Public Schools in Retirement
How about substitute teaching at secondary schools? The pandemic accelerated teacher retirements, and some schools are in desperate need of teachers. Grade schools and high schools nationwide are looking for people to substitute teach. Some districts hire directly (during a recent federal government shutdown, the Fairfax County Public School system in Northern Virginia outside of Washington, D.C., actively encouraged furloughed government workers to substitute teach and held a series of workshops seeking substitute teachers). Some districts have outsourced the hiring process. ESS, a Knoxville, Tenn.-based K-12 educational staffing firm, works with more than 750 school systems in 28 states to fill substitute teacher and other staffing positions with its base of more than 60,000 substitutes and permanent employees.
The company says it fills many nonteaching roles that don’t require certification. These are filled by people who are maybe getting their feet wet, seeing if they want to pursue a teaching career. It varies by state and school district, but some don’t require substitutes to have teaching certification. Pennsylvania, for example, allows people with a bachelor’s degree to apply for a one-year emergency certification to substitute. Check the websites of school districts in your area to see if they are hiring substitutes.
Pay varies by district. The Fairfax County Public School system was recently paying substitute teachers $14.50 to $20.50 per hour.
Here’s a state-by-state guide to requirements, and in some cases, pay and benefits, for substitute teachers, courtesy of the National Education Association.
Become a Patient Advocate in Retirement
Many of us who are sandwiched between kids we’ve raised and parents we’re caring for understand how tough it can be finding the right care for our mom and dad, now in their late 80s or early 90s. Some of us get really good at advocating for the most appropriate and best health care for our parents. You can turn that into the next chapter of your “career” in retirement by becoming a pro patient advocate.
Patient advocates do exactly what the title says: They advocate for the medical needs of their clients. Those who have turned the skills they honed helping their parents (or themselves) into a second career say they charge anywhere from $150 to $400 and may find themselves working with 10 to 20 clients. Patient Advocators and the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates are two such startups. If patient advocacy seems like a good retirement job for you, check out Health Advocate Resources.
Become a Tour Guide in Retirement
Many guided tours had been put on hold during the pandemic, but they’re starting to reopen. And you could use your retirement free time to cash in.
If you live near an historic site overseen by the National Park Service, you could become a licensed guide with the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides. For example, the Licensed Battlefield Guides of Gettysburg, the Pennsylvania site of one of the most epic battles of the American Civil War, are licensed and regulated by the National Park Service and are the only individuals legally allowed to conduct visitors around the national park for a fee. Rates for a two-hour basic battlefield tour range from $63 to $132 depending on group size, with prorated fees of $31.50 to $66 per hour for additional time. Tips are not required but often given. The guides and tours are currently following COVID-19 protocols.
Are you a runner? Consider earning extra bucks as a running tour guide. City Running Tours – “sweat and sightsee simultaneously” – is one company offering “sightrunning” (it’s a thing) services in 14 (and counting) U.S. cities, including Washington, D.C., and Honolulu (and two cities in Canada). The company offers personalized or group tours. Tips aren’t required, but permitted.
"Our tour guides make on average about $20-$40 per tour plus incentives based on seniority, type of tour, distance, number of participants, referrals and positive reviews,"says Michael Gazaleh, president and CEO of City Running Tours.
But wait, there’s more: Prerequisites for becoming a professional tour guide cut a wide swath, from no requirements to passing a test administered by your local jurisdiction to getting a license (or both), depending on where you plan to operate your guide business. To find out the specifics in your area, go to the National Federation of Tourist Guide Associations and click on "Our Members." Then reach out to whatever association is closest to where you wish to operate.The associations will help give you guidance on local licensing information and offer training programs, continuing education, job-networking opportunities and certification. Expect to make about $40 an hour, the association says.
Work at a National Park in Retirement
Working at a national park has been a dream of mine. Maybe it’s yours, too? I’ve profiled RVers who tour the nation, sometimes stopping at national parks or other locales for service work (or paid) work.
Remember, these side hustles, at national parks, summer camps, ski resorts and guest lodges, are mostly seasonal, and a good resource is Cool Works. It lists postings from employers in gorgeous locales around the U.S. You’re not going to become a forest ranger, but will more likely see job listings for reservation clerks, gift shop employees, and cooks, as well as land and water shuttle drivers. Most of these employers would like you for the full season, but the shoulder season, when students have to return to college, almost always has openings. Pay hovers around minimum wage, though that could be higher in 2021 with so many job openings. Some even offer lodging in dorms or homes, or if you’re that RVer, you may get a free hookup.
Now this is a cool side hustle.
Become a Youth-Sports Official in Retirement
C’mon, ump! No, really, come on, ump. Become an umpire, soccer referee or some other youth sports official and get in on the fun. Of course, you must be physically fit and follow all the requirements of being a referee. A starting point: Contact a local high school athletic office or municipal recreation departments for guidance. They’ll point you toward the regional governing association of the sport you wish to referee. You may have to pay a nominal fee, up to $50, for a combo of exercises, lectures, rulebooks, etc. You may even get to be mentored by a seasoned umpire or referee. There may be some other requirements, like getting Red Cross training.
This is a job where you’re also in it for the fun, but the pay is there, too, as you work your way up from youth leagues to high school varsity games. Pay ranges from nothing to $35 or so for youth games to $65 or so per game for high school varsity games.
Tutor in Retirement
If you have a special skill -- whether it’s the ability to play an instrument well, paint like Picasso or explain calculus in a way anyone (even me) can understand -- you may be able to make money sharing it with others. For example, you could earn $10 to $75 an hour tutoring individual kids or college students if you speak a second language or have great math, science or writing skills.
Advertise your services on school, campus and community bulletin boards, or tutoring websites such as Wyzant (where you choose your own hourly rate) and Tutor.com. And take advantage of social media sites, such as Facebook, to let people know about the lessons you’re able to teach.
Become an Usher in Retirement
Now that COVID vaccinations are well under way, many professional sports stadiums and concert venues are starting to open up. If you’re comfortable moving through crowds -- many arenas are requiring patrons to show proof of vaccination -- ushering for pay and perks may be the way to go.
According to Salary.com, full-time ushers can earn anywhere from $17,352 to $25,804 a year, with the average annual pay of $21,000. As for the perks, a friend who ushers in retirement at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena has seen some amazing concerts -- and got paid for it. Naturally, movie theaters, performing arts venues and sports stadiums are the biggest employers of ushers.
Babysit Professionally in Retirement
Babysitting can be a fun way to put money in your pocket if you like kids. If you advertise your availability via online services, hourly rates vary by city (and demands of services). In smaller towns and cities, such as Palatine, Ill., and Schaumburg, Ill., the going rate is $10 to $15 an hour; in big cities such as New York and Washington, expect to earn $10 to $40 an hour as a babysitter or nanny. Advertise your services on community bulletin boards, the public library or houses of worship. You can also place a listing or search for jobs on sites such as Care.com and Sittercity, which notes the average hourly rate for babysitters in the U.S. is just under $14.
Walk or Pet-Sit Dogs (and Other Animals) in Retirement
Why not get a little exercise while you earn anywhere from $10 to $30 for about an hour’s work? Jobs could become plentiful as people who were working remotely full-time are now trickling back to the office, leaving behind their new COVID pet. Working folks will pay plenty for you to take mutts W.C. or Moonshadow on a daily stroll while they’re (the owners, not the pets) at the office. Or consider pet-sitting for people while they’re on vacation for a daily fee of $50 or more. Advertise your services in veterinarians’ offices, on Craigslist or on sites such as Care.com.
You can also team up with an existing dog-walking operation that handles client recruitment and scheduling. To find one, ask other dog walkers you encounter whether they're part of a group or check Craigslist.
Marking similar territory is Rover.com, a website for those of you looking to be pet caregivers (and, as well, a site for pet owners to find you). Rover offers dog boarding services, pet- and/or house-sitting services, doggy day care and even drop-in services where caregivers stop by your crib for quick potty services (for the dog) and a mini-playdate. Rover has some stringent guidelines for the folks it hires (only taking on less than 20% of potential sitters, the company says). The Seattle-based firm has services in more than 34,000 communities in North America. Rover says sitters it backs via its website can earn up to $1,000 a month (sitters set their own rates; Rover takes a 20% bite per booking).
Get Freelance Work in Retirement
Plenty of media, corporate and nonprofit websites are looking for freelancers to write, edit or design content for an average of $30 to $70 per hour, according to the website Freelancewriting.com. Freelancewriting.com and Freelance Writing Jobs provide a long list of freelance writing opportunities culled from several top sites, along with advice and tips for freelance writers. Freelancer.com offers a wide variety of freelancing jobs in categories such as design, media and architecture or writing and content. For $14.99 a month, you can join Mediabistro’s MB Unlimited to post your qualifications and get support for your endeavors. Krop is a useful site for developers and designers, but it, too, posts jobs for copywriters and copy editors.
If you fancy yourself a skilled photographer, you can also earn extra cash by selling photos to stock art sites such as Getty Images/iStock and Shutterstock. At both sites, you must apply to be a contributor by submitting samples of your photos, illustrations, videos or audio. If approved, you’ll earn royalties when your files are downloaded by paying clients. Getty Images royalty rates are 20% for still images and 25% for video clips. iStock royalty rates start at 15% for photos and 20% for videos and illustrations. If you sign as an exclusive contributor to iStock, you can earn between 25% and $45%. Shutterstock’s royalty payouts are between 15% and 40%.
Sell Your Creations in Retirement
If you have a knack for creating anything from baked goods to intricate art designs, you can profit from your talent.
It happened to Stacy Brown, founder of the Auburn, Ala.-based Chicken Salad Chick restaurant chain. Brown’s personal quest to create the perfect chicken salad morphed into a small side business where she was selling her creation from her house – until the health department informed her she couldn’t sell food from her home kitchen. Voila. A restaurant was born from whence a chain sprung (sprung chicken?). For more about Brown’s story, see Small-Business Success Story: Chicken Salad Chick.
So you’re an excellent baker (according to all your friends). You can find clients for your baked goods by volunteering to provide treats for your children’s school functions or for church or other religious gatherings, or by selling them at a farmer’s market, flea market or local festivals.
If art and design are more your speed, consider selling your creations online (or at local craft shows, when they return post-pandemic). Online sites include Etsy, DeviantArt or Zazzle. Etsy and Zazzle feature products such as jewelry, quote posters, vintage clothing and even pet supplies. DeviantArt mainly sells art prints.
Get Paid to Participate in Clinical Trials in Retirement
If you're willing to be a human guinea pig, you can pad your pockets by participating in clinical research trials. Compensation depends on the nature of the trial and the amount of time involved, but payment can range from a few hundred dollars to $4,000 per study.
Legitimate studies are sponsored by medical institutions and pharmaceutical companies. You’ll be required to undergo a health screening to determine if you’re eligible to participate. Come-ons for clinical trials litter the Internet. Many are scams. The safe play is to pursue studies that are actively recruiting participants at ClinicalTrials.gov, a database run by the National Institutes of Health. Search by location to identify local trials.
Join a Direct Sales Team in Retirement
These days, Avon isn’t the only direct-sales opportunity. You can start a side business selling anything from cookware to clothing to home decor to, yes, Tupperware. Popular possibilities include Mary Kay and the Pampered Chef.
With direct sales, start-up costs are usually low (figure $200 or less), your work schedule is flexible and earnings are commission-based (typically 25% to 30% of sales). Generally, you can increase your take by recruiting others to the sales team – if that makes you comfortable. When I lived and worked in Michigan, I was constantly hounded by friends and co-workers who were selling Amway, which is based in Grand Rapids. They were making good side money.
Be a Blogger or YouTube Sensation in Retirement
If you like to write, or think it would be fun to share your knowledge about a particular subject, start a blog. WordPress.org and Blogger.com offer free blogging platforms. Want to go bigger? Try GoDaddy.com for domain name registration, as well as website building, hosting and security. Turn to Google for Publishers for a free way to display ads on your site to earn money.
If you have a camera and something unique to share, you can cash in on YouTube. A reasonable goal for amateur filmmakers is to score viral fame with a YouTube channel. That means making a series of videos, each of which can run a little longer than three minutes. Highlight a specific skill or theme -- say, cooking, standup comedy, fixing plumbing (which I tap often) or repairing older cars (ditto). Your videos will drive traffic to one another while you perfect your skill and earn subscribers. To generate views, reach out to media outlets and bloggers with a link to your videos.
Drive Other People in Retirement
If you’ve ever found yourself in need of a quick ride, you may have turned to Uber, the anytime, anywhere ride-hailing service that has gained enormous popularity over the last several years. But have you ever considered becoming an Uber driver? Requirements for being an Uber driver in most cities are: You must be legally able to drive and have at least one year of driving experience (three if you’re under 23), own a car, and pass background and driving checks. If you meet the requirements, you could earn cash by driving people around in your free time.
Uber at one time said drivers’ average earnings per hour are about $19; some observers have estimated it’s far less than that. And don’t forget to factor in the costs associated with using your own car, such as gas, maintenance, insurance and cleaning. Also, your earnings depend upon how much you work and how many rides you give, among other factors.
Uber’s biggest ride-share competitor is Lyft. Like Uber, Lyft has age, vehicle and background-check requirements for drivers.
If you don’t want to buy into those platforms, check local car dealerships. After my dad retired, he worked part time as a shuttle driver at a local car dealership. It got him out of the house, around people and new cars that he loves so much. Oh, and the pay was a nice bonus.
Perform Odd Jobs and Small Tasks in Retirement
Surf over to Fiverr, an online community of freelancers of all stripes. There, you can advertise your proficiency in skills including writing and translation, video and animation, voice-over world and advertising. As Fiverr’s name indicates, your services sell starting at $5 a pop, and you have the option of adding ancillary services to make more money. Fiverr keeps 20% of customer payments, meaning you earn $4 from every $5 in services you sell.
For more intensive jobs, try joining TaskRabbit, which is owned by Ikea. If you live in or near one of 62 regions served by the site in 2021, you can perform tasks such as waiting in line for someone, running errands, building shelves, assembling Ikea furniture or lifting heavy items. Set your own fees with TaskRabbit, and you keep 100% of what you charge plus tips (for example, a "tasker" in Albany, N.Y., was making $28 per hour for help moving). The company says it has an intensive vetting process.
Drive a School Bus in Retirement
If you’re retired and have some early morning and late afternoon time on your hands, you could make some cash driving a school bus.
You may even have the opportunity to make a little more money at it if you sign on to drive school sports teams to and from events in the evening or weekends.
For most school districts, you must have a commercial driver’s license, a clean driving record and no criminal record. Bonus: You like to drive and you’re friendly.
It’s not big money. Most drivers are paid between $11 and $16 per hour, according to Jobmonkey.com. Plan on working 20 hours or so a week, often starting in the early morning before getting back behind the wheel in mid-afternoon for a couple hours. You’ll have an established route. And depending on where you live, you could be working for the school district or a private bus company hired by the school district.
Grocery Shop for Others in Retirement
How about going grocery shopping and making money instead of spending money? You can do it as an Instacart shopper. You know the drill, because you likely have run into armies of Instacart shoppers while shopping for your own groceries: Instacart employees are shopping for, and delivering to, folks shopping from home or work.
You have two options when you wear the Instacart green: Just do the shopping as an in-store shopper and have someone else deliver. Or do the shopping and the delivering as a full-service shopper. As a full-service shopper, you’re an independent contractor who must have access to a car. You choose your own hours and will shop and deliver orders. Instacart does not post salary levels, but Indeed.com says personal shoppers make around $17 per hour.
Become a Restaurant Host in Retirement
If you’ve been out and about lately, especially at restaurants, now that things are opening up, you see the sad truth: There’s a critical shortage of restaurant staff, so much so that restaurants around where I live are cutting back on their operating hours, the number of days they’re open, their menus, and more at a time of year they’re typically expanding their hours. They’d love seasoned personnel, and retirees fit that bill.
If you’re not one to keep food orders straight or carry trays of hot food, consider becoming a restaurant host. Here, you’ll take reservations, meet and greet diners, and more. The average salary is about $28,000, according to Glassdoor. But with the shortage of staff, some restaurants are offering higher pay and bonuses to lure employees. Perks include free food in some restaurants. You may also take part in sharing tips. And if you’re in resort areas, such as Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Fort Myers, Fla., jobs may be even more plentiful. So might the perks.
Become a Bartender in Retirement
Are you a skilled mixologist at your home bar? Why not take it to the streets. Make that a restaurant, juke joint, casino, fancy hotel bar … you name it.
As increasingly more bars are moving to full capacity again, there will be more of a need for bartenders. I don’t have to tell you what a bartender does, but the more skills you bring to the table, the better, and those skills include being social, quick on the draw and a deft touch.
Salary.com notes that bartenders make on average approximately $22,000 in the U.S. and as high as $26,400. The perks: Hey, good bartenders are tipped well.
Become a Fitness Trainer in Retirement
You’ve always been a gym rat, and you have every intention of taking that into retirement. Now that gyms are once again moving toward full capacity, you could consider taking your fondness for exercise into a second act career as a fitness instructor.
You’ll want to spend a little to get more. If you want a sanctioned job at a fitness facility, get your certification. That could come from the American Council on Exercise or the American College of Sports Medicine.
The American Council on exercise is the larger of the two. For your purposes, ACE oversees a self-study program for $349 to take the proctored exam with 150 questions done virtually or in-person. You must be certified to perform CPR and to use an automated external defibrillator (AED) to sit for the exam.
You’ll be entering a growing field. The American College of Sports Medicine projects a 13% growth in fitness trainer positions through 2028. The median salary is about $40,000 a year, according to the ACSM, but as more businesses fire up health fitness programs, fitness instructors could make more.
More Resources for Cool Jobs in Retirement
Looking to go deeper in your job hunt in retirement? Check out Encore.org, a nonprofit that guides retired folks to utilize their work experiences to help communities. Or try Retirementjobs.com, which lists jobs in retail, caregiving, tax preparation, driving and more at age-friendly employers.
Looking to take it outdoors? Try Coolworks.com for seasonal jobs in the great outdoors, national parks included. For jobs aimed specifically at retirees, head to the Older and Bolder section on the Cool Works site.
Bob is a Senior Online Editor at Kiplinger.com. He has more than 40 years of experience in online, print and visual journalism. Bob has worked as an award-winning writer and editor in the Washington, D.C., market as well as at news organizations in New York, Michigan and California. Bob joined Kiplinger in 2016, bringing a wealth of expertise covering retail, entertainment, and money-saving trends and topics. He was one of the first journalists at a daily news organization to aggressively cover retail as a specialty, and has been lauded in the retail industry for his expertise. Bob has also been an adjunct and associate professor of print, online and visual journalism at Syracuse University and Ithaca College. He has a master’s degree from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and a bachelor’s degree in communications and theater from Hope College.
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