Boomers Save the Best for Last in ‘Encore Careers’

A new survey indicates that the Baby Boomers who continue to work past retirement age are not only seeking income, but also social impact and personal meaning.

The 2008 MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures Encore Career Survey, conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc., estimates that between 5.3 and 8.4 million Americans have already launched “encore careers”—positions that combine income and personal meaning with social impact, according to a press release.

Of those workers ages 44 to 70 not already in encore careers, half are interested in them, specifically jobs in education, health care, and the nonprofit sector, the release said. Respondents most interested in social purpose careers tend to be the youngest: 50% of Boomers ages 44 to 50 say they want to join the 7% of their group already in such careers.

The report finds that, of those currently in encore careers, 84% report a high level of satisfaction and 94% say they see the positive results of their work and know they are making a difference.

Although eight in 10 respondents expressed concern about having the flexibility to take time off, and a majority are worried about having adequate income and benefits, respondents currently in encore careers reported few problems with these issues. While most (59%) of those in encore careers work full-time, 73% said they have the flexibility they need to work when they want to and take time off when they need to, and three-quarters (76%) report having the pay and benefits they need.

However, more than one-third of people considering encore careers were worried about the need to learn new technologies and skills or go back to school for certifications, and 41% of people in encore careers said this was in fact an issue. Additionally, one-third of respondents interested in encore careers expressed concern about the loss of seniority or status that comes with a new career, and about the same percentage of people in encore careers say they are coping with that issue.

The survey report includes recommendations on changes in workplace practices and public policies that could increase the number of people able to pursue and obtain encore careers.

Copies of the MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures Encore Career Survey are available at