What’s the biggest challenge for midlife career changers seeking work for the greater good? If you guessed finances, you’d be right. With support from MetLife Foundation and Encore.org (formerly Civic Ventures), researchers at Penn Schoen Berland surveyed nearly 2,500 Americans ages 44 to 70 to learn about the experiences of those who have already made the transition to encore careers, and the concerns of those who want to make the jump.

The study, Bridging the Gap: Making it Easier to Finance Encore Transitions, shows that millions of people face difficulties in making the transition from their earlier work to their encore careers and suggests that new approaches and tools can help people finance the transitions to their encores, resulting in a win for both individuals and society.A few key stats:

  • The 9 million people (ages 44 to 70) who are already in encore careers, on average, started to think about their encores at age 50 and took about 18 months to make the transition.
  • More than two in three (67 percent) of those already in encore careers experienced gaps in their personal income during the transition to their encores, reporting that they earned no money (24 percent) or that they earned significantly less during the transition than they earned at their previous jobs (43 percent).
  • Of those who experienced time with little to no income, nearly four in five (79 percent) say they experienced a gap of six months or more; more than one in three (36 percent) say their income gap lasted more than two years.
  • Four in 10 (40 percent) of those interested in encore careers do not feel secure enough financially to make a career change in this economy.

A few key recommendations, suggested by the research:

  • More encore financial planning. Advisers already help people plan for retirement. Why not help people plan for their encores?
  • More Encore Fellowships. Short-term, part-time, paid fellowships at nonprofits can open the door to encore careers. A few corporations, like Intel, are beginning to offer encore transition assistance in addition to retirement benefits. More should follow.
  • Accelerated, accessible, affordable training. People interested in encore careers want fast, flexible, and inexpensive courses that help them to train for their encores. And these courses should be eligible for financial aid; right now, many are not

Paul Rigel, for one, benefited from that kind of training. Working in the ministry for much of his life, he joined Polk State College’s accelerated teacher certification program at 56 and is now a middle school teacher.For details on the research, check out the following resources:

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