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Boomers Find Way To Make Social Impact, Money

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Boomers Find Way To Make Social Impact, Money


Boomers Find Way To Make Social Impact, Money

Boomers Find Way To Make Social Impact, Money

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Grappling with a shaky economy, baby boomers are looking for new ways to make money. A new survey estimates that a chunk of these Americans are launching "encore careers" — positions that combine income and personal meaning with social impact.


Many baby boomers are doing that retirement math these days, and the numbers just aren't adding up, so many are staying in the workforce longer. But a new survey suggests these boomers are exploring new careers that allow them to make a buck and give back.

Reporter Judy Martin has the story.

Ms. LORI LICKER (Author and Social Entrepreneur; Occupational Therapist): You could say: Good morning, Pendleton.

Unidentified Group: Good morning, Pendleton.

JUDY MARTIN: Lori Licker refers to the giant costume character beside her -Professor Pendleton Pencil. He wears big round glasses, a graduation cap, and is, well, one big walking pencil. The duo teaches more than three dozen wide-eyed kindergarteners how to improve their handwriting skills. Performing with a pencil is part of Lori's new career path as author and social entrepreneur.

Ms. LICKER: What's so incredibly fulfilling for me is when we get e-mails from teachers telling us the kids actually ask to write, they love to write.

What's the first letter of your name?

Unidentified Child: J.

Ms. LICKER: A J. Let's go ahead and…

MARTIN: After more than two decades as an occupational therapist working with children, the 50-year-old wanted to switch careers to make a difference on a larger scale.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. LICKER: (Singing) Every step you'll see, (unintelligible).

MARTIN: Licker started a business around Professor Pendleton with a workbook, theme songs, and a special handwriting curriculum she teaches and sells to school districts. It's this second career launched in middle age that John Gomperts an encore career.

Mr. JOHN GOMPERTS (President, Civic Ventures): An encore career combines the elements of continued income, meaning and purpose, and social impact.

MARTIN: John Gomperts is president of Civic Ventures, a think tank on aging and working. The organization joined with MetLife on a survey that found that as many as nine and half percent of Americans, ages 44 to 70, are currently in encore careers. And Gomperts says that many more are interested in pursuing the idea.

Mr. GOMPERTS: If we have a desire and a need for continued work, meaning and purpose in the work, and at the same time, we have big needs in society -health care, the environment or poverty - all of these areas needs human talent.

MARTIN: But is the encore career just a trend?

Ms. MARCI ALBOHER ("Shifting Careers" columnist, The New York Times): No. Inevitability like - I mean, listen and talk to anybody over 60 and they're not done, they're far from done.

MARTIN: Marci Alboher writes the "Shifting Careers" column and blog for The New York Times. She says many will work into retirement age, but there's a caveat to transitioning into encore work with the core purpose of having a social impact.

Ms. ALBOHER: I think there's an economic barrier to many people who say, yes, I'd love to join the Peace Corps. But people are facing the economic reality -yes, if you can give me meaning along with the income I still need, I'll take it. But I think a lot of people think of that as a luxury.

MARTIN: Civic Ventures reports a good majority of boomers considering encore careers are concerned about income, health care benefits, and flexibility. But among those who have already launched their encores, about three-quarters said the water is just fine. As for Lori Licker, she's not swimming in a pool of profit, but doesn't regret turning to more meaningful work.

Ms. LICKER: I didn't want to wake up one day and say, oh gosh, why didn't I do this?

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. LICKER: You got to do what you feel passionate about.

MARTIN: For NPR News, I'm Judy Martin in New York.

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