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A Midlife Career Change Could Be Your Greatest Asset

The Right Midlife Career Change May Add To Your Net Worth

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"When you think of financial assets, the typical items that come to mind are cash, stocks, bonds, retirement savings, and real estate. But what about your career?

What if you thought about your career as a financial asset - not just a job? What if you, or your financial planner, managed your career just like you manage other financial assets?"

This is the approach taken by Michael Haubrich, who has developed a program called Career Asset Management. His approach helps clients who are considering a midlife career change begin to think about the need to consider their careers among their most valuable assets, along with their homes, retirement accounts, and other traditional assets.

It makes sense. Americans at modest income levels (less than $40,000) who work from age 20 - 60 have a career valued at over $1 million.

A midlife career change that extends the life of that career can substantially improve their future wealth, thus providing more income, and more security, when they do retire.

To explain the thought process, Michael says:

"If you consider your career asset as the sum total of your time, plus talent, plus potential; it should be managed to maximize its long-term return, just as you would manage other assets.

Your career asset return, is made up of not only the current salary you are paid, but the satisfaction you receive by doing what really energizes you. That is much harder to quantify, but no less of an important consideration in managing your career asset.

By not balancing your work and life objectives you run the risk of suffering job burnout -- reduced productivity, stress related health issues, and a lessening number of work years before retirement."

The key to extending the life of your career: having what Cali Williams Yost, author of Work + Life: Finding the Fit That's Right for You, calls "a good work life fit". Cali offers additional resources on her Work + Life website.

In their work, both Michael and Cali help clients find practical solutions. In addition, Michael helps clients consider the financial aspects of a midlife career change, so they can feel comfortable that the decision will not set them back.

Below are five suggestions they offer.

  1. Think about new possibilities; it's not just work or retire. There are rewards that come from solving problems at work. If your career is not offering a sufficient level of satisfaction, it can be easy to think that retirement is the way out. Many retirees, however, find that retirement is not what they had hoped for.

    What they really wanted was a place where they could thrive; a place where they could contribute and be part of something exciting. A midlife career change may be a viable alternative to retirement; it may also prove to be more personally rewarding.

  2. Don't assume you can't afford to make a change. For example: Assume you dislike your $100,000 per year job. You figure you can last another 5 years at your career. In simple numbers, that adds $500,000 of income to your family. There is an alternative job you think you'd like, but it only pays $55,000 a year. However, making this midlife career chane would mean you would not burn out, and could happily continue to work for another 12 years. Using simple numbers, the lower paying job adds $556,000 of income to your family.

    Although you may not be able to contribute as much to retirement plans with the lower paying job, by working longer, you would be delaying the time where you needed to take withdrawals from those plans.

    If you are not comfortable running through financial scenarios by yourself, find a skilled financial planner to help you. You may find you have options that are both financially and personally appealing.

  3. Negotiate with your employer. Employers who value your skills will be open to suggestions. The key to discussing options is to be honest with your employer. Don't threaten. Let them know you'd like to remain a part of their company for many years, and that a few small changes would make all the difference. A few ideas:

    Telecommute: If higher gas prices are wearing on you, ask if there is an option to work from home one or two days a week.

    FlexTime: Suggest a flex time approach, allowing you to adjust your schedule to avoid traffic or accommodate family matters.

    Team Approach: If you find there are certain aspects of your job that you excel at, be honest with your employer, and ask for more responsibilities along those lines. At the same time, consider finding a coworker who excels at aspects of your job that you don't enjoy. Your employer might be open to a team approach to getting the work done.

  4. Learn new skills. New skills improve confidence and open up doors to alternative job opportunities. Consider taking an accounting class, a community college class on public speaking, or learning a new computer program such as PowerPoint or Excel.

    I have one friend, in his late 50's, who is taking an online typing class. He wants to write a book and decided his first step was to learn to type. I know another who went back for her Master's degree at the age of 58. It's never too late to pursue a career that you're passionate about.

  5. Think in terms of project based employment. Find employment that matches your lifestyle. I have a client who goes to Alaska each summer to work in a dinner theater. She takes winters off to spend in warm tropical climates.

    Many cruise ships and other vacation destinations need skilled medical professionals on staff and can offer seasonal schedules. Accounting firms need help each tax season. Engineering firms can reduce costs by having experienced professionals that they hire on a project basis.

Instead of fitting your life in to your job, find ways to extend the longevity of your career by fitting your job into your life.

Book Recommendations On This Topic:
The New Retirementality by Mitch Anthony
Work + Life: Finding the Fit That's Right for You by Cali Williams Yost
Solving the Retirement Puzzle by J. Peter Lindquist
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