Many Americans worry today about not having enough money to fund a comfortable retirement. But for some, another question will arise before they are financially prepared to leave the workforce: What happens if the career they've had for years is no longer satisfying -- or even available?
For many baby boomers, the answer may involve a second career, also known as an "encore" or "second act" career. But pursuing a new profession in the second half of life can be challenging -- particularly for those who are accustomed to a certain level of income.
"Surveys consistently show that baby boomers want to continue working beyond retirement age," says Jack Plunkett, CEO of Plunkett Research, Ltd. and author of The Almanac of American Employers. "Maybe not full-time, maybe not with the same level of stress they worked under during younger years or first careers, but they want to be meaningful members of society, and in many cases they also still need income."
If you'd like to pursue a new career in the second half of your life and still need to earn a competitive salary, these attainable and in-demand job titles may be worth considering.
1. Corporate consultant
Average salary: $59,560 (training and development positions) or $64,300 (sales positions)
Suitable for: Someone with extensive industry experience, contacts and skills who wants a new angle on a current or former field
Where the jobs are: Large and small corporations and businesses
If you love your industry but have tired of your post within it, you could parlay your skills, experience and contacts into working as a consultant. Consultants often deal with specific projects or clients in areas such as sales and corporate development. These jobs often require minimal transition time and may offer high earnings if you have highly technical skills or management experience.
Nancy Collamer, author of "Second Act Careers," says that a new job title -- entrepreneurial support services -- can offer another position within the world of consulting. In this post, workers help entrepreneurs launch their businesses by providing expertise on things such as bookkeeping, business writing, marketing, web development or selling.
2. Non-profit fundraiser
Average salary: $55,220
Suitable for: Someone with extensive writing, speaking, selling or marketing experience in any industry, and especially those who are passionate about a cause
Where the jobs are: Non-profit organizations, universities, religious institutions and government agencies
In addition to a competitive salary, working at a non-profit can also help workers support a cause they care about. This may be an attractive feature for many older workers today, says Marci Alboher, vice president of Encore.org and author of The Encore Career Handbook.
"Baby boomers are also very concerned with doing good and finding meaning in how they spend time working," Alboher says.
To gauge the opportunities in your area, find a nearby non-profit organization that you're interested in and offer your business or industry skills for fundraising and development. If you have extensive management experience, non-profits are often looking for interim directors and managers, according to the "Encore Hot List" of job titles in Alboher's book. The earning potential may not be as high as in the corporate world, but the work may be critical to a cause you care about.
3. Patient navigator/advocate
Average salary: $44,000 (Note: Because the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't yet track salaries for patient advocates, this data comes from the job-listings site SimplyHired.com.)
Suitable for: Someone with good organizational skills or a background in social work or medicine who wants a helping, non-medical health care role
Where the jobs are: Hospitals, health care facilities and insurance companies
Career experts and statistics agree: The health care industry is growing and it's unlikely to stop soon. With all the changes within the Affordable Care Act, patients and families, especially those fighting chronic illnesses, are likely to need help managing their hospital services, and that's where patient advocates come in. These positions may include working with seniors specifically, if that is your interest, or simply with anyone who requires help with critical health care decisions.
While the salaries for patient advocates can vary -- this is still largely considered an emerging profession -- a March report by The New York Times indicated that workers in this field can command fees anywhere from $15 to $150 an hour.
4. Teacher/adjunct professor
Average salary: $49,430
Suitable for: Someone with a bachelor's degree and a desire to teach children or adults, or someone with real-world business or industry experience that they would like to share with students or apprentices
Where the jobs are: Universities, community colleges and trade schools
Education is another growth industry that is evolving quickly. According to a recent MetLife Foundation and Encore.org survey, 30 percent of people in encore careers are already working in education. If you want to become a children's school teacher, you can join Teach For America, which trains college graduates and professionals to become teachers in exchange for a two-year teaching commitment in urban and rural public schools. If you want to become an adjunct or continuing education teacher or professor at a post-secondary school, you can look into teaching certificates, or inquire at your local colleges about their requirements for instructors.
"It may not be easy to find that perfect combination of a job that provides meaning in your life and a paycheck," says Plunkett. "But the right job is out there for people willing to do employer research, network and sell their skills and experience."