I’ve Been Preparing My Retirement Encore Career Since I Started Working.  Here’s How You Can, Too.

By J. P. (Paul) Rieger

Unless you’ve never saved a dime or will be paying for luxury cars, Aspen condos and/or child support for the rest of your natural life, you are destined, at some point, to retire from your full-time career.   If you’re in your mid-60s or perhaps even older, let me break it to you gently: that time is probably now or very soon.

I know, I know. You are the chief professional. The office cannot function without you. You don’t even take vacations because of the calamity your absence would cause.  And besides, what the heck are you going to do when you retire? Your career has been your everything.  You might feel like you’ve got nothing.  Like many of my lawyer colleagues, you may be facing discomfort and even fear at the idea of retiring. The thought of losing that “secret sharer” through retirement is daunting – and frightening. We’ve been “Stockholm Syndromed” by our careers for most of our adult lives. 

Well, I’m here to help you break free of those shackles and to assure you that you actually do have something, whether you realize it or not.

It All Begins With Hobbies

Surely there are things you’ve enjoyed besides your career.  I don’t mean the bull roast or crab feast with your work friends. I mean the things that have given you a real sense of satisfaction and purpose at any point in your past.  I know I did.  By cultivating a serious involvement in those things, I unwittingly wound up preparing for life after retirement from the day I started working.  And you can, too.

I’ve been fortunate to have had some great hobbies throughout my lifetime. My mom was a reader and we kids were encouraged to read at a very early age.  I read anything I could get my hands on.  When I got to college and law school, all the boring stuff I was forced to read made me more eager to read “fun” stuff such as crime, mystery and humor. And once I had graduated from law school and was entrenched in a career track, my passion for reading led me to  dabble in writing. I was a big fan of Victorian and Edwardian period detective fiction and decided to write a novel along those lines. It took me about ten years to complete the novel. But what a great hobby!

This hobby became a bonafide side-gig as I began publishing books, and today, it’s the main event of my retirement encore career. My latest novel, Clonk!, will be published May 2 by Apprentice House Press at Loyola University, Maryland.

Then there was music. As a kid I found my parent’s ‘60s high-fi console stereo to be quite fascinating, and listened endlessly to whatever pile of records happened to be on the LP changer. I was particularly intrigued by the sounds of the instruments and how they were recorded. And, once my older sister began playing her Jimi Hendrix albums, suddenly I wanted to play guitar and make those sounds. (“How tough could it be,” I thought. “All the guitars have built-in whammy bars?”).

My interest in music and sound led me down the wonderful rabbit hole of making amateur recordings with my tiny reel to reel recorder. Which led to summer jobs for the purpose of buying better recorders and better stereos and finally a guitar and amplifier. And all of this led to joining up with friends to be in a “band” or “group.” I played in several amateur groups throughout my twenties while attending college in the evenings (so that I could work during the day to pay for all of it).

To this day playing music occupies a lot of my time.  Thanks to technology, I still record with my band buddies, though we’re all located remotely around the US.  It’s a real source of passion and purpose.

You’ve Gotta Have Fun

Where do hobbies even come from?  Well, we’ve all got to do something to have fun.  Solet “fun” be your first step in imagining  your encore career. 

Think about the things that have given you a real sense of satisfaction and purpose at any point in your past. Do you enjoy working on household projects? Does mowing the lawn take you to a Zen space? Do you enjoy redecorating or redesigning? Do you enjoy reading fiction but can never seem to find the time? (A fellow attorney once chastised me for reading fiction which was a “waste of time” compared to more useful non-fiction like biographies, science and history.) Step one is to find and list those things that have given you satisfaction. Any of those will make a fine encore career. 

No Need to Go Cold Turkey

The good news is, you don’t have to go “cold turkey.” I am now, finally, “mostly” retired. That’s step two.  You can begin by leaving your office and “semi-retiring.” If, as a professional, you are able to do a little part time work in retirement, that is ok. If you can’t engage in paying work, there will be plenty of volunteer opportunities for you. I am still an attorney and I make a pretense of maintaining a small, “solo” practice. But, thankfully, my hobbies have taken over as my encore careers. The Law is now in my rearview mirror. 

So, think about absolutely anything that has given you joy, pleasure or satisfaction. Music? Art? Gardening? Decorating? Working on your car? Any of these can be your encore. Chances are, like me, you’ve been doing them for years if not decades.  Which means that you, too, have been preparing your retirement encore career for a very long time.

And if you can’t simply think of anything, it’s probably because you’ve had an incredibly busy and fulfilling career helping others. You can still do that. Being a volunteer is a great choice for an encore.

To conclude, don’t discount or downplay your “fun” things. And start getting a foot out of the office door, now!

About the Author:
J. P. (Paul) Rieger is a real estate attorney and amateur musician who grew up in Baltimore and now resides in Towson, Maryland. Clonk! is Paul’s second work of fiction following his 2013 publication of The Case Files of Roderick Misely, Consultant. He greatly enjoys music, books and humor. He is old, but has retained most of his teeth and hair.