Research Shows 9 Million Americans, Ages 44 to 70, Now in Encore Careers Combining Purpose, Passion and a Paycheck

Despite Concerns About the Economy, 31 Million More Interested in Joining Them

SAN FRANCISCO--()--New research from Civic Ventures, a think tank on boomers, work and social purpose, shows that as many as 9 million people ages 44 to 70 are already in encore careers that combine personal meaning, continued income and social impact. That’s up from an estimated 8.4 million in 2008.

Another 31 million people, ages 44 to 70, are interested in finding encore careers. Together, those currently in encore careers and those interested in encore careers represent 40 percent – or two in five – of all Americans ages 44 to 70.

“The survey provides new evidence that what many people want from work changes after midlife,” said Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of Civic Ventures and author of The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife. “In the new, encore stage of life between midlife and true old age, many want work that has deeper personal meaning and that connects them to something larger than themselves.”

The new study, Encore Career Choices: Purpose, Passion and a Paycheck in a Tough Economy, was funded by MetLife Foundation and conducted by Penn Schoen Berland.

Survey results do show tempered expectations in light of the current economy – as well as a kind of resilience and an unwillingness to give up on efforts to create a better world for future generations.

A few key statistics:

  • Competing visions. Nearly two in three people (64 percent) see the next stage of life as a time to keep working, with nearly equal numbers saying it’s a time to use their skills and experiences to help others in paid or volunteer positions (31 percent) versus a time to simply cover expenses and maintain health insurance (33 percent).
  • Tough time for a change. Half of Americans between the ages of 44 and 70 (51 percent) say they are very concerned that the state of the economy makes this a difficult time to make a change to an encore career. Still, one in four (27 percent) of those interested in encore careers say they are very likely to make the switch in the next five years.
  • Longer working lives. The online portion of the research suggests the impact of encore careers on longer working lives could be dramatic. Those currently in encore careers expect to work to 69.1 years on average and those interested in encore careers expect to work nearly as long, to 68.6 – for both groups, 3 ½ years longer than they thought three years ago.
  • Concern about future generations. Contrary to stereotypes about boomers, concern about future generations is high. Nearly three in four respondents (73 percent) expect that children in the U.S. will grow up to be worse off than people are now. Nearly as many (70 percent) say it is very important to them personally to leave the world a better place.
  • Intensity of interest. One in four of all respondents (25 percent) rate their interest in encore careers at eight or higher on a 10-point scale in 2011, down from one in three (34 percent) in the 2008 Encore Career Survey, also released by MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures. Yet a majority of those who remain very interested (62 percent) state that their interest has grown in the past three years.
  • A choice for all income groups. There is little difference in economic circumstances between those who are interested in encore careers and those who are not. Both groups have median incomes of $45,000 to $59,999 per year. About half of both groups report household assets of less than $150,000, and roughly one-third in both groups say their assets do not exceed $50,000.
  • Hours in encores. Those in encore careers now perform an estimated 16.7 billion hours of labor each year in education, health care, government and nonprofit organizations.

“We are beginning to see the years beyond midlife – the encore stage of life – as a time for new, purposeful work that would improve the quality of life for people of all ages and in communities across the country,” said Dennis White, President and CEO of MetLife Foundation.

“The tens of millions who are interested in encore careers want some level of financial security and the opportunity to work for the greater good,” said Freedman. “As a society, we need to do more to help them achieve both goals. When we do, we will tap into a huge new source of talent to help solve our greatest social problems.”

Last week, Intel announced it would do its part to help thousands of its retirees prepare for encore careers. The company said it will offer all U.S. employees who are eligible to retire the chance to apply for Encore Fellowships – paid, part-time, yearlong assignments working at local nonprofits. (For more information, go to

For the full Encore Careers Choices research report, go to

How the research was conducted

The research for this report consists of a nationally representative telephone survey of 930 Americans ages 44 to 70 and a follow-up online survey of 1,408 Americans ages 44 to 70 in or expressing interest in encore careers.

Encore Career Choices: Purpose, Passion and a Paycheck in a Tough Economy is the second in a series of three Civic Ventures reports funded by MetLife Foundation and based on research conducted by Penn Schoen Berland from June to October 2011.

The first report, Encore Entrepreneurs: Creating Jobs, Meeting Needs, based on an online survey of 400 potential entrepreneurs ages 44 to 70, was released on November 8, 2011. The third report, which will focus on transitions to encore careers, will be published in 2012.

About Civic Ventures (

Civic Ventures is a think tank on boomers, work and social purpose. The organization introduced the concept of encore careers, which combine meaning, continued income and social impact.

About MetLife Foundation (

MetLife Foundation was established in 1976 to carry on MetLife’s longstanding tradition of corporate contributions and community involvement. The Foundation is committed to building a secure future for individuals and communities worldwide. Through programs focusing on empowering older adults, preparing young people and building livable communities, MetLife Foundation increases access and opportunities for people of all ages. Since it was established, MetLife Foundation has made more than $500 million in grants and $75 million in program related investments.

About Penn Schoen Berland (

Penn Schoen Berland, a unit of the WPP Group (NASDAQ: WPPGY), is a global research-based consultancy with over 30 years of experience that specializes in messaging and communications strategy for blue-chip political, corporate, nonprofit and entertainment clients.


For Civic Ventures
Elysha Rom-Povolo, (415) 901-0111
Stefanie Weiss, (240) 863-2103


For Civic Ventures
Elysha Rom-Povolo, (415) 901-0111
Stefanie Weiss, (240) 863-2103