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Money & Career

Forget Retirement. Instead, Embrace “Pre-tirement.”

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Is it time to retire the word “retirement”? The coinage dates back to the 1600s and the Middle French “retirer,” meaning “retreat” or “withdraw.”

Many in the 60-plus set believe that concept of retirement needs to be kicked back to the Middle Ages.

Sharon Emek, 71, is among them.

She’s the founder, president and CEO of WAHVE, or Work at Home Vintage Experts, a “talent matching company” that pairs experienced baby boomers with companies that are eager for their institutional knowledge, judgment, talent and skills. The “vintage experts” work remotely, typically part-time, which can mean on a project basis or consistently on the days and hours that they prefer.

 “Some people don’t want to retire from work, they want to retire from the office or the stress and structure of daily commutes,” says Emek. “We want to find an alternative way to extend our careers in a more quality-of-life enhancing way, because we’ve reached the age where we’ve earned that. Many of us want the flexibility of being able to take our laptops and work from a warmer climate in the winter or when we go and visit the grandkids.”

Emek, who launched WAHVE when she was 64, after years of operating her own insurance brokerage firm and who works remotely herself, suggests the term “pre-tiree.”  She defines it as “a vintage professional who has left the traditional workforce to phase into retirement in a work-at-home position and remain valued and engaged.”

Whether you prefer the term “pre-retirement,” “phased retirement,”  “un-retirement,” or “career 2.0,” reconsidering the concept of retirement is about more than semantics. It’s about changing your mindset.

“You’re not a retired person or a senior,” says Emek. “You’re living younger longer. And you don’t have to have an encore career, which can be very intimidating and more than you want to take on. Rather, you have knowledge and expertise to share and you can do that in a way that benefits both you and companies, large and small, across the country.”

Emek points out that with unemployment at record lows, many companies are facing a talent shortage. While her own firm specializes in insurance, human resources and accounting positions, she believes there are opportunities across almost all fields. Smaller companies are looking to fill unmet needs; larger companies may also be eager to diversify their ranks, including across different ages.

“Be confident,” Emek says. “You have a compelling story to tell. Someone is going to listen to it.”

How to connect to potential virtual jobs? Emek suggests reaching out directly to smaller companies in your area with a phone call or email to the CEO or president, describing the expertise you have to offer and the kind of schedule and workload you’d like to propose.

The job boards at AARP and Retirement Jobs have listings from employers who embrace an age-diverse workforce. You’ll likely find a broader range of opportunities at a general job website like Emek suggests keeping an eye out for listings that haven’t been filled for at least a few weeks. You might consider including a note with your application or resume along the lines of, “I’m a little bit different from other job applicants. I’m not looking to enter the work force again, but I have 30 years of experience and an amazing knowledge base,” says Emek.  “I’d like to talk to you about what we might be able to offer each other.”

While it’s empowering to be open to nontraditional job opportunities, you’ll want to stay alert of work-at-home job scams.  Some online job ads that may sound too good to be true probably are. “Skip those listings that suggest you can earn $50,000 or $100,000 a year working just an hour or two a day from your home,” advises Emek.  “And steer clear of companies that ask you to pay for materials or training up front.”

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