What is an encore race?
An encore career is a second vocation that begins in the second half of life, popularized by author and social entrepreneur Marc Freedman. An encore career is generally pursued for its public or social purpose and a sense of accomplishment, as well as for financial reasons.
While encore careers can be found in any sector, they tend to be grouped into five areas: health, environment, education, government, and the nonprofit sector. Freedman describes the concept of the encore career in his book Encore: Finding work that matters in the second half of life.
- An encore career refers to starting a new vocation at a later age, usually after regular retirement from a previous career.
- The term “encore career” was coined by social entrepreneur Marc Freedman in the 2007 book Encore: Finding work that matters in the second half of life.
- Encore careers are often motivated by social impact and a sense of personal fulfillment rather than economic factors.
- These second career paths are often concentrated in health care, environmental justice, education, and public service.
Understanding Encore Careers
Freedman argues that encore racing has become more common for both economic and social reasons. The traditional retirement age of 65 grew out of a 19th century manufacturing economy, when workers could not physically bear to work any longer and when the average life expectancy was not much longer. But today, most Americans work in the service sector, where the physical strain of work is greatly reduced and they often live decades past 65.
Americans are living longer, which makes early retirement much more expensive. Workers adopt an encore career because there is more work they can do and, in many cases, because they need to work to support themselves. The fact that social security benefits have not kept up with the cost of retirement further exacerbates the financial need for complementary careers.
Still, the sheer size of the cohort of baby boomers entering Social Security means the program is becoming more expensive and less generous. Encore careers are therefore a necessary force to maintain the relative size of the workforce versus the retired population.
Encore run prevalence
Studies have found that encore careers become more common as the baby boomer cohort nears retirement. A 2011 survey by Penn Schoen Berland found that nine million Americans participated in repeat races and another 31 million were interested in starting one. The survey was based on a nationally representative sample of Americans ages 44-70, surveyed online and by phone.
This represents a substantial pool of potential manpower, which could be used for valuable social service projects. The most common encore majors were in education (30%), healthcare (25%), and government (25%), with another 11% working in the nonprofit sector.
However, the transition to an encore career is easier said than done. 67% of those surveyed said they had reduced or no income during the transition to their second careers, and 36% had decreased income for more than two years. Financial security was an important factor for those seeking a second career, with 28% of respondents citing insufficient income as a key motivation. Only 21% cited a desire to make a bigger difference.
In order to facilitate second careers and overcome these financial difficulties, “encore scholarships” have been proposed as a potential bridge for those seeking a career transition. The Serve America Act, signed by President Barack Obama in 2009, includes funding for up to ten “encore service programs” in each state.
Because older workers are involved in complementary careers, these careers tend to be qualitatively different from a person’s first career. Many workers who have made a lot of money or achieved great status in their first career may strive to fulfill other values with their encore careers, such as helping others or promoting a specific political cause.
Freedman argues that encore careers can be widely beneficial to society because many older people want to be of use to others as they age. By taking advantage of this natural tendency, society can overcome the perceived problems of an aging workforce in the economy, while also solving social problems with the hard work and experience that older workers can provide.