Findings Indicate Millions Now Work in ‘Encore Careers’ Combining Money, Meaning and Social Impact; Tens of Millions More Want Similar Work

A survey released today provides clues to a question with major implications for the American economy and the lives of millions: What will 78 million baby boomers do as they continue to work into traditional retirement age? The question was explored recently with more than 3,500 people between the ages of 44 and 70.

The 2008 MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures Encore Career Survey, conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc., estimates that between 5.3 and 8.4 million Americans have already launched "encore careers," positions that combine income and personal meaning with social impact.

As promising as this finding is for individuals and society, the potential is even greater. Of those workers ages 44-70 not already in encore careers, half are interested in them, specifically jobs in education, health care and the nonprofit sector. And those respondents most interested in social purpose careers tend to be the youngest: 50 percent of boomers ages 44-50 say they want to join the 7 percent of their group already in such careers.

"This is the first national survey to uncover evidence that the encore career is more than an appealing idea," said Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of Civic Ventures, a think tank on boomers, work and aging. "Unexpectedly large numbers of boomers are looking for purpose-driven jobs that provide them with both means and meaning. That’s great for them and great for the rest of us, too. As this research shows, they are applying their skills and passions to the very public interest fields that need them most."

The report finds that a majority of Americans in this age bracket express a desire to use their skills and experience to help others. Of those currently in encore careers, 84 percent report a high level of satisfaction and 94 percent say they see the positive results of their work and know they are making a difference.

"The people who are pursuing encore careers are true pioneers," said Sibyl Jacobson, president and CEO of MetLife Foundation. "They are blazing not only their own path but also one for those just behind them — workers who share their aspirations but have not yet taken the plunge. Their message is clear: social purpose careers are fulfilling and worthwhile."

According to the report, most respondents who are interested in encore careers are worried that these positions may be hard to find and may not meet their needs. Eight in 10 expressed concern about having the flexibility to take time off, and a majority were worried about having adequate income and benefits.

However, respondents currently in encore careers reported few problems with these same issues. While most (59 percent) of those in encore careers work full time, 73 percent say they have the flexibility they need to work when they want to and take time off when they need to, and three-quarters (76 percent) report having the pay and benefits they need.

However, two concerns of those interested in social purpose work did match the experiences of those in such careers. More than one-third of people considering encore careers were worried about the need to learn new technologies and skills or go back to school for certifications, and 41 percent of people in encore careers said this was in fact an issue. And one-third of respondents interested in encore careers expressed concern about the loss of seniority or status that comes with a new career, about the same percentage of people in encore careers who said they are coping with that issue.

"It is not surprising that an entirely new stage of work will require adjustments and leave some wondering what’s in store for them," said Phyllis Segal, vice president and director of research at Civic Ventures. "This report helps to clarify what encore careers are really like, how attainable they are, and what workers should consider as they pursue their own social-purpose careers later in life."

The report also includes recommendations on changes in workplace practices and public policies that could increase the number of people able to pursue and obtain encore careers.

"Encore careers provide personal fulfillment, while also offering tremendous gains for society," added Freedman. "Instead of encouraging people to leave the workforce, encore careers inspire people to stay longer to help their communities —and fill vital workforce shortages. But to truly capitalize on this tremendous opportunity, we must open minds — and doors — to what is possible and needed."

Is the encore career a trend? "The millions of people now in encore careers constitute a new social phenomenon with promise for individuals and society," said Allan Rivlin, a partner at Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc., and director of the report. "The tens of millions interested in joining them could add up to one of the most unexpected and significant consequences of an aging America."

For copies of the MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures Encore Career Survey, visit

Visit for stories of those currently in encore careers, including Velma Simpson. During a career as an insurance agent in Colorado, Simpson prided herself on providing comfort and a voice for elderly and low-income clients. That led to her to sell her business and home in her fifties to get a degree as a social worker. She now works to reduce the causes of homelessness for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Survey Methodology 
These findings are from two surveys. The first was a nationwide, representative telephone survey of 1,063 people between the ages of 44 and 70 conducted from February 23 to March 5, 2008 by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc. ( The phone survey was followed by a nationwide Internet survey of more than 2,500 people ages 44 to 70 from March 26 to April 1, 2008. The statistical margin of sampling error for the telephone survey is plus or minus 3 percentage points. More methodology details are included in the report’s Appendix.

About MetLife Foundation 
MetLife Foundation ( was established in 1976 by MetLife to carry on its longstanding tradition of corporate contributions and community involvement. In the area of aging, the Foundation funds programs that promote healthy aging and address issues of care giving, intergenerational activities, mental fitness, and volunteerism.

About Civic Ventures 
Civic Ventures ( is a national think tank on boomers, work and aging.


David Hammarstrom
Ted Mitchell