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Middle-age career change

Marketplace Staff Nov 9, 2006

Middle-age career change

Marketplace Staff Nov 9, 2006


SCOTT JAGOW: Someone once said, nothing’s really work, unless you’d rather be doing something else. A lot of Americans would rather be doing something else, but most people can’t just change careers on a whim. It takes some planning and some courage, especially if you’re not 25 years old anymore. Tom Kramer has more.

TOM KRAMER: Mac Beeker is looking for a job. Well, more than that actually, he’s looking for a career.

For the better part of 20 years, Mac has been in non-profit administration, most of his time spent looking for money to keep those non-profits afloat. But now he’s looking for something a little more tangible.

MAC BEEKER:“Kinda what I wanted to do, was to do something that was really hands on. And I think for a lot of people, that’s something that’s really kind of missing in their lives and their work. And for me it really was.”

So Mac and his wife Mary started to think about their options.

Financially, they were OK. Both have been working full time since college. And the couple talked about what would fulfill Mac’s professional needs now and their combined needs in the future.

BEEKER:“It’s either we could work really hard to try to save a bunch of money and be miserable during that period so we could have a grand retirement. Or would we actually prefer to enjoy doing something now and well into retirement?”

They chose the latter.

And Mac’s not alone. A recent study found the median age of people changing careers is 43.

And those career changes aren’t always driven by dollars says Dr. Ann Marie Love, a psychologist specializing in career counseling.

DR. ANN MARIE LOVE:“The professionals who come in, they aren’t as concerned as the 18 year olds about what kind of an income they can expect to make in this new career. And they say that’s not really what this is about. This is about feeling like they contributed something.”

The chance to contribute has driven more than a few clients to Paul Sutherland’s office. He’s a certified financial planner. He says people like Mac don’t have change their lifestyle dramatically when they change careers if they plan for it.

PAUL SUTHERLAND:“The main thing is you want to do budgets for the next two years to know they can feel comfortable about going to college. And everything is predictable. They know what their mortgage payment is going to be, and they can estimate what their phone and utilities are going to be, and they can see whether they can live on the spouse’s income. And if not, where’s the money going to come from.”

Mac says it’s not been easy to step back and consider starting over professionally, but times, and attitudes, have changed in the last 20 years.

BEEKER:“Work is more like dating now, than it is like getting married. I’m not sure that’s good, but I think accepting that reality has kind of been something that I’ve had to come to grips with.”

So at age 42 Mac finds himself in the classroom full of 20-somethings, his professor handing back last week’s quiz as the periodic table looms from above the dry erase board at the front of the room.

He’s learning about chemistry on his way to a degree in nursing.

I’m Tom Kramer for Marketplace.

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