5 Steps to Starting a Second Career

If you crave a midlife career makeover, here's how to get started.

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Evaluate your finances. Change comes at a cost. It might mean a pay cut to pursue work in a more altruistic field, a tuition bill for more schooling, or a temporary loss of medical and retirement benefits. To make it work, you'll need to rethink your financial life, from everyday expenses to retirement.

If you're going to be living on less, you might need to trim expenses and jump-start your savings. Of course, there are more radical options like selling your house and moving to smaller quarters, or even moving to a new city where things are cheaper. That's what Tim Sheerer did. By trading in New York City for Pittsburgh, closer to family, he and his wife, Colleen, were able to open their own Italian bistro.

Sheerer, now in his mid-40s, spent more than 13 years rising through the ranks as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch, with a globe-trotting schedule—London one day, Milwaukee the next. Instead of splurging on cars or a second home, Sheerer saved his bonuses until he could afford to buy a home in Pittsburgh with no mortgage and open la Cappella. He's still facing college costs for four kids, which means the restaurant will need to show more of a profit. But for now, his 70-year-old father gets to see his grandkids regularly. "You can't put a price on that," Sheerer says.