To live out their retirement years in relative bliss, people traditionally count on multiple sources of income—investments, retirement funds, pension plans, and Social Security. For many, however, the recession sapped one or more of their income sources and derailed plans for post-work life, which now calls for a little money-making creativity. From renting out an empty bedroom to working a part-time job in retail, retirees are handling the setback with aplomb.
[Slideshow: 10 Unusual Sources of Income in Retirement.]
Here are 10 ways that retirees can gin up a little extra cash or, say, get free housing:
1. Micro-gardening. Carving out a plot in your backyard to grow peppery mizuna greens or woody perennials may not make you millions, but it could supplement your income without taking over your schedule. "Depending on how you choose your project, it can be relatively low demand as far as your time," says John Tullock, author of Pay Dirt: How to Make $10,000 a Year From Your Backyard Garden. When it comes to micro-gardening, the most time-consuming and energy-demanding thing to do is grow vegetables and then sell them at a farmers' market or through a Community Supported Agriculture arrangement, where customers purchase shares of a harvest ahead of the season in exchange for regular deliveries.
The less demanding—albeit less trendy—method is growing nursery stock and selling it to local garden centers, Tullock advises. You can approach the garden centers before planting to see if there's demand for the product you want to grow. Or ask them, "What can't you get that you would like to have?" says Tullock. You can also offer to grow something unusual that their competitors won't be selling. The advantage of this arrangement is that "you know there's a market for what you're going to grow in a year," Tullock says. If you agree to grow perennials and you're selling them for about $4 per one-gallon container, most garden centers could use several hundred. That means you could pocket $1,000 to $2,000. This is easier if you have gardening experience. Neophytes who are interested should be cautious, do a great deal of research, and, ideally, enroll in classes at a local college.
2. Work-camping. For adventurers who own RVs, work-camping (also called workamping) can offset the costs of enjoying America on wheels. Paid work-campers typically exchange their labor for a free camping site and pay that's around minimum wage, and often work for private companies that operate public parks. Some "camp hosts" share responsibility for large campgrounds, while others host smaller campgrounds alone. "There's usually a lot of flexibility," says Warren Meyer, president of Recreation Resource Management, which administers about 150 parks for various government bodies. "Most of these guys don't want to work 60 hours a week." Responsibilities might include greeting visitors, collecting fees, cleaning campground bathrooms, and raking leaves.
3. Tax preparation. Many short-term jobs that are good fits for retirees are related to financial services, particularly tax assistance, says Tim Driver, CEO of RetirementJobs.com, a website for job seekers 50 and older. Companies like H&R Block recruit for seasonal tax-prep positions and don't necessarily require experience. H&R Block, for one, requires applicants to pass an income-tax training course and exam, while individuals with previous experience may be able to test out of the course.
4. Crafts. When Morgan Hoth was a teacher, she spent the school year instructing students with learning disabilities and summers experimenting with arts and crafts—weaving rugs, then hauling them outside to spray with dye, for example. "By the time I had retired, I had been playing for 30 years," Hoth says. Today, the Virginia-based artist sells painted scarves and wraps made of stonewashed crepe de Chine—hot coral pink gladiolas on a lemon-yellow background, bright pink hyacinths on robin's egg blue, or raspberry-hued autumn leaves scattered across a kaleidoscope of color. Watercolor-like designs decorate lightweight silk chiffon. Even neckties are a canvas for Hoth, who sells her pieces in a couple of online shops and through a personal website, morgansilkscarf.com. "I went to Europe last year on my money," she says.