Second Acts: Turning Your Passion Into a Paycheck

A growing number of baby boomers are looking to profit from their passions.

Retired couple.
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Twitter can be helpful, too—even if you have zero interest in tweeting about your day-to-day activities. Janet Van Huysee, Twitter's vice president of human resources, suggests people research job openings by doing "hashtag searches" on twitter.com. For example, if you're interested in the tech industry, you could search "#IT Jobs" to generate a list of recent openings. "You don't need to tweet or even create a bio," Van Huysee says. Industry trade groups sometimes promote conferences and other upcoming events that career changers might want to attend.

If you want to ease into retirement without having to gain a whole new set of skills (or launch a job search or make a big capital outlay), you may be able to pass your expertise along in a consulting role. After Jennifer Hay of Seattle, 54, was laid off from her job as a technical trainer four years ago, a mentor suggested she start a business writing resumes for people in the tech industry. Today, Hay says, she works with up to 10 clients a month and is making a better living than she did before.

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When Sarah Baldwin's husband was laid off from his sales job at a Chicago-area company in late 2009, the freelance marketing pro began looking for a way that she and he could leverage their expertise together. Baldwin, whose past experience had included promoting the Ice Capades, called the maker of some new pjs she'd recently discovered (and loved) called Goodnighties, designed to help regulate body temperature, and offered to help improve the marketing materials. "I was looking at the website thinking I know I could do better," she says. She and her husband worked out an exclusive contract with the company and have grown the brand's sales 60 percent year-to-date, she says. Now they're offering marketing services to other small brands.

Another good way to pass on all your knowledge is to parlay it into a teaching position. Mitchell D. Weiss, 60, spent 30 years owning and running financial-services firms and was intrigued when a finance professor at the University of Hartford near his home in Connecticut called in 2006 and asked him to teach a course in small business and entrepreneurial finance. He was so nervous before his first lecture that he was sweating profusely, he says. But "I prepared. I created lecture notes. It's really no different than writing a script to make a board presentation." Today he's on the adjunct faculty at the university, where he also co-founded the school's Center for Personal Financial Responsibility.

"What students want is to learn from real-world experience," Weiss says. "I get to apply all my skills, just in a different setting. I love what I'm doing." Teaching, he thinks, is a perfect way to cap off a long career.