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by Abigail Van Buren

Many Possible Stages Await Boomers Looking for 'Encore'

DEAR ABBY: "Searching for 'Me' in Texas" (March 4) is not alone! A wave of 78 million baby boomers will soon leave 30-plus-year careers and are looking forward to an estimated 20 more years of life.

A vast majority of them are looking for meaningful opportunities for the second half of their lives. "Searching" should seek out a non-profit organization for a cause she's passionate about and offer her skilled services. If "Searching" doesn't need an income, she can volunteer.

Finally, instead of seeking a graduate degree, she could look at her local community college and find non-credit classes that interest her and participate without the pressure of credited course work. -- STEPHANIE IN PHOENIX

DEAR STEPHANIE: Your suggestions are all good ones. Second careers are becoming more common, and there are many opportunities for seniors to enjoy their "encore careers." Read on for more options:

DEAR ABBY: Your advice to "Searching" was dead-on. After a 30-year career in the insurance industry, I was forced into early retirement by a corporate buyout. At 59, I was stunned and unprepared. After some soul searching, I decided I wasn't done with life. I started reading, talking to friends and praying.

There were some false starts. I tried out for the Peace Corps but backed out. I got into an income tax class that was over my head. Then I got another insurance job and found myself back in the rat race.

I made ends meet by substitute teaching and began to realize that, eons ago, I had wanted to be a teacher. (I had been talked out of it.) So I started back to college for my master's degree in teaching.

Talk about scared! It had been 33 years since I had seen the inside of a classroom. But my experience was one of the most challenging, positive and enriching I have ever known. I met wonderful people along the way and was admired for my life experience, insight and work ethic. It wasn't all sweetness and light, but if I had to do it over again I'd do it in a minute. -- CATHERINE IN ILLINOIS

DEAR ABBY: "Searching" might consider volunteering with SCORE -- Service Corps of Retired Executives. Her skills are needed and would be appreciated. That way she can dabble in her old work and have a sense of accomplishment. -- CHARLES IN MARYLAND

DEAR ABBY: As a volunteer coordinator at a large non-profit, I have many volunteers who discovered us as a result of a retirement search. The AARP's volunteer engagement site is www.createthegood.org, and www.volunteermatch.org is a nationwide site for searching volunteer opportunities.

"Searching" needs to think about things she would like to do but couldn't while working, and dip her toe in the water. If she tries something and it isn't a fit, she has no obligation and can try another. It may lead to a paid "encore" career or fulfill her through volunteerism. -- JAN IN YARDLEY, PA.

DEAR ABBY: When I retired at 62, I decided to return to school for a graduate philosophy degree. My body may be weaker, but I like to think most of my mental faculties are intact. My first resume may generate humor, but I'll bring something to the classroom that may prove invaluable. That's 40 years of experience and 63 years of 20-20 hindsight.

I will call it a good day if I can communicate to any student that learning is fun and education has intrinsic value. -- CALVERT IN NORTH CAROLINA

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