More than 80 percent of working Americans over age 50 say they plan to work after retirement, according to a 2013 survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Whether that's out of necessity — the average 65-year-old couple retiring this year is likely to spend $245,000 on medical care not covered by Medicare over the course of their Golden Years — or simply to stay active, working in retirement has become the new norm.
Yet making extra money during retirement doesn't mean toiling away at a mundane job. There are plenty of cool ways to earn some additional cash and boost your savings. These days, retirees are seeking adventure in their encore careers, securing work at national parks, on cruises, Alaskan whale-watching tours and ski resorts, to name a few.
"Retirees are still young and active and want to do things," said Kari Quaas, staffing center specialist at CoolWorks.com, a job board that connects adventurous job seekers with employers all over the world.
"The jobs they are choosing are far more adventurous and interesting than simply working at the local grocer to pay the bills," she said.
Although workers usually get minimum wages or a little more for entry-level jobs, employers sometimes provide other perks, such as low-cost or free housing ranging from private rooms to dormitories to hookups for RVs.
Among the job offerings on the CoolWorks site right now: a bartender at an Arizona dude ranch, a front desk clerk at a resort hotel and spa in Texas and a manager in the guest services department at the Smithsonian National Zoo.
When CoolWorks was founded in 1995 by Bill Berg, the former director of business operations for Yellowstone Park Service Stations, he initially thought the site would serve mainly as a vehicle for college students looking for thrilling seasonal work. What he didn't expect was the huge response from the over-50 crowd.
"Most people who are older and retired still have to work," said Zac Alexander, a former human resources recruiter for ski resorts in Colorado and New Mexico.
His best employees, he said, were retirees.
"They are extremely reliable. They work from the start date to the end date and commit to that. They will clean bathrooms; they will flip burgers; they will park cars. They will do whatever it takes and make it work. They don't care. It's not like a 22-year-old who expects to be the president of the company in two years," he said.
Two years ago Alexander, 54, left his job on the icy slopes and joined the lifestyle of the older and bolder folks, opting for a seasonal opportunity in a warmer climate. He eventually landed a job at a ranch in Moab, Utah, in its human resources department.
"It's perfect," he said. "Cold weather wasn't working for me anymore. A seasonal mind-set is all about freedom."
Although he's happy where he is, Alexander says he continues to look for other exciting prospects.
"My next adventure is to get rid of all my things, move into an RV and work at a national park," he said.
"The retirement of my grandparents' generation — where once their pension and Social Security checks start coming, they sit and watch television and go to the post office every day and that's it — is not the baby boomer generation's idea of retirement. Retirement is getting out there, seeing what you didn't get to see when you were 25 years old, and having a life," Alexander said.
Companies are now focusing their recruiting efforts on this older demographic, particularly for project assignments, because as a group, retirees exhibit less turnover, less absenteeism, are punctual, have more experience, are more productive and have superior customer-service skills.
7 ways older workers can win at the job interview
1. Interview with an employer that isn't at the top of your list. Do a practice run by interviewing for a job that is located a long way from home or one for which you may be overqualified.
2. Research the employer before your interview. See who their customers are, learn more about their products or services and examine the company culture. Look through your social media accounts to see if you are connected to someone who may work there. Then contact them to ask questions about the company culture.
3. Have your resume updated by an expert. The standards and formatting have most likely changed quite a bit since the last time you updated your resume. Find out what will make yours stand out.
4. Consider starting on a project basis. Tell the employer you are willing to start working as a consultant or on a project basis. This often gives you a leg up on younger workers who are often unable to accept these kinds of employment positions — and it can often lead to full-time work.
5. Volunteer with a charity or nonprofit. Although in most cases there is little or no monetary compensation, it often leads to employment down the road with an employer seeking that particular experience or who appreciates your work ethic.
6. Assess your situation today versus years ago. Ask yourself, Who am I now? What do I want? What are my values? Do I need to make a difference or make big bucks? What are my core strengths?
7. Plan your interview, and be prepared to present yourself. Provide concrete examples of your role and accomplishments before you retired. Practice explaining them with a friend or family member.
Source: Art Koff, founder of RetiredBrains
While exotic locales are a big draw, some people just don't have the luxury of picking up and leaving for six months, whether it be due to a working spouse, the grandkids, or the simple fact that some retirees enjoy where they live.
Take Art Koff, founder of RetiredBrains. Now in his 80s, he launched his company in 2003 after a 50-year career in advertising.
"When I was planning to retire, I was already looking for what I was going to do next," he said. "There was no site other than AARP that offered information to boomers, retirees and people planning their retirement, so I started RetiredBrains.com."
While RetiredBrains features everything from senior-living resources to tips on Medicare, insurance and health care, Koff found that retirees are most interested in the site's job postings.
"Many are interested in working on a temporary, part-time, project-based or seasonal basis. Others are looking for legitimate ways to earn money working from or out of their homes or perhaps starting a small-business enterprise," Koff said. Many retirees are looking to draw on their occupational skill set and become consultants.
And then there are others who follow a passion vastly different from their occupational roots.
Take Laura Cammarano, 59, who recently retired from her job as a senior engineer at Skyworks Solutions in Woburn, Massachusetts. Almost immediately, she sold her full-time residence in the suburbs of Boston and is now a ski instructor in Vermont in the winter — a job that is more fun than lucrative — and lives in Eastham, Massachusetts, in the summer, on the shores of Cape Cod.
In her "spare" time, she flips houses. And she does nearly all of the renovations herself, from framing and installing Sheetrock to tiling and painting.
"I had done several projects on my own home over the years," she said, "and I enjoy doing it." To keep her income flowing, she plans to flip one or two houses a year in the Cape Cod area.
In mid-June, Cammarano bought her first property, for $300,000. To buy it, she took money out of her investments. "It's a risk, but I'm making more money doing this than letting it sit in my 401(k). And I didn't have to pay the 10 percent penalty, because I'm over 59½."
She plans to have the house on the market by September at a list price of $525,000. Minus the cost of materials and some labor she had to contract out, she is hoping to make $80,000.
"Not bad for two months' work," she said.