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Great Second Careers

How They Did It — How You Can Too


AARP The Bulletin, January/February 2018

YOU ARE PART OF a revolution. You are among the first generation of Americans who routinely change careers after 50. The centuries-old pattern — to work at the same job or profession right up to retirement — is becoming obsolete. In its place: a career path marked by new jobs, new starts, even new businesses, continuing for as long as you have a passion for work. The proof is in the data. For example, one study shows that 40 percent of people working at age 62 had changed careers since they turned 55.

Then there are your actual stories. For six months, the editors at the AARP Bulletin searched America to find ordinary people who have done extraordinary things with their second careers. What we learned: When people stay true to their passions and set their hearts and minds to it, new careers can take off at any age. Some provide large financial  rewards; others simply supplement pensions and Social Security checks but pay off big in terms of fulfillment, pride and satisfaction.  

How did they do it? And can you do it, too? We set out to answer those questions in the profiles below. You’ll find stories of people who reinvented their careers after age 50 and found deeper joy and satisfaction as a result. You’ll also discover their secrets of success, and advice to help you find your own path toward the best possible work for you. 

— Robert Love, editor in chief

Dog Walker

$40,000 a year

Dog walker Sari Reis sitting in the park, holding a small dog

Dustin Cohen

Sari Reis, 68

Home: San Diego     Previous life: Organizational trainer

 Why She Did It

Museum CEO

$100,000 a year

Andrea L. Taylor, CEO of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, in front of a museum exhibit

Dustin Cohen

Andrea L. Taylor, 70

Home: Birmingham, Ala.     Previous life: Corporate philanthropist for Microsoft 

How She Did It

Air Rescue

$53,000 a year

Glacier National Park Air Rescue specialist Dick Sine, in front of a helicopter

Sam Comen

Dick Sine, 66

Home: Bigfork, Mont.       Previous Life: Law enforcement

How he did it

Sailboat Captain

$52,000 a year

Sailboat Captain Bill O'Donovan sailing on the York River

Dustin Cohen

Bill O'Donovan, 70  

Home: Williamsburg, Va.    Previous life: Newspaper publisher

Why he did it

Personal Trainer

$30,000 a year

Personal Trainer Tony DiCosta works with a client at a gym

Dustin Cohen

Tony DiCosta, 67  

Home: Cape Coral, Fla.    Previous life: Media professional

How he did it


$160,000 a year

Innkeepers Bill and Linda Perry, cooking in their kitchen

Dustin Cohen

Bill Petry, 74 and Linda Petry, 70  

Home: Lewisburg, Pa.    Previous life: Lutheran pastor (Bill), consumer science teacher (Linda)

Why they did it

Real Estate Agent

$50,000-90,000 a year

Real Estate Agent Joan Maguire sits on the curb in front of a house, near a For Sale sign

Dustin Cohen

JoAnn Maguire, 75

Home: Churchville, Pennsylvania    Previous life: Schoolteacher

How she did it

Bicycle Tour Guide

$40-100 an hour

Marty Shatz, 67, leads a bike tour from the Santa Monica Pier to the Venice canals

Sam Comen

Marty Schatz, 67  

Home: Culver City, Calif.     Previous life: History teacher 

How He Did It

Organic Farmers

$100,000 sales per year

Organic Famers Nikki Ausschnitt and Steve Krieg in their garden

Sam Comen

Nikki Ausschnitt, 72 and Steve Krieg, 65

Home: Yorkville, Calif.    Previous Life: Visual artist (Nikki) and attorney (Steve)   

How They Did It

Store Owner

$0 salary in first year

Franchise store owner Miguel Escobar, 59, and his wife Maria Vidal-Escobar inside their pool store

Poon Watchara-Amphaiwan

Miguel Escobar, 59

Home: Cypress, Texas    Previous life: Oil industry product manager 

Why He Did It

Skin-Care Entrepreneur

$100,000 a year

Skincare Entrepreneur Cynthia Besteman shows off her products in a meeting

Dustin Cohen

Cynthia Besteman, 52

Home: New York    Previous life: Real estate broker

Why She Did It

Company Founder

$120,000 a year

Mike Bertelsen, founder of Cowboy Cauldron, adds wood to a cauldron fire

Sam Comen

Mike Bertelsen, 57

Home: Salt Lake City    Previous life: Lobbyist and television producer

How He Did It


$5,000 a year

Nature Photographer Richard Turner (with wife Prem Hunji) taking a photo in a field

Sam Comen

Richard Turner, 79

Home: Sacramento, Calif.    Previous work: Attorney

 Why He Did It

Park Ranger

$15,000 a year

Park Ranger Dale Klco holding an owl at the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge and Nature Center

Dustin Cohen

Dale Klco, 68

Home: Hobe Sound, Fla.    Previous life: Electrician 

 How He Did It  

Flight Attendant

$38,000 a year

Flight Attendant Venetia Clark stands beside a jet

Poon Watchara-Amphaiwan

Venetia Clark, 58

Home: Frankfort, Ill.         Previous life: Pharmacist 

How She Did It


$250,000 a year

Geriatrician and Physician Christianne Bishop examines a female patient with a stethoscope

Sam Comen

Christianne Bishop, 67

Home: Lodi, Calif.    Previous life: Court reporter

Why She Did It


$70,000 a year

nurse Robert McManus

Dustin Cohen

Robert McManus, 63  

Home: Lexington, S.C.    Previous life: Lab chemist in hazardous waste industry

 Why He Did It

Massage Therapist

$30,000 a year

Massage therapist Julie MacDonald massages a patient's upper back

Sam Comen

Julie MacDonald, 58

Home: Libby, Mont.  Previous life: Cafeteria Manager

Why She Did It

More Careers

Attorney, Inventor, Voiceover Artist and Librarian

How they did it