Retirees Return to Work Force to Pursue Their Passion
BLOOMINGTON, ILL. - For years, Pat Hussemann thought about working with flowers or photography -- her two passions -- once she retired.
After 25 years as a secretary, she's now a floral designer at Bloomington, Ill.'s Forget Me Not Flowers.
"I wanted to do something when I retired that was completely different," Hussemann said. "I thought the flowers would be just fun."
The Bloomington retiree is among the majority of Americans who want to find new careers in retirement. Nationwide, 65 percent of baby boomers expect to work in a new field in retirement, while one in 10 intends to start a new business, according to a 2006 Merrill Lynch retirement study.
A new job with a personal hobby resonates well with people who have always thought about what they would have done with their lives if they could have a do-over, said David Osnowitz, branch manager at Merrill Lynch in Bloomington. As they reach retirement age, they realize it's their last chance to fulfill that dream, he said.
"They're out there saying, 'I've always looked to do whatever that is,'" Osnowitz said.
That's how it worked for Hussemann.
"I'd always said my two favorite, favorite things are photography ... and flowers," Hussemann said. "I just love flowers. My grandma had flowers. ... Maybe I've just gotten a love of it from that."
Hussemann, 59, retired in 2005 after working at a Mattoon, Ill., school district. Her life had changed after she got married in 2004 and moved to Bloomington the next year.
A year into retirement, she saw an ad for the part-time floral designer job and landed the gig.
She said it's a challenge to be on her feet eight hours a day and learn the rules of flower design, but she enjoys creating a variety of arrangements and working with customers.
Hussemann works mainly to be around other people and for the enjoyment of the job. The pay is nice simply for those extras in life, like traveling and spoiling grandchildren. She typically works about 25 to 30 hours per week.
Hussemann's passion for her job and her reasons for working in retirement are similar to others like her.
Retirees who have saved enough money to be comfortable not working in retirement decide to work anyway because they want to stay active and do something they enjoy, Osnowitz said.
"Those people are a little bit more passionate about what they're doing because they're choosing to be there," Osnowitz said.
It's the same story for business owner Lyn Johnson of Bloomington.
The co-owner of Ewe Knit in uptown Normal, Ill., decided to open her small business in retirement for financial and other personal reasons.
"There's no way I can sit at home and do nothing. ... I love what I do," said Johnson, 60.
She also hopes the store turns a profit in three years so she can open a second shop.
In her previous employment, Johnson worked in the underwriting department of an insurance company for 25 years. She's also had her own pet walking service and two UPS franchises with her husband. When she and her husband moved back to Bloomington last year, she decided to open the yarn shop.
She also finds her share of challenges at work; she cannot climb a ladder because she has bad knees, and she works alone. But the shop allows her to easily stay connected with her longtime hobby. She started knitting in her 20s and enjoys the creative and inventive aspects of the craft.
"I have a great time with this business," Johnson said. "I figure I can do this until I'm probably 90."
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