MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Mark Dierlam never considered spending his retirement on the golf course.
He spent 26 years in the Air Force, rising to colonel and serving as the 42nd Air Base Wing Commander in Montgomery. Then he rerouted into financial planning, a lifelong interest.
“I was flying jets,” Dierlam said. “At the same time, this financial stuff was my hobby. So I moved into my hobby as a second career. I just love building plans.”
He’s spent another 26 years doing that and is now the district advisor for First Command Financial Services. Now, his children are retiring after decades in the military, and his two sons are starting their own second careers.
They’re part of a trend that’s gaining steam as Baby Boomers reach retirement age. Many are returning to the workforce, often in new career paths.
A series of studies by The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology this year found that an expected workforce shortage hasn’t been as bad as it could have been because Boomers have been reluctant to retire. Longer, healthier lives have helped them stay in the workforce longer than previous generations, but a bigger factor may be their rewarding roles.
One SIOP study by Yujie Zhan, Mo Wang and Junqi Shi found that Boomers, and particularly Boomer men, want to continue to contribute, whether it’s as a worker in a new field or as a mentor to younger employees.
“Boomers, and I’m one of them, have reinvented a lot of things over the years,” said Jamie Harding of AARP Alabama. “Now they’re reinventing what it means to retire.
“They’re seeing it as an opportunity to pursue their passions. That may be starting a business, or it may be pursuing a different kind of work.”
Last year, AARP started an online-based program called Life Reimagined to help them through that transition. They can use it to take a look at their interests and skills, set priorities and connect with companies that want to hire experienced workers.
Nathan Crossett, district manager for Wells Fargo in Montgomery, said he doesn’t have to look very hard to find retired military members who want another career. There are “several” who have gone into banking with Wells Fargo here, Crossett said.
Many others become entrepreneurs, starting their own companies or exploring new fields.
“We’re seeing that from a lot of customers,” Crossett said. “They retire and it’s kind of like, ‘What’s next?’ We do see a lot of that in Montgomery.”
Harding said even those who don’t want a new career track after retirement often want to stay engaged with the community in some other way. That could mean consulting work, volunteer work and more. The point, she said, is to continue to use a lifetime of skills and knowledge.
“I’ve met some people in Alabama who’ve taken their professional experience and turned it into really rewarding volunteer work,” Harding said.
“For a lot of people, the idea of playing golf isn’t all that appealing.”