I recently read an article MSN titled “Internships for Boomers” and it hit home. I’ll turn 53 next month and I’m an intern at NuWire Investor, getting my feet wet in the world of online publications. I want to confirm what I read in that article with my personal story so others will know that big boomer changes are happening all over the country. I guess the first thing I would like to declare is that retirement is an anachronism for many people 50 and older. I don’t ever want to stop being involved, plugged in or a contributing member of society--I just want to have fun doing it. I think it’s a national tragedy that so many retirees take their experience (and money) out of societal circulation. OK, so much for the rant.
After 18 years in the ceramic tile industry I (and my knees) decided that it was time for a change. I taught myself how to type and use a computer. During the course of a year, my wife and I downsized into a small condo located between the local community college and the University of Washington. We did this anticipating we would be paying huge college tuitions with only her income. As it turned out, we didn’t need to.
At the community college, I wrote for the school paper. The job paid $750 per quarter and tuition was around $800 per quarter. Even though I had never had a job writing before, I quickly adapted. I even had an advice column called “Ask the Old Guy.” After my first year, and because of my high GPA (I wasn’t messing around) and my involvement with the paper, I was nominated by the school for a national two-year college award. That award resulted in a $750 scholarship and eventually a $400 partial quarterly tuition waiver at the UW. Meanwhile I applied for and was awarded an honors scholarship from a private foundation for community college transfer students. Between the two awards, I actually ended up netting about $200 per quarter to attend the University of Washington for two years. I graduated in 2007 cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, with a liberal arts degree. The challenge that I had put off all of my life had become a reality. None of it would have happened without the decision to “pull the trigger” and do it.
The point that I would like to make is that starting a new endeavor at 50ish is completely possible--as far as getting a college degree anyway. I was astonished how many scholarships are available for “non-traditional” students, making financing a non-issue if you go through the rigors of their application process. I would suggest doing some research on the available scholarships in your area prior to enrolling. There are scholarships out there that will take you through all four years if you ask. The thing to note is that you have to commit to doing it. Even once you’re in school, the opportunities are available.
I don’t know where this internship will lead. I don’t know if it will lead to a job in this field, or a new set of questions. What I do know is that whether you leave a job because you have to or because you want to, there are many, many opportunities for older Americans to stay sharp, and stay involved.
Guest post by James Krieger, an intern at NuWire