Wednesday, September 27, 2017

How to Turn Your Passions Into Retirement Income

4 ways to profit from the activities and interests you love

Nancy Collamer for Next Avenue

Walt Galvin is a dog walker for

Last year, Mike Liff, now 71, relocated with his wife from San Francisco to Portland, Maine to be closer to family. The retirees explored their new hometown and thanks to a chance conversation at a barbershop, Liff learned that was looking for part-time guides. After hearing that the job would give him a chance to walk around the city, share his enthusiasm for history and food and meet interesting people, Liff decided to apply.

“I’m having such fun,” he said. “I like to say I didn’t retire, I ‘rewired.’ To have a place to go and a purpose is really important to me — and my wife appreciates it too.”

During the height of the tourist season, Liff works six mornings a week, leading a 3-hour tour around the old Port city. After winter arrives, the sports fan takes on a different part-time job, working as an usher for the Maine Redclaws, the developmental team for the Boston Celtics. He gets to watch “really great basketball,” while earning supplemental income in the process.

Like Liff, you too may be able to generate income from your passions and hobbies. Here are four strategies to consider, along with resources to help get started:

Mike Liff is a part-time tour guide for

1. Find a part-time job. Take inspiration from Liff and look for a part-time job that offers the chance to engage with your hobbies and passions on a more regular basis.

For example, if you love plants and being outdoors, you might find it satisfying to work at your local arboretum, community park or garden center. Or, if you’re open to traveling for part-time work, you can search on for seasonal jobs at the National Parks, ski resorts and dude ranches.

If food is more your thing, take a look at where you’ll find a variety of part-time opportunities. Current listings include a recruitment manager for a nonprofit teaching kids from all socioeconomic backgrounds what real food is and a food demo specialist.

2. Become a gigster. Eager to strike out on your own, but don’t want the headaches of starting and marketing a business? Consider applying for short-term gigs that play into your passions by using gig technology platforms and mobile apps.

For example, if you love pets and would enjoy working as a pet sitter or dog walker, you could sign up on You set your own schedule and rates; handles the payments and insurance for dogs in your care. In exchange, the company takes 20 percent of your earnings to cover administrative costs and overhead and to make a profit, of course.

It’s proven a lucrative option for Walt Galvin, 66, a recently-retired defense contractor and dog lover based in Woodbridge, Va. “As a retiree, Rover provides me with a great monthly supplemental income. And it’s great exercise, too!” he says. Galvin averages $1,500 a month from Rover, he told me.

On his page, Galvin says: “I love dogs! Over the years I’ve fostered over 150 dogs as a volunteer/board member of a local lab rescue group. I don’t foster anymore, but as a new retiree with time on my hands I’m looking to continue to interact with dogs and their families.”

If you Google “gig platforms” you’ll find that there are many other possibilities. For instance: Sign up to offer coaching services to local clients. It matches people who provide event services (like music entertainment, wedding photographers, magicians and officiants) with prospective customers. Apply to be a dinner party chef, working out of your own home.

3. Sell your art or crafts online. Many retirees enjoy hawking their wares at local venues like craft fairs, art shows and farmers markets. It’s a nice way to get out of the house, interact with customers and generate income in the process. But why not expand your reach by taking advantage of online marketplaces as well?

For example, James Hartman, 67, a California-based artist, uses as part of his marketing mix. Hartman says UGallery connects him to a broad audience of people who otherwise would never have seen his paintings. “I find the experience very personable,” he says., which represents about 500 artists, splits the sale of artwork 50/50 (the company also covers the costs of packaging and shipping). Interested artists must go through an application process to be accepted.

Other online marketplaces for artists and craftspeople include (primarily for crafters), Amazon Handmade and Before setting up shop at any, make sure you compare fees and services, since terms differ among the sites.

4. Teach your craft. Whether you’re a polished piano player, a witty writer or a master at mahjong, you can likely earn income in retirement by teaching others how to do what you do so well.

If you prefer to stay local, look into teaching opportunities at continuing education programs offered through your town, community colleges or private adult education programs. Or you can offer lessons out of your home (just be sure to check zoning restrictions before hanging out a shingle).

To take your teaching online, you can deliver classes through your own website or by creating a class using an online teaching platform like LinkedIn’s, or

Networking Can Help, Too

Finally, remember that as great as technology is, the best opportunities for part-time work in retirement often surface as the result of everyday networking. So keep your antennae on alert.

As Liff’s story shows, you never know when that random barbershop conversation might lead to the semi-retirement gig of your dreams.

© Twin Cities Public Television - 2017. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 22, 2017

8 Tips to Become a Painter at Any Age

Practical advice for getting started from a happy late-in-life painter

Barbara Twardowski for Next Avenue

An artist paints on the grounds of the Dixon Gallery & Gardens in Memphis, Tenn. Photo by Jim Twardowski
When my son went to college — the same year I turned 50 — I accidentally unlocked a passion for painting.

My friend, Mary, invited a group of women to her home for a painting party. Not considering myself artistic, I hesitated before accepting the invitation. It once took me six months to choose a paint color for my kitchen.

Fortified with wine and the foregone conclusion that I lacked artistic ability, I approached the task with no expectations and total abandonment. Some of the women hovered over their canvases, delicately moving their brushes in tiny precise strokes, striving to match the instructor’s picture of a doorway and a wheelbarrow overflowing with flowers. They were anxious, as if this were a test.

I didn’t fret about how my painting might compare to the others or if I was doing it the “right” way. Mixing the colors on a paper plate, I boldly loaded the brush and covered the white canvas with thick blobs of acrylic paint. Three hours later, the party was over. And I was filled with an exhilaration I hadn’t experienced in perhaps decades.

In one evening, I rediscovered how to play.

The next morning, I rushed to the craft store to buy a beginner’s set of acrylic paints, canvases and a pallet. A table covered with an old shower curtain on my screen porch became an impromptu studio. Looking at the backyard for inspiration, I painted pine trees, clouds and flowers. Oblivious to the time, I didn’t even stop for lunch.

I was in the zone, or a state of consciousness positive psychologists call “flow” — the total absorption into an activity taking all of one’s concentration. The brain can only process so much information, so there is a sense that time ceases, bodily discomforts are ignored and there’s no room in the mind for random negative thoughts.

The more I painted, the more I wanted to learn. I borrowed a stack of books from the library, but what I needed was a teacher. So I signed up for a weekly painting class.

Who knew you can become a painter even if you can’t draw? My enthusiastic teacher embraced beginners. Her mantra: “Be brave.” She believed art is experimentation. When she critiqued a student’s efforts, she always found something to praise — the delicate line of a leaf or the hint of purple in a cloud. She taught us to step away — literally — from the painting and look for what was working. Her technique squelched my inner critic.

Whether you are seeking the occasional evening of entertainment or wish to seriously study art, nurture an interest in painting by trying one or more of these eight tips:

1. Join an Organized Group

Many communities have an art association you can become part of, usually a nonprofit that supports area artists. Mine is the St. Tammany Art Association, with some 800 members who participate in gallery showings, classes and cultural programs like day trips to the New Orleans Museum of Art.

Another resource is your community recreational center, which might offer leisure programs.

If you are looking to meet locals who share your love of art, contact your city, county or state division of the arts to see what might be available.

2. Go Back to School Inexpensively

Check with local colleges about leisure course offerings you could take. Typically, these no-credit enrichment classes are available at a fraction of the cost of a traditional college class.

3. Scout the Art Stores

Craft and art supply stores frequently host painting demonstrations or lessons. Talk to the store manager and ask for a calendar of events.

4. Visit Museums, Botanical Gardens and Galleries

Review the websites of museums, botanical gardens and art galleries to learn about special programs for aspiring artists. The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, for instance, conducts adult art classes that relate to the museum’s collection, architecture or special exhibits. The Chicago Botanic Garden offers painting, watercolor and color theory classes with a botanical theme. The Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis allows “Open Studio” participants to bring their sketch pads and pencils for one hour every Friday while an art instructor is on hand to answer questions and help advance their skills.

5. Hire a Pro

Many artists supplement their income by teaching private or group lessons. Ask the local art association for a list of instructors. If your community doesn’t have a formal arts organization, call the high school and speak to an art teacher about getting taught.

If you can’t find an art class that meets your needs, create one. I recruited five friends who wanted to take acrylic painting lessons. We hired a professional artist to teach us in my home. To find an artist, attend art markets, art festivals and gallery showings and look for paintings by artists in your area. When you see work you like, ask the artist if she is interested in teaching. Keep the commitment short — three or four weeks; not every artist is good at teaching.

6. Paint-N-Sip

One of the country’s booming franchises is the paint-n-sip business and it’s a fun way to get started. Painting with a Twist, begun by two entrepreneurial moms from Louisiana, is one of the most successful, with 278 studios in 33 states. They orchestrate parties where friends gather for a few hours sipping an adult beverage and painting. The copyrighted artwork is designed to be finished within two or three hours. Instructors provide entertainment and step-by-step directions. This isn’t intended to be a formal art lesson, it’s a fun outing. Party guests pay $40 and leave with their own creation.

7. Search Online

Lots of inspiration and even lessons can be found by using the Internet. From YouTube videos of “How to Paint a Sunflower”  to the Artists Network University, with professionally produced courses for those who want to do fine art for fun, you’ll find tons of free and affordably priced resources.

8. Create a Painting Club

Like a book club, friends can form a painting group. For five years, Linda Pippins, in the New Orleans area, has belonged to one that meets once a month to watercolor and lunch. When painting, the members offer gentle critiques of each other’s work. Two of the women have even sold some of their pieces. “You just put everything out of your mind and let go of the stress when you are concentrating on colors, shapes and composition,” said Pippins. Laughing, she added, “It’s our therapy.”

© Twin Cities Public Television - 2017. All rights reserved.



Wednesday, September 13, 2017

It's Never Too Late to Learn Something New

Don't just watch the kids go back to school this fall

By Patricia Corrigan for Next Avenue

Lunchbox? Check. Backpack? Check. New outfit for the first day? Check.

So you’ve helped get a grandchild or other youngster ready to go back to school. But what about you? Staying mentally active after 50 stimulates neural networks, increases knowledge, enriches life and provides opportunities for social interaction and fun at the same time.

Maybe you’ve secretly always wanted to speak Italian or learn to quilt or try your hand at landscaping. Maybe you’re ready to take up Scuba diving or acting. Perhaps if’s time you developed a new skill that will boost your productivity at work. Or maybe you’re eager to go deep with Shakespeare’s history plays, take up memoir writing, better appreciate opera or learn to make beer.

And maybe now you have the time.

Educational opportunities abound for people 50 and older, in settings that range from traditional classrooms to senior centers to the back room in ceramics shops. You can opt for semester-long courses with or without tests, short-term “quick hit” classes or a scheduled lecture series that provides entertainment as well as education. Some opportunities are free and others are available at discounted prices.

Any learning opportunity can change your life for the better. Consider the Seattle woman I know who waited until her kids were grown to enroll in college. The junior college near her home had just one class available, on geology. She took it, got hooked and went on to earn a master’s degree. Now she is a naturalist with National Geographic/Lindblad Expeditions, and she writes poems about basalt and other rock formations.

Here are some ideas on where to look for learning opportunities:

Traditional Schools

Most universities, colleges and junior colleges welcome older adult students. The Penny Hoarder, which started as a blog in 2010 and now claims to have 16 million readers and 1.5 million email subscribers, has located free or cheap college classes for older adults in all 50 states.

“While some institutions only allow senior students to audit classes, many offer the chance to earn credits toward a degree at a reduced — or completely waived — tuition rate,” says the website. Look for opportunities in your state here.

One 70-year-old man in St. Louis first started auditing classes a decade ago at a junior college near his home. “When I retired, I wanted to learn about Photoshop. In a one-day class, sometimes you get too much information at once, so I signed up instead at the junior college,” he said. Since then, he has enrolled in courses on web design, videography and horticulture.

Auditing classes costs him as little as half the regular tuition; sometimes, classes that aren’t full go for even less. “I feel right at home in class, and I always get an ‘A’ for audience participation because I always have a lot of questions,” he said. “I’m learning for the sake of learning.”

Some high schools offer evening classes for adults. On the south shore of Long Island in New York, the Merrick Central High School District offers “a wide array of courses selected to meet the educational, vocational, cultural and recreational needs and interests of adult residents of the community.” Check with a high school near you for learning opportunities.

Osher Centers for Lifelong Learning 

The Bernard Osher Foundation supports 120 lifelong learning programs on college campuses everywhere from Huntsville, Ala., to Fairbanks, Alaska. The foundation, founded in 1977 and based in San Francisco, funds at least one non-credit educational program in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Each program welcomes adults age 50 and older with “a diverse repertoire of intellectually stimulating courses.” And each is required to operate with “robust volunteer leadership” and have established mechanisms for evaluating classes offered and participant satisfaction. To find an Osher-funded program near you, go to the Osher Foundation site.

This spring, Steve Thaxton, executive director of the National Resource Center for Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, spoke with Next Avenue about adult learning trends in the future. 

The Oasis Institute

Founded in St. Louis in 1982, Oasis promotes “healthy aging through lifelong learning, active lifestyles and volunteer engagement.” The nonprofit educational organization serves adult learners in 40 cities and is said to reach more than 50,000 individuals each year. Find out at this part of the Oasis site if Oasis is available where you live.

In addition to developing national programs and providing training and support for individual Oasis education centers, the Oasis Institute also works with hundreds of partners interested in lifelong learning, including health providers, corporations, senior centers, community organizations, libraries, colleges and senior living organizations.

Local Community Centers and Shops

Many city parks and recreation departments offer classes and activities for older adults. In Austin, the city’s website says, its activities for people 50 and older include “pursuing old hobbies and learning new ones, socializing with friends, meeting new people, increasing knowledge, becoming and staying physically fit, supplementing income and contributing to the community.”

Jewish Community Centers (JCC), with more than 350 locations across the country, welcome one and all to a variety of classes in everything from pottery to yoga to painting to mindfulness-based stress reduction to dance. Some JCCs also sponsor book clubs and provide lectures by art museum docents about current exhibits around town.

Community-based senior centers often provide classes on topics that interest participants, including everything from chair caning to current events to working with mosaic tiles. If a center near you doesn’t teach what you want to learn, propose the topic and help find an instructor.

In your quest to learn something new, don’t overlook local shops owned by artisans. If the owner doesn’t offer classes in his or her specialty, ask about a trial apprenticeship so you can determine whether, say, woodworking or knitting or glass blowing suits you.

Classrooms on the Move 

If hands-on learning about other countries, other cultures or just the geology of your own state interests you, look to an educational travel program. Road Scholar, formerly known as Elderhostel, offers more than 5,500 study tours throughout the U.S. and Canada and in 150 other countries, all geared to older adults and led by experienced guides.

Group size, activity levels and prices vary according to the trip, and some scholarships are available. Destinations include The Kentucky Derby, several national parks, “signature cities” of the world and a cruise on the Columbia and Snake Rivers following the path of Lewis and Clark.

Also, some colleges sponsor educational travel opportunities for alumni. Check with yours and say that you are ready to go back to school. No new outfit required!

© Twin Cities Public Television - 2017. All rights reserved.