Life begins at fifty! Fifty is the new thirty! As many of us move beyond the age of fifty we have probably heard these sayings and, while they may not ring true with everyone, there is no denying that in this century aging isn’t what it was for our grandparents.
We are living longer and healthier. We are staying in the workforce longer. Sometimes for years past fifty, sixty and even seventy. People are switching jobs later in life, retiring from their lifelong careers and starting something completely new. People are picking up hobbies and interests that they have always wanted to try. Some people use some of the money they’ve saved over the years to start new business ventures. The opportunities can be boundless and with these opportunities may come a need or desire to go back to school.
For most of us, when we think of school or college we remember a time of youthful innocence before our dreams had been realized and when the world was our oyster. But today, more and more older people are going back to school or even to college for the first time. This trend gives education a whole new meaning. The caveat, however, is the increased cost of education today. With this in mind, does it make sense for someone on the brink of retirement to invest their money this way? The answer to that really lies in the reason for it.
There are as many reasons to go to school as there are schools to go to. It could be a simple as taking a class to learn a new hobby or skill, such as gardening, crafts, or computer technology, or as advanced as getting a master’s degree or even a doctorate, or somewhere in between. Perhaps you want to complete a course of study that you were unable to finish earlier in life. Perhaps you are seeking to fulfill a lifelong dream. Perhaps you just want to stay active and keep your mind sharp. With so many educational opportunities there are a lot of choices and also a lot of alternatives to a traditional college degree.
If you decide to go to a traditional college to get a degree, whether it’s to advance your career, allow you to apply for a different job, or something else, you should assess the risk vs. the reward. Will you have to borrow money and, if so, will you have time to pay it back? Will your income increase as a result of that education enough to do that? There are some tax breaks available, such as the American Opportunity Tax Credit, to offset education costs, as well as grant and scholarship opportunities, so a frank discussion with your financial adviser would be wise.
If the traditional college route doesn’t make fiscal sense for you, or if it doesn’t fill your need, do not be discouraged. Almost all communities offer some sort of Continued Education Programs. It may be a class at the local high school or YMCA. Going back to school can be a wonderful thing at this juncture of your life. It can fill a lot of needs. Studying and learning something new can make you feel good about yourself, keep you active and keep your mind sharp. If you want to complete a course of study that you were unable to finish when you were younger, that can give you a strong sense of accomplishment. School is a great way to keep busy and contribute to society. It can offer personal growth whether you are still in the workforce or happily retired. Because in this century, this time in our society, age provides opportunities to continue to learn, not limits, it is an exciting time to be moving beyond fifty.