Reinvent Your Life at 60: Leverage What Experience Has Brought You

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Grab Your Opportunities

Ilene “Iloo” Gruder: From homemaker to mountain-climbing fund raiser to Real Estate Agent

"I see so many of my friends getting fearful about things like driving on the highway or doing certain kinds of exercise. But my motto is ‘Don’t let your fears stop you.’ I first reinvented at 60, when I started mountain climbing. I raised $25,000 in one year by writing 250 letters to family, friends and businesses asking them to sponsor my climb and support multiple sclerosis research after my daughter was diagnosed with it.

Over the next 14 years, I climbed six more times—to the base camp of Mount Everest, Mont Blanc in the Alps and the summit of Machu Picchu in Peru—and raised $160,000. In 2008 my husband and I lost everything to Bernie Madoff. To earn money, I sold things on eBay for other people, and then I started a catering business. In 2010, after earning my real estate license, I got through ovarian-cancer treatment. After a lifetime of being by my husband’s side when he was in the hotel business, I entered the world of business for myself.”

Shutterstock/Blazej Lyjak

Never Stop Learning

Take that art-history course you always dreamed of—online. A variety of major universities, including Stanford, Harvard and MIT, now offer MOOCs (massive open online courses). Check out sites including, and


Quit Already

Nearly all the professionals who left their jobs to pursue a passion wish they’d done so sooner, one survey found. The way you quit, however, can affect how you feel about the transition, says tech entrepreneur Daniel Gulati. Increase your comfort level by viewing the choice as a step toward your greater goal—starting a business, for instance. And quit after a time milestone, like an anniversary, rather than after a promotion, when you’ll be more likely to view your job favorably.


Become an Angel Investor

By now you may have some extra money saved. Ever consider angel investing? You’d provide cash—$50,000 to $100,000—for a business start-up, generally in return for equity in the business. Women now account for almost 22 percent of angel investors. To learn the ins and outs of being an angel, look for a program such as the Pipeline Fellowship, which runs boot camps for women. Here, a Pipeline preview:

You Need Cash. The fellowship requires applicants to earn $200,000 a year alone, $300,000 with a spouse, or have a net worth of $1 million.

Know What You’re Getting Into. “You will really have skin in the game,” says Natalia Oberti Noguera, founder
of the Pipeline Fellowship. “All the fellows at the start of the program have committed to putting down a minimum of $5,000 in a woman-led, for-profit social venture.”

You Should Be Comfortable With Risk. “These investments do not generate income,” says Peggy Wallace, managing director of angel-investing firm Golden Seeds. “The financial return, if there is one, usually comes from the sale of the company, and this can take years.”

You Can Be Active Or Passive. Some start-ups want someone who can provide capital and also play a role as an adviser. Others just want the check. Make sure you understand which part you want to play before you get involved.


Find a Younger Mentor

Carolyn Zerr: From massage therapist to jewelry sales rep

After 30 years as a massage therapist, I knew I liked working one on one with people, but I didn’t know anything about jewelry sales. When I started selling products for Silpada Designs in 2004, I got a mentor, and that was huge. Brenda and I talked every week for my first six months. She gave me all the how-tos: words to use, invitations to send, ideas for displaying the jewelry. She’s more than 20 years younger than I am, and I still tease her, ‘I want to be you when I grow up.’ With her help, I discovered that I knew more than I thought I did. In our sixties, we are a composite of everything we have ever done and all our life experiences.” 


Start Your Own Business

You’ve already got the experience you need: Nearly 25 percent of entrepreneurs are 55 to 64 years old, according to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity.


Related: How to Check Your Social Security Calculations


Next: When Life Forces You to Change Your Self Image

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First published in the February 2014 issue

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