How changing careers after age 45 can pay off in the long run

NEW YORK -- The era of working for one company and retiring with a gold watch has gone the way of the Edsel. 

Thirty years ago, just about half of American workers changed careers after the age of 45. Now, it's closer to 60 percent. 

New York City real estate broker Susanne Rhow views her career with fresh eyes. She became an agent just four years ago at the age of 47. Before then, Rhow spent 25 years in corporate sales and marketing. But when the economy took a dive, she decided it was time to trade her career for one that offered potential for greater financial growth. 

"I wanted to be in a position where I could never be downsized, you know, because I was older or I was expensive," she said.

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New York City real estate broker Susanne Rhow.

CBS News

Being proactive, like Rhow, can pay off. 

According to the Boston College Center for Retirement Research, individuals who decide to switch careers in their 50s increase the likelihood of working until age 65 by 20 percent. And many work beyond that. 

Career expert Caroline Ceniza-Levine says the financial benefits of working longer are clear. 

"It's another year that you're not drawing down on your savings," Ceniza-Levine said. "And so your retirement plan can continue to compound and that's a big deal."

Now, Rhow thrives on the challenges of her new job and has more time to spend with her daughter. Retirement is no longer a set age. 

"I could easily envision myself working well into my 70s," she said. "It keeps you really healthy. It keeps you engaged. So why would I want to stop doing that?"

While many would be tempted to rely on working longer to fund their retirement, certified financial planners warn that could be dangerous. You may not physically be able to do so, or your employer may not be able to keep you. 

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    Jill Schlesinger, CFP®, is the Emmy-nominated, Business Analyst for CBS News. She covers the economy, markets, investing and anything else with a dollar sign on TV, radio (including her nationally syndicated radio show), the web and her blog, "Jill on Money." Prior to her second career at CBS, Jill spent 14 years as the co-owner and Chief Investment Officer for an independent investment advisory firm. She began her career as a self-employed options trader on the Commodities Exchange of New York, following her graduation from Brown University.