Work-camping: A Great Way for Retirees to Earn Money on the Road

Do you love the call of the open road? Can you see yourself living in your recreational vehicle, following the sunshine around the country? Sounds tempting, except for one thing: you still need extra cash to supplement your Social Security, right?

Work camping may be your solution. Thousands of boomers, many of them well into their retirement years, have adopted this nomadic lifestyle, drawn by a desire for freedom and a willingness to do odd jobs in locations all over America – jobs that are advertised online and shared via word of mouth. We ran across this article last fall in the New York Times and found ourselves wondering what this life on wheels would be like! Maybe it’s right for you. And with summer camping season just around the corner, maybe this is the year to try it out.

The term “work camping” is often shortened to “workamping,” and those who live this kind of life are called “workampers.” According to the Times article, most are in the second half of life, drawn by the lure of “a mobile lifestyle that works for those who prize their independence.” These wandering workers travel from campground to campground, working in national parks, local businesses, even Amazon warehouses in jobs that pay only a bit above minimum wage. But few workampers are earning an actual subsistence wage with their traveling work style; instead they seek to maintain their independence and earn a little extra while not being tied to the 40-hour-per-week jobs most of them have gladly left behind.

The New York Times describes workamping this way: “The work combines elements of the gig economy, telecommuting and contingent labor increasingly commonplace among American workers. Like the gig economy, the schedule is flexible and, in a sense, work campers do their job from their home — that is, a mobile home.”

Most of the jobs are anything but glamorous. In the article, for example, more than 550 workampers had gathered last fall near a small town on the North Dakota-Minnesota border to help stack sugar beets. The beet harvest lasted only a few weeks, but nevertheless workers had gladly sign up to earn almost $13 per hour for 12-hours shifts, with extra pay on weekends. Typically employers pay the costs of campsite fees for workampers. When the work is done, it’s time to pack up the RV and follow the sunshine. Or as one workamper put it, “We’re ‘cruising the 70’s.’ You try to stay at 70 degrees as much as possible.”

Not all the jobs are blue collar, hard labor positions. One workamper has worked behind the retail counter in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and has found temporary work during spring training camp for the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers in Arizona. Another woman said she finds temporary computer-based jobs in area offices or taking reservations at parks and campgrounds. Some companies have tapped into the workamper labor force in a major way: Amazon, for one, has four Amazon CamperForce sites around the country where temporary workers earn $10.75 per hour, plus completion bonuses and overtime. (The New York Times article contains a link explaining more about Amazon CamperForce.)

For one workamper profiled by the Times, the lure “is that the lifestyle keeps him engaged and active. He is intrigued by a job opportunity at a fishing camp in Montana for his next gig after the (sugar beet) harvest.” The article concludes with one workamper’s sobering reflection. “‘I watched my dad retire, sit in a chair and die a miserable death,’ he reflects. ‘I won’t do that. You have to have a purpose.’”

Whether your idea of a fulfilling retirement involves the open road or a comfortable chair by the fire, we agree that retirees need a purpose. And we would add emphatically, retirees need a plan. It’s both dangerous and unwise to head toward your retirement years without carefully taking stock of all the vital questions you should be asking. Where will you live? How will your medical needs be met? What legal preparations should you make to protect yourself both today and tomorrow? How can you protect your assets for the long haul, so you don’t outlive your resources? And are your family members fully informed about your wishes? Tragically, too few retirees take the time and make the effort to plan ahead, leaving them to spend their retirement years in a state of precarious uncertainty and financial deprivation.

Here at AgingOptions it’s our mission to change that sad state of affairs. That’s why we place such emphasis on the process we call LifePlanning. With your personalized LifePlan in place, you’ll have the freedom and peace of mind to enjoy the kind of retirement you’ve hoped for. If this prospect sounds exciting to you, take the next step and attend one of our free LifePlanning Seminars. In just a few hours you’ll get many of your questions answered and you’ll understand why so many of our clients have discovered the benefits of our unique retirement planning strategy. For all the details plus online registration, click here. Or if you prefer, call our office during the week. We’ll gladly assist you. Age on, all you Happy Campers!

(originally reported at www.nytimes.com)

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