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Career Shift: Becoming a Life Coach

Boomers are increasingly drawn to this field. Here's how to get going as a guru.

By Luke Iorio

Boomers figuring out what they’ll do in retirement are asking themselves lots of questions: How can I make a difference? What will be my legacy? How can I create enough flexibility to travel, have fun and spend time with friends and family?
These questions are, in turn, leading a growing number of us to work part-time in retirement as life coaches — where we ask questions of others. According to a 2012 study by the International Coaching Federation and PriceWaterhouseCoopers, roughly 39 percent of coaches in North America are 55 or older. That percentage is expected to rise as more boomers seek semi-retirement careers.
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Why Boomers Become Life Coaches

Many turn to life coaching in retirement because they value personal growth and being of service. The field is also often favored by people with life lessons that they want to share, saving others some of the pains and pitfalls they might otherwise encounter.
Peter Franklin, 61, of Marblehead, Mass., had been a high school teacher for 16 years. But he came to the realization that he was ready for something different to culminate his career. Today, Franklin runs e-Factor Coaching.
“Coaching has given me the opportunity and impetus to combine the many facets of my careers: teaching, consulting, training and development,” he says. 
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For many boomers, the coaching niche lets them give back to others in their former field. “When I looked back at my career, I truly enjoyed leading sales teams and helping those professionals achieve and exceed their goals," says former sales manager Mark Ratfelders, 58, who now runs MJR Coaching in Gurnee, Ill. "So that’s what I coach. I spend my days helping sales professionals match their strengths, talents and values with their current job, performance and goals.”
How Coaches Coach
In a typical life coaching session, the adviser uses questioning techniques and other reflective and perspective-challenging practices so a client can create action plans for his or her next steps. Life coaching is meant to propel forward action, showing clients how to increase their self-awareness, clarify their goals, raise their confidence and commitment and identify paths forward.
Clients range from corporate executives and educators to stay-at-home moms. They may be looking for ways to boost or transition careers, build their businesses, create a more balanced life, or just get unstuck.
(MORE: How to Have a Rewarding ‘Protirement’)
How to Become a Coach
Life coaching is ideally suited to people in or near retirement because it can be done part-time — often by phone or Skype.  (Some life coaches work full-time, too.)
To get trained and certified as a coach, you’ll want to take a course accredited by the International Coaching Federation, the industry’s leading trade group and governing body. Programs range from 125 hours to more than 300 hours, typically take six to 18 months and are offered online and in person. Tuition can run $7,000 to $15,000 or more.
When starting out as a life coach, you typically might earn $100 an hour or so; $400 to $500 an hour or more if you’re coaching executives. (The 30- or 60-minute sessions are typically weekly or bi-weekly and continue for as long as clients want.)
Rewards That Aren’t Monetary
Many who’ve become coaches say their new work provides psychic benefits, too.
As Linda Garneau, 54, a former professional development leader who now runs Wings to Freedom Coaching in Herndon, says: “Being a coach at this stage of my life allows me to live with a clear purpose and make the difference I did not make in my younger years, but am certainly going to make now.”
Life coach Luke Iorio, a former management consultant, is President and CEO of the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC), which trains coaches.

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