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How to Make Money From a Hobby in Retirement

Here are stories of people who do it and tips on ways you can, too

By Nancy Collamer

If you have a hobby, you might be able to generate cash from it in retirement. That way, you could enjoy part-time work and leisure activities simultaneously. Below are three stories of people doing just that, plus advice on how you might be able to make money from a hobby in retirement.

Make Money From a Hobby
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Retirees Who Make Money From a Hobby

Retired schoolteachers Barbara and Bob Vokac, 68 and 69, of Brecksville, Ohio, have found a novel way to profit from their love of travel and cooking. They’ve spent the last seven years working as inn-sitters, also known as interim innkeepers. Their assignments have enabled them to travel around the U.S., bringing in cash from beauty spots including Cape Cod, Williamsburg, Va., and the Georgia mountains.

The Vokacs typically work as inn-sitters about three months a year. While on duty, they’re in charge of everything from cooking to cleaning to check-in. “It’s 24/7 and we are always moving,” said Bob. “But unlike the inn owner, we get to leave it all behind when we eventually return home.”

Compensation for inn-sitters varies depending upon your experience and the demands of the assignment. Experienced inn-sitters can earn over $100 a day, plus free lodging; sometimes travel expenses are covered as well.

Bob says his favorite part of the work is encountering fascinating people. “We meet all sorts of personalities,” he said. “For example, the inn we work at in Cape Cod is near the Woods Hole research facility, so we’ve had very interesting conversations with our guests about their research.”

Walter Hansen, 70, a retired FBI agent living outside of Houston, has enjoyed woodworking for decades, but the hobby became more serious after he retired and had more time. In recent years, he has built and sold custom furniture and boats and even helped restore a Danish fishing boat now on display at the Holocaust Museum Houston.

Hansen also works six hours a week teaching woodworking to people over 50 at a community college. “I feel that I learn more from my students than they learn from me,” he says.

Rob VeVerka, a former director of executive education and an educator at the University of Cincinnati, is playing his cards right in retirement. He earns money teaching bridge, a longtime passion.

VeVerka began offering large classes, but eventually shifted to private- and small-group lessons. “When I started coaching people in small groups, I saw an amazing change in learning,” he says.

VeVerka earns about $150 an hour as a bridge instructor, which he does about 20 percent of the time. He’s also an executive coach and sometimes, he combines both activities by offering an intensive, week-long bridge retreat in Naples, Fla. for executives hoping the game can help them sharpen their strategy and leadership skills.

VeVerka says on his website: “I’m having fun, coaching and enjoying Naples! It doesn’t take much for me to schedule a trip there!”


3 Tips to Make Money From Your Hobby

So how can you turn your hobby into retirement income? Here are three tips to get started:

1. Invest in training. Look into certifications that might help you profit from your passion and explore courses offered by community colleges, adult education programs, industry associations and online programs. You might also find courses through places like cooking schools and museums.

Retired physician and plant enthusiast Katherine Wagner-Reiss, of New Canaan, Conn., earned her certificate in botany from the New York Botanical Gardens. Wagner-Reiss, 62, recently started a company called Botanical Tours and now gives nature tours through libraries, alumni groups and garden clubs, and by volunteering as a guide at the New York Botanical Garden.

To find worthy training programs, tap your network for recommendations, consult online reviews and if possible, track down former students to see if they found the training beneficial.

2. Check out industry association conferences. They can be tremendously helpful to help you learn how to convert a hobby into a part-time business. As an example, if you’re a coin enthusiast thinking about a gig as a coin dealer, you might want to attend the World’s Fair of Money, a four-day educational coin show hosted by the American Numismatic Association. Or, if you hope to earn cash from your love of dogs or cats, you might enjoy the Pet Sitter World educational conference and expo.

To locate an industry association in your interest area, do a Google search or consult the Gale Encyclopedia of Associations, which can be found online or in the reference section of your library.

3. Volunteer or freelance. As much as you love your hobby, the realities of making it lucrative might not live up to your expectations. So test the waters slowly by taking on a project or a volunteer opportunity with your hobby. It’s a great way to sharpen your skills, expand your network and learn the day-to-day demands of the marketplace before you go full-steam ahead creating your business.

There are now hundreds of online platforms for people eager to earn income from side gigs and freelance projects. A good place to start your search is where you’ll find an online directory and reviews of over 200 money-making opportunities.

Photograph of Nancy Collamer
Nancy Collamer, M.S., is a semi-retirement coach, speaker and author of Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit From Your Passions During Semi-Retirement. You can now download her free workbook called 25 Ways to Help You Identify Your Ideal Second Act on her website at (and you'll also receive her free bi-monthly newsletter). Read More
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