Even veteran workers daydream about career switcheroos, said Ben Levisohn in BusinessWeek. Yet without proper planning, a late-career move could upend your life with little time to recover before retirement. Your finances will take a hit, and you may be competing with much younger people for jobs. To stack the odds in your favor, learn what the new gig’s really all about. Chat with experts, volunteer, even try moonlighting. And be sure you have enough money in the bank. “Starting a new career is never cheap.”

Going back to school is one way to get your foot in the door, said Marty Nemko in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. “If you want to be a brain surgeon, there’s no avoiding the halls of academe.” But for most career paths, it makes more sense to bypass the expensive graduate degree. “Many people consider a degree to be a magic pill, but in fact, its side effects often outweigh its benefits.” Instead, put your efforts into getting a real-world education. For example, you could work as an apprentice in the field you’re curious about. Attend conferences, and study up on your own. Money saved on tuition is just as good as money earned.