The days of working your whole career for one company, retiring with a gold watch and dreams of settling into a recliner are definitely a page in the history books. That plan has been replaced, redefined and reinvented by the latest generation of olderpreneurs, which are entrepreneurs over the age of 50 who choose to work for themselves or start new businesses later in their careers, rather than stay in their current jobs or retire completely.
According to Barclay’s Bank, the number of companies run by those 65 and over has jumped 140 percent in the past decade. And data from the Small Business Administration shows the numbers of self-employed people aged 55-64 rose by more than 50 percent during that time, as well. Various factors seem to be contributing to these statistics.
First and foremost, people nearing retirement age today are “younger” in many ways than their parents were a generation ago –physically active, engaged in hobbies and travel, tech savvy and enthusiastic about their next adventure. They like the idea of using their skills and experience in a profitable way. However, quality of life is equally important, and they choose to set their schedules to include time for fun, enjoying the flexibility that wasn’t always possible earlier in their careers. A study by the Harvard Business Review, using data from the UK’s Longitudinal Study of Aging, found that even when these new ventures result in earning less money than before, becoming entrepreneurs often creates a significant increase in quality of life.
Some decide to take the leap as a result of corporate downsizing; others say it’s just time to do something different – either pursue a long held dream or focus their skills and experience in a more meaningful way. The idea of “giving back” seems to be a common motivator. For some great inspiration, check out the stories and resources at Encore.org.
Another group cites concern about the future of government programs and corporate pensions as their catalyst for change. They feel more comfortable doing whatever they can to help themselves.
Regardless of the driver, these olderpreneurs are spreading their influence across all kinds of industries, including professional services, non-profits, franchises, communications, and even technology. In addition to contributing valuable skills and knowledge acquired over the years, their experience comes in the form of large professional networks and the right balance of confidence and wisdom to support them during challenging times. They also may have more money available to invest in new businesses, says olderpreneur Fred Whitlock of Walker Advisory Services, which supports small business entrepreneurs across the country, helping them determine the best ways to utilize funds from a corporate pension or 401K and finding the right type of retirement plan for each entrepreneur.
The likelihood of success is also greater for those who set out on this path later in life. A survey conducted by Age UK determined that businesses started by olderpreneurs will survive for at least 5 years while only 28 percent of businesses started by younger people can last that long.
As the numbers continue to grow, support and resources are growing, too. Local universities offer courses and training aimed specifically at first time entrepreneurs over 50. Organizations like the Small Business Administration and SCORE provide a wealth of valuable information (often for free or very low cost!) for anyone starting out or looking for assistance along the way.
As with so many things in life, attitude is everything. One of my favorite quotes about work, life and retirement comes from a colleague, Illinois architect and Indy race car driver Bill Styczynski, who has no intention of slowing down in either area anytime soon. “I love what I do. I consider every day a vacation and some days I choose to work.” Modern-Day Renaissance Woman El Matha Wilder of Houston, Texas, whose many talents have crossed over into multiple entrepreneurial ventures – including retail and fashion maven, foodie and cookbook author, teacher, and professional photographer – summarized her endeavors to date in one magical sentence: “I’m not afraid of the something else.”
So, go ahead. Follow your heart. Embrace the “something else.” There’s not a better time than the present to join the ranks of olderpreneurs.