Retirement has changed. For my parents and their generation, retirement was the termination of a hopefully good career. It launched a life season of slowing down. Though Dad had sometimes talked of becoming an entrepreneur, it would never have occurred to either of my parents that your 50s are the best time to start a business. And when I did it, they thought it was nuts. But I had to! One of my best ideas for a business came to me shortly after my 50th birthday and I jumped on it. My second best idea came in my late 50s and I jumped on that, too.
I saw retirement as a transition, not an ending, an opportunity for an encore career based on doing something I genuinely enjoyed. Turns out, many Baby Boomers share that perspective. According to statistics from the Kauffman Foundation, the highest rate of entrepreneurship in America has shifted to the 55–64 age group, with people over 55 almost twice as likely to found successful companies as those between 20 and 34.
Older entrepreneurs have some key advantages that make them particularly suitable to start a business:
- Connections and networks
- Experience and insight
- Financial stability OR the flip side – a genuine driving need to generate income
- Solid and varied skills
- Clearer goals
- Time for follow-through
- A wealth of interests
Baby Boomers also have some concerns that serve as powerful catalysts. Our pensions, if we even have one, are not at all like what our parents could expect. We’re all concerned for the future of Social Security, though mostly resigned to the fact that it won’t be enough. Our generation of women rarely counts on financial security from a spouse, whether we outlive them or end up divorced. A wise Boomer will focus on creating their own financial security with as much gusto as they approach physical health and pleasure pursuits such as travel.
Boomers are also more apt to insist that this next phase be based on something they enjoy, and they recognize that has broad meaning with as many variations as there are people in this age demographic. However, the two most prevalent drivers are a passion project of some kind or something that requires some mental agility.
Discovering what You Want to Do in Your 50s, 60s, and Beyond
You can begin by considering what you still want to accomplish and achieve. I was fortunate to have owned or co-owned various businesses for much of my adult life. They accomplished a lot and did reasonably well, yet I yearned to use my skills and talents in a way that fed my soul and my curiosity, not just my pocketbook. I was a very good candidate to become a happy retirement “fail.”
A run-in with breast cancer in my late 40s also changed my perspective. It became vitally important to keep creating as part of my ongoing lifelong healing. Retirement began to look like an “endbeginning,” a delightfully descriptive word used by Rachel Naomi Remen in her book Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal.
Retirement is the perfect time to ask, “What did I always want to do? Who did I always want to be?” The cancer caused me to take a cold hard look at my own excuses: When I have more time. When I have more money to invest. When the kids are grown. Blah, blah, blah. As you can see, my excuses weren’t very original.
I also realized that there was a real possibility retirement could last for decades. I wanted to make certain it was a happy and financially secure retirement.
For me, the answers were crystal clear: I wanted to write about topics of interest to me. I wanted to learn how to market and sell online so my business endeavors can be portable and flexible (two key words for all my dreaming). I wanted to be of more service to humankind. I wanted to serve other Baby Boomers who have traveled this time in history with me. That led me directly to starting Soulmate Dance, this blog about living, loving and thriving at 50, 60, and beyond.
Becoming an Encore Entrepreneur - The Questions Everyone Asks
“Hi, my name is Anne and I’m a serial entrepreneur.” Yep, that’s me, but you might be considering entrepreneurship for the first time. If you have begun thinking about what you need and what you want, you may have realized starting a business may be the fast track to realizing all your goals and dreams.
Here are the questions I’m asked most often:
- Isn’t it risky to start a business after 50?
Personally, I’ve always preferred the security of working for myself. There are no capricious bosses to fire you when you least expect. There are no corporate stealth agendas like aging people out whether or not they are ready to go.
Would you have to deplete your savings? Probably not. Today, thanks to the internet, it’s possible to get started in many types of businesses with only a small investment. Yes, it’s important to know what you can afford to lose, but use that as a catalyst to drive you to success. One investment you do want to make is in training. Budget some time and money to learn how to do what you want to do.
Perhaps the greatest lesson of the 2008 recession (which was painful for me personally) is that we must each seize responsibility for assuring our own careers, salaries, and retirement funds. Statistically, owning your own business gives you significantly more control.
- How do I know what kind of business to start?
No matter what interests you, there are people who are waiting for you to show up and create it so they can buy it.
We all accumulate a wealth of expertise, skills, and connections during our first careers, all of which can become powerful assets in creating an encore business.
Begin with your own personal goals and preferences. I love to write and am energized by learning online marketing, so the natural option was creating a blog as a business. A dear friend has a tremendous talent for creating beautiful hand-painted and hand-dyed scarves. Another loves animals and travel. She is combining the two into a house and pet sitting business.
Starting a business can also mean becoming a contractor or freelancer with an existing company or service provider.
Literally, if you can conceive it, there is a hungry audience. To access the technique I use personally and teach to clients, click here.
- Am I too old?
Do you want or need to keep earning income past the age of 60? Sadly, it becomes harder to find or keep a job when you reach a certain age. Or maybe you just don’t feel done yet. If so, join 63% of Americans who plan to work during their retirement, even if the job market isn’t friendly.
The “job” market and the “entrepreneurship” market are radically different. Starting your own business allows you to eliminate ageism as a factor in your plans.
Are you still curious? Or determined? Or simply not ready to be put out to pasture? When you own your own business, age is irrelevant. Your prospective customers don’t care a bit how old you are. They only want to buy what you have. Your age might even be a plus. Everyone is inspired by “older” folks who are still rocking it.
The Flexibility and Financial Benefits of Entrepreneurship Are Real
Technology has made it easier than ever to get a business up and running. And with technology comes the ability to work from anywhere in the world, no longer chained to a desk in an office. Startup costs can be very low, especially if you choose to work from home. Bottom line - Entrepreneurship can be both flexible and portable.
Flexibly also spills over into the possibilities which are endless. You can sell products through portals such as Amazon, eBay, and Etsy, in some cases without having to maintain inventory or ever touching the product. You can sell services through sites such as Upwork and Fiverr or even Facebook. You can also create a website or blog through which you sell your own products or affiliate products. In all of these examples, you can work from home (or almost anywhere in the world) and control your schedule.
Want to travel, but feeling short on funds? Look into house-sitting or pet-sitting, as a contractor through a service or by starting your own business. Or write a travel blog and monetize it through advertising and affiliate products or your own products and services. Or if you already have travel experience, become a travel agent or tour guide.
Love to craft, but have more art supplies than you can ever use for yourself? Set up a store on Etsy or eBay. Or a Shopify site. Or a Facebook page.
One of the best perks is that your best customers may be other Boomers which allows you to earn extra income by serving your contemporaries. After all, who knows their wants and needs better?
Independence and Starting Your Own Business – A Match Made in Heaven
If you treasure your independence, would love to earn extra cash, and love being captain of your own ship, your 50s are a great time to start a business. You get to make the decisions. You get to decide what kind of business it is and how it operates. You get to decide when to work and how much to work and where to work.
Of course, that also means it’s up to you to make it work. For many, that’s a new form of freedom. It means the rewards of a job well done belong to you. It means not answering to sometimes fickle bosses. But most of all, it means your wealth, health, independence, and happiness are in your own hands.
Why settle for your parents’ retirement when you can invent your own?
Anne Wade is the founder and publisher of The Soulmate Dance. She is a writer, educator, life coach, and lifelong student of soulmate relationships, devoted to expanding our understanding of all types of soulmate relationships and experiences.