Retirement in the traditional sense doesn’t work for a lot of people. Few people are well prepared, emotionally or financially, to retire in their sixties.
People are living longer, healthier lives. As we enter our sixties, we often have 15 to 20 productive years still ahead of us. That’s plenty of time to try working a different way, realize a dream or finally start a business.
Our sixties are also too soon for many people to stop earning at least some. A 2014 Employee Benefit Research survey found that only 22 percent of workers felt ‘very confident’ that they would have enough money for a comfortable retirement. Nearly 20 percent said that they were ‘not at all’ confident that they would be ready to retire in their sixties.
Once the initial excitement of having free time for travel and other activities wears off, retirees often find that they miss the rhythm and challenges of a regular work schedule. Many retirees who return to work report that they ‘just weren’t done yet’.
Starting a business is a good way to remain productive, earn additional income and continue to feel challenged and fulfilled. People ages 55 to 64 accounted for 24.3 percent of the businesses started last year, according to the Ewing Marion Kauffman foundation’s The Kauffman Index – Startup Activity 2016.
Starting a business later in life can be a great way to strengthen financial security and provide personal satisfaction. Launching a business that doesn’t require a physical ‘bricks and mortar’ location can often cost less than $10,000 — sometimes as little as $1,000. The key is to be able to spot a need in the marketplace and then find a way to fulfill it.
Your business should identify and solve a problem that is currently faced by a significant number of people. A good way to identify potential business ideas is to think about services and products that you would be like to be able to buy and use. Your day-to-day needs may reveal a good opportunity to sell what others need as well. Your idea should also differentiate your offering from any competitors who are already in the marketplace.
Other things to consider once you have identified a business idea:
- Think about the time required. Can you commit to work the hours that it often takes to get a new business off the ground? A home-based business can be more flexible to run, time-wise.
- Get good advice. Seek out experienced entrepreneurs and consultants who can help you get started. Check out the U.S. Small Business Administration to learn the basics.
- Create a business plan. A business plan requires you to think through finances, marketing, sales and operational issues. The process will provide a blueprint for your success. It can also save you from pursuing a business concept that doesn’t ‘pencil out’.
- Decide how to finance your business. Never invest money than you can’t afford to lose. That means keeping your hands out of your retirement accounts. If you have a low tolerance for risk, choose a business with lower startup costs.
- Use your professional connections. If you’ve worked most of your life, you probably know a lot of people. They are all potential customers or consultants who can help get your new business off the ground.
- Protect your assets. Make sure that your business structure protects your personal assets in case things don’t work out the way that you’d like them to.
- Know when to seek professional help. Experts in business development, marketing and sales know what works and can help you build a successful small business faster.
And don’t forget about your fellow retirees. When your business is ready to hire, be sure to consider older workers who also may not be quite ready for retirement. Their experience, like yours, is invaluable to an expanding economy.
Lori Martinek is a successful entrepreneur, author and mentor to new and aspiring business owners. She is the owner of Encore Business Advisors, and the founder of @MindingHerBiz, a pro bono project which helps women embrace business ownership. Her latest book, Retiring Solo (2016) is available on Amazon.