Published November 24, 2020
Don’t Want to Retire? Why You Should Start a Business in Your 60s
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Entrepreneurs are stereotypically thought of as young, bold upstarts whose instincts and energy makes up for their lack of life experience. In reality, though, entrepreneurship is higher among older Australians. And for good reason: they tend to have more work experience, industry knowledge, supportive networks, and access to startup funding.
Coming to a point in your career where you’re unsatisfied, burned out, and unsure what to do can be tough. Retirement may not be the answer for you either – reaching a particular age doesn’t have to mean the end of your work life.
In fact, it could be the start of a brand new career challenge. Self-employment can take many forms: from opening your own new business or startup to taking on consulting, coaching, or freelancing work as a sole trader. Growing numbers of older adults are choosing to start their own business at retirement age, finding a new direction and a refreshed passion for doing what they love.
Why it’s never too late
The Australian Human Rights Commission found there’s a lot of negative attitudes about workers over 50, including that they lack ambition compared to younger workers, and that they’re less able to cope with change.
When it comes to entrepreneurial activity though, these attitudes don’t stack up against the evidence.
According to research from Swinburne University and QUT, over a third of start-ups have a baby boomer-aged 55-64 at the helm. This age group is the fastest-growing cohort of entrepreneurs in Australia.
The study also found that over-55s were more successful. Older entrepreneurs surveyed thought they were advantaged because:
- They were more likely to access financial capital.
- They had more developed social and professional networks from their decades of experience.
- They had better communication skills (although some reported having to upskill in areas like social media communication/using LinkedIn).
- They had developed managerial competency, leadership skills, and skills related to their industry.
What are the benefits of starting a business as a 60+ year-old?
Starting your own business means that you can focus on the projects you’re passionate about, the clients you hope to serve, and developing the skills that are most relevant and interesting to you.
Small business owners who follow their passions are more likely to get a sense of satisfaction and meaning from their careers. You’re more enthusiastic and motivated about your work, and less likely to burn out from boredom, stress, or anxiety.
Getting a business off the ground is difficult at first and may require many hours of research, preparation, marketing, and tough work. In the long run though, being your own boss means that you ultimately can govern your own schedule. You can have greater workplace flexibility, deciding when and where you work; you can also improve your work/life balance by setting up your own boundaries between work, family, leisure, and rest.
The challenges and pitfalls of starting a business at 60+
The Swinburne/QUT study identifies ageism and health issues as the most common barriers to starting a business in older demographics.
There are a range of ways to combat ageism in the workplace. It’s firstly important that you understand your strengths going into business, and that you have the confidence to sell your products and services. Use your years of experience as a selling point to potential customers and clients.
Looking after your health as an entrepreneur can also be a challenge. Here are some tips for self-care to help you work sustainably – which is especially important when you’re experiencing the stress of just starting out:
Make sure you take time out for yourself every day.
Whether it’s taking a walk, grabbing a coffee, or taking a few minutes to journal, it’s important to get some space away from work to recharge and reflect.
Prioritise your sleep.
7-8 hours a night is recommended for peak functioning.
Take regular rest breaks.
Busy business owners can forget to eat, stay hydrated, stretch, but these things are essential for our health.
Make sure you keep a financial buffer.
This will allow you to take sick days and can afford any healthcare you may require
Keep up with whatever physical activity works for you.
Whether it’s walking your dog, going to a yoga class, or training for a marathon, keeping active fosters good health.
Remember you can say no.
When starting a business, you feel the pressure to jump on new opportunities, but it’s also important to save yourself the exhaustion of working too many hours on too many different things.
How can you prepare for the demands of a small business in your 60’s?
Self-employment is risky, and tough going no matter your age. The unfortunate reality is that not all businesses survive – in Australia, only 62% of businesses started in 2011 were still in business by 2015.
But there are ways to increase your chances of survival:
- Focus on your strengths. What skills have you gained over your career? What experience do you bring now that you may not have been able to in your 20s? What advantages do you have over millennials?
- But also acknowledge your weaknesses. What advice do you need to get? What skills could you brush up on? For example, you could:
- Do your research. Know everything there is to know about your industry, market, business model, and dream clients/customers when forming your business idea.
- Take the time to set up your business properly. Have a solid business plan and realistic goals and get feedback on it. Understand what makes for a successful business. Protect yourself legally and financially, such as by getting insured.
- Think about how you’re going to manage your cash flow. 82% of businesses fail because of cash flow problems. Often entrepreneurs make money, but from week-to-week, or month-to-month there can be peaks and troughs, booms and busts in business activity. Make sure you have enough funds on hand to weather the downtimes.
- Being self-employed means no sick leave, holiday pay, or automatic superannuation contributions. Make sure you’re putting money aside so you can take time off, keep up with the cost of living, and retire comfortably when you’re ready.
- You could consider starting an entrepreneurial part-time side-hustle while continuing to work for someone else. This is a good way to test the waters and iron out problems before fully committing to full-time self-employment.
Concerned about whether you make the risks worth it?
There are risks to running your own business at any age, and particular challenges when it comes to factors like ageism and health. But your accumulated experience, networks, and transferable skills may give you a competitive edge.
If you’re still concerned about the hurdles involved, we’ve got some tips on how to minimise the challenges and set yourself up to thrive as your own boss.
This is how to take the risk of starting your own business worth it.
Making a Career Change as an Older Adult: The Complete Guide
In this guide, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about changing careers as an older adult.
If you’d like to learn more about starting your career change, what it’s like to be a mature age student, picking a career path, or even writing career change cover letters, all the information you need is here.
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