Silicon Valley’s successful stories –like Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) or Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim (founders of Twitter)– could cause one to believe that you must be young to make it in today’s workplace. Yes, youth can be more than beneficial to the success of those that have helped create a more cognitively complex, more team-based, more collaborative, more time pressured, more mobile, less dependent on geography, more technologically dependent and hyper connected workplace.
Meanwhile there’s a shift happening, the second decade of this millennial has tracked the number of businesses created by older entrepreneurs between the ages of 55 and 64 and they are rising drastically. In 1996, 14 percent of entrepreneurs were older than 55, but in 2014 that was true of 23 percent of entrepreneurs. Boomers are the wealthiest living generation, and since 1992 every year more and more people are working past the age of 65.
What has caused that kind of entrepreneurial surge? What’s causing the rise of Silver Surfers to start their own entrepreneurial enterprises?
One London based report by Max Nathan of the London School of Economics and Spatial Economics Research Centre sheds more light on a market niche that has been often ignored by Silicon Valley: The over-50 crowd. Other reports tell us, “Silver surfers’ account for an increasing amount of internet use with nearly 30 percent of total time spent on the internet accounted for by over-50’s …”
Conventional wisdom for Baby Boomers has long espoused that $1 million in savings could get you a comfortable retirement. “If you have $1 million, you’re going to be ok,” was the mindset of many retirees in the 20th century, according to the finance website Money Under 30. However, it is 2016 and things are changing, and so is that prior ‘conventional wisdom’. Are you are one of the soon to be retirees that planned to retire and relax or even to travel and spend time with family? If not, are you the other half of the over 50 workforce, who plan to work for yourself?
Organizations today are less likely to provide lifelong careers and job security.
Be warned–your friends and family may question your choice when you decide to leave a so-called “good job” to work for yourself instead of retiring. I meet many people often as I travel and speak at Diversity and Inclusion workshops and conferences. Here’s what I hear from those that are ready to leave their corporate job… “I’m hope it’s not to late, and I am not to old to start a business.” If you have just retired or you are middle aged and older, welcome to the club! You will be among largest and most diverse group of entrepreneurs in U.S. history. Your fellow entrepreneurs will be:
- The Millennial generation and younger (born after 1979)
- The Baby Boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964)
In 2016, there is no prime age to start your business. Anyone at any age can become a full time entrepreneur, parapreneur (that’s a parallel entrepreneur, meaning you still work a 9-5 and you’re growing your business) or a superpreneur (think Richard Branson and Steve Jobs).
How old is too old to start a business?
You may have had ambitions and big dreams at some point in your work life. For most, it there wasn’t enough money, courage or belief for to pursue those dreams until later in life. Maybe after leaving a nine-to-five after so many years, Boomers now have more options available to them. So why not seek an interest in entrepreneurship?
- Financial security. Many Americans realize that after retirement, they still have the same financial responsibilities as they did when they were in the workforce. They find that their bills have not disappeared. Or they did not plan their finances long term. Therefore, a need to start your own business comes into play. Why not fill that financial gap, by starting your own business? Newly retirees may not be looking to start up an elaborate business. Only small businesses that will help provide a supplemental income.
- Extracurricular or hobby. Many retirees start hobbies and other activities to keep busy. If you have worked 25 years or more, you may enjoy investing time in a hobby. Some retirees simply look forward to traveling and spending time with family. Once retired, many realize they are bored or unmotivated, with more time on their hands than expected. An interest in starting a new business can help fill that void. Staying busy is a great thing. For most middle-aged individuals as well as seniors. Operating a small business or providing a service can become a source of fulfillment for those looking pursue a passion.
- Fulfilling a life-long dream. Most workers are not and have not experienced their “dream” job. Sometimes it takes a late in life opportunity to achieve those career goals. Maybe you are one of those people that settled in your current field to provide stability for family and/or job security. Subsequently, waiting later in life may be the optimum time to start living “their dream”.
- Education, Experience and Lifestyle. The Baby Boomers have been there, done that and possess the credentials, degrees and certifications to validate their contributions. Plus, boomers have work experience that can’t be acquired in a hurry. Gallup’s 2015 poll tells us that 8 out of 10Boomer entrepreneurs start business for lifestyle reasons. Maybe they’re passionate about a certain industry, want to supplement their income, or just want to work less than they did in their previous positions.
The economy has shifted from being industrial to knowledge-based. This shift allows seniors to continue working well into their 60s, 70s, and 80s. The numbers don’t lie – it is never too late to start over.
It is NEVER too late to start your own business or pursue your dreams as an entrepreneur. If you have the motivation, consider the time required along with other factors like a business plan, licensing, marketing and social media. As a Baby Boomer you posses some of the missing human capital and when that human capital, arguably the most important asset of the business, is leveraged, it could optimize the strategic vision of the next great company. Your company!
“As a baby boomer, I am a reflection of the reality of this demographic change in America.”
Pollie Massey, author of The Art of Inclusion (release date: May, 2016)