One of the joys of retirement is the freedom to pursue leisure activities you couldn’t find time for before. But for some, all that extra time makes them crave the routine and challenge of their former working life.
Now while you might want to go back to work in retirement, you also want to have more control over your working days.
If that sounds like you, starting a business in your 50s, 60s and beyond might be the answer. You might see yourself as a budding Richard Branson. Or maybe you need to recover from an unexpected job loss or workplace ageism that’s still rife in many industries.
Whatever your reason, launching a business later in life might be your best chance to realise a long-held dream. And to take control of your financial future.
By 2054-55, the number of Australians aged 65 and over will more than double. This will put huge pressure on healthcare budgets and the demand for aged pensions. This economic time bomb has already triggered discussions on raising the qualifying age for the aged pension to 70.
The Australian Government’s 2015 Intergenerational Report says supporting older people who want to keep working could benefit both the economy and society². They recommended creating policies to help older people who want to stay in the workforce. 'This represents a significant opportunity for Australia to benefit more from the wisdom and experience of people aged over 65.'
‘The community and economy will benefit from opportunities to support older Australians who want to work.’
Such policies could provide mutual advantages for senior business owners as well as the Australian budget. Because if older people can work and support themselves for longer, it puts less pressure on government finances.
Today’s senior business owners are fitter, healthier and more focused than previous generations. And they could be a cornerstone of the future economic health of our country.
But what is being done to help mature-aged Australians who want to go into business and contribute to the economy? And what can and should be done to help them turn their business idea into a reality and a success?
‘Seniors don't only need financial support. They need places where they can network and mix with like-minded people,’ says Dr Alex Maritz, a senior entrepreneurship researcher from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne.
‘Your average 60-year-old probably doesn't want to go to university or a training course with 30-year-old entrepreneurs. Because they have a different mindset and a lot of life experience. We need training courses and an ecosystem that makes it conducive for seniors to start businesses. And that includes targeted training, tax incentives and networking facilities.’
There are some good things happening to support older entrepreneurs in Australia. For example, National Seniors Australia is supporting research into senior entrepreneurship. And dedicated organisations like the Global Institute for Experienced Entrepreneurship are popping up across the country.
We need training courses and an ecosystem that makes it conducive for seniors to start businesses.
’But there’s still a lot more to do. Dr Maritz’s research found that older entrepreneurs face barriers such as a lack of financial support and not knowing how to start a business. And complex administrative procedures. He also notes that older entrepreneurs need unique and specific types of support and information, which is different from what’s available for new business owners in general.
Dr Maritz believes that communication, media, message and mentorship are important. ‘Senior entrepreneurs’ skills may be outdated, and they may have lower levels of digital literacy.’ he says.
He thinks a government-funded senior entrepreneur academy could help. The academy could offer dedicated education and training, online and in-person. Dr Martiz says seniors prefer to learn through networking, meeting other people and online. He says, ‘Seniors want to start a business, they don’t want to sit in a classroom.’
Having life experience, financial stability, and a strong work ethic can help seniors succeed in business. But, people should also tread with caution when starting a business later in life.
Professor Kosmas Smyrnios from RMIT University warns seniors may not have as much time to bounce back from business failures. And they may have more to lose in terms of their savings and reputation.
He says, ‘Competition in business extends beyond local or national borders. And there are a lot more sharks out there, so the risk of fraud can be greater. The business ethics you may have been exposed to during your formative business years have changed considerably. You need to weigh up how much you have to lose and the impact that would have.’
However, Dr Maritz believes seniors have the skills, financial resources and time available to start a new business and contribute to the economy.
However, he says seniors who need financial backing to go into business may find it harder to get that support. ‘Your average bank isn't going to back you,’ he says. And suggests considering your health and ability to cope with the heavy workload of building a business.
‘But the positives outweigh the negatives,’ Dr Martiz says. ‘Research clearly indicates this age group are more than capable of starting new businesses, and they do well because they have capital. They have deeper personal networks. They know how to manage and control risk. And they have survived the university of life.’
If you’ve got a business idea still burning in your mind. Or if you’re unable to find a new job after redundancy, starting your own business could be an option. But don’t rush into it. Do your research and seek advice from mentors. And look for business networks and organisations for valuable advice and support.
With this help, you’ll be on your way to success and financial independence as a senior entrepreneur.
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