Entrepreneurs Just Get Better With Age

by Tim Knox
Copyright © 2005

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Q: I'm thinking about starting a business after I retire next month. I'll be 65. Am I too old to start a business?

-- Milton A.

A: Milton, congratulations on your pending retirement. I find it admirable that after many years of hard work you are thinking about starting a business. While most men your age would be content to sit on the porch and watch the world go by, you are considering a ride on the entrepreneurial roller coaster. You're certainly tall enough to ride this ride, but are you too old?

Here's my standard answer: It depends. It depends on your health, your energy, your drive, your goals, and of course, your finances. If all those are in good shape and you have your spouse's approval (that's a biggie), then there is absolutely no reason why you should not start a business at your age.

In fact, the numbers are actually in your favor. According to recent studies 22 percent of men and 14 percent of women over 65 are self-employed. That's compared to just 7 percent for other age groups.

According to a Vanderbilt University study the number of entrepreneurs age 45 to 64 will grow by 15 million by 2006.

That's compared to a 4 million decline for entrepreneurs age 25 to 44.

A 1998 survey of baby boomers conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) revealed that 80 percent of respondants planned to work beyond retirement age, and 17 percent of those planned to launch new businesses.

The study noted, "Self-employment among American workers increases with age, with the most dramatic jump occurring at age 65."

Older entrepreneurs may also find starting a business easier than their younger counterparts because older entrepreneurs tend to have more experience to draw from and more assets with which to finance a business.

Further evidence comes from a report released by Barclays Bank entitled Third Age Entrepreneurs - Profiting From Experience. The report shows that older entrepreneurs are responsible for 50 percent more business start-ups than 10 years ago. This amounts to around 60,000 business start-ups last year alone.

The survey also showed that today's third age entrepreneurs (as the report calls entrepreneurs over the age of 50) don't mind putting in the hours required to build their business. Nearly 49 percent work an average of 36 hours or more a week.

Third agers also rated holidays, lack of stress and a balance between work and home life more important than their younger counterparts.

The report further showed that only 27 percent run the business as the only source of household income, with 51 percent supplementing their pension.

Other key findings showed that third age start-ups account for 15 percent of all new businesses, and third age entrepreneurs are three times more likely to be male than female. There is a downside (isn't there always?). Many businesses fail within the first few years and older entrepreneurs may be less able to handle the financial loss than younger entrepreneurs.

It's one thing to lose everything at 25, but it's a much bigger deal to be financially ruined at 65.

So my advice, Milton, is that if your health and finances allow (and the Mrs. gives the green light) by all means start your business.

Climb on the entrepreneurial roller coaster and hang on tight.

You get the senior discount, by the way.

Just try not to lose your lunch when things get bumpy and you'll probably do just fine.



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