Remem­ber that busi­ness you always wanted to start? Approach­ing retire­ment? Why not ful­fil that ambi­tion by start­ing a new micro busi­ness?

Retire­ment today is either some­thing that people wel­come or dread. In the UK, the age to qual­i­fy for your pen­sion seems to move fur­ther away with suc­cess­ive gov­ern­ments. And with no stat­utory retire­ment age in the UK, if you want to and your com­pany agrees, you can keep work­ing for as long as you like. But do you want to con­tin­ue with your employ­ment is the ques­tion many are ask­ing. A real­ist­ic altern­at­ive is to start your own micro busi­ness.

As the cost of liv­ing con­tin­ues to rise, many in the over 60 age group, in par­tic­u­lar, are look­ing for altern­at­ive ways to make ends meet. But also, how they can take more con­trol of their lives by cre­at­ing port­fo­lio careers or, start­ing micro busi­nesses.

The gig eco­nomy con­tin­ues to expand. This fledgeling work­ing envir­on­ment con­tin­ues to define its rules of engage­ment, but for many, the gig eco­nomy has opened a new aven­ue to earn an income on their terms. In their report ‘Gig Eco­nomy Work­ers and the Future of Retire­ment’, Bet­ter­ment found that 16% of Amer­ic­ans plan to take a gig job in their retire­ment. Sim­il­ar num­bers are likely in the UK.

As a micro busi­ness own­er, I have no inten­tion of retir­ing, but using my busi­ness in a dif­fer­ent way: At the moment my busi­ness is based on my skills. How­ever, over the next dec­ade, I will trans­ition the busi­ness so that I can take more of a stra­tegic role with day-to-day oper­a­tions car­ried out by someone else. This is one way a micro busi­ness can ensure you have a com­fort­able retire­ment.

The oth­er approach for any­one that is think­ing of wind­ing down their work­ing lives, or that want to make a change, is to start a new micro busi­ness now.

Devel­op­ing this enter­prise over the next few years could lead to a healthy second income that could sup­plant the money you will have avail­able if you do fully retire. This is the approach many over 60s are tak­ing as they often top sur­veys of new busi­ness own­ers. Indeed, the concept of the ‘older­pren­eur’ is fast becom­ing the norm, out­strip­ping the often-quoted Mil­len­ni­al group, as the most entre­pren­eur­i­al.

In the ‘Age of the Older Entre­pren­eur’ The IoD (Insti­tute of Dir­ect­ors) con­cluded:

Labour mar­kets are chan­ging. Increas­ingly soph­ist­ic­ated (and ever cheap­er) con­sumer tech­no­lo­gies are open­ing up routes into work for many who have tra­di­tion­ally felt locked out of the jobs land­scape. For many older people, in par­tic­u­lar, this trend has the poten­tial to facil­it­ate flex­ible access to work as they trans­ition out of full-time jobs and into retire­ment.”


Sil­ver work­ers

Start­ing a new busi­ness is clearly no to be taken lightly. How­ever, the cost of access to the tools needed has con­tin­ued to fall. The digit­al chan­nels have delivered a mass of oppor­tun­ity. Couple this with an align­ment with older people want­ing to try their hand in busi­ness, you sud­denly have a per­fect storm that could be to your advant­age.

Accord­ing to the 2015 Kauff­man Foundation’s State of Entre­pren­eur­ship Address the fin­an­cial issues that the Mil­len­ni­al group con­tin­ue to feel post-reces­sion, means a new group is needed to fuel entre­pren­eur­i­al growth. That group could be the Boomers.

As the USA has the largest group of micro busi­ness own­ers and, has a pop­u­la­tion that that will see over 60s num­ber­ing 98 mil­lion by 2060 accord­ing to the Pop­u­la­tion Ref­er­ence Bur­eau, I wanted to see wheth­er the drive for more self-employ­ment is tan­gible and wheth­er this exper­i­ence would repeat in the UK.

Mari­on McGov­ern is the author of ‘Thriv­ing in the Gig Eco­nomy.’ I began by ask­ing Mari­on is the gig eco­nomy a real and tan­gible altern­at­ive to retire­ment?

First of all, the ‘Gig Eco­nomy’ is not new,” Mari­on stated. “Inde­pend­ent work has been around for a long time. I star­ted a com­pany in 1988 to match inde­pend­ent con­sult­ants to pro­jects. It thrived because even before the advent of digit­al tal­ent plat­forms there was both sup­ply and demand. People see it as a new trend, because of the soph­ist­ic­ated tech­no­logy that has been applied to mak­ing mar­kets in tal­ent.

With that as a pre­amble, more seni­or work­ers have been doing inde­pend­ent work for a long time. It was only in 2016, that the Mil­len­ni­als sur­passed the Boomers as the largest cohort in the world of inde­pend­ent work accord­ing to the 2017 State of Inde­pend­ence in Amer­ica, a report put out annu­ally by MBO Part­ners, a firm that provides back-office ser­vices for inde­pend­ent con­sult­ants includ­ing becom­ing the employ­er of record.

With Boomers retir­ing at a record pace, it is expec­ted that many of them will con­tin­ue their inde­pend­ent work. Some experts, like Deloitte Con­sult­ing, refer to this as ‘the Longev­ity Dividend’, where careers are last­ing 60 or 70 years, rather than the 40–50 two gen­er­a­tions ago.

There are two dis­tinct paths here: One is the con­tinu­ation of an exist­ing career through part-time con­sult­ing in retire­ment. The second is those retir­ees who seek to earn addi­tion­al income through the Gig Eco­nomy in pur­suits that are unre­lated to their career and/or expert­ise. It’s vital though to state these two gig paths are not so much an altern­at­ive to retire­ment but an aug­ment­a­tion of retire­ment, enabling high­er retire­ment income. It would be inap­pro­pri­ate to sug­gest that indi­vidu­als need not save for retire­ment, because the Gig Eco­nomy would allow them to con­tin­ue to earn income. What is a bonus, how­ever, is the sup­ple­ment­ary income retir­ees have been able to earn from these approaches.”

The over 60s seem to be more entre­pren­eur­i­al than any oth­er group. Do they have the motiv­a­tion and skill­set to start their own busi­nesses?

Motiv­a­tions for work­ing longer into retire­ment vary. There are still a num­ber of people who are work­ing to rebuild the retire­ment sav­ings lost in the fin­an­cial crisis ten years ago. Many who had thought they would be retired and care­free now find them­selves in a pos­i­tion where some level of work is needed to replen­ish those lost sav­ings. Sim­il­arly, my sur­mise is that in high cost of liv­ing loc­a­tions, like the San Fran­cisco Bay Area where I live, sup­ple­ment­al income from gig work helps main­tain a life­style that could be stressed on a retire­ment income. Sim­il­arly, the new tax bill means that retir­ees in high prop­erty tax states, like Cali­for­nia and Con­necti­c­ut, will have a high­er tax bill then they had before the new bill, adding to their cost of liv­ing.”

What are the pit­falls to watch out for if you intend to start your own micro busi­ness in semi or full retire­ment?

For those doing the B2B, con­sult­ing play, the pit­falls are the same as any busi­ness – do you have a product the mar­ket wants? If yes, will the income be enough to sus­tain me? For retir­ees, the amount of income they seek to earn may be less than what a Gen Xer or Mil­len­ni­al would want, since the­or­et­ic­ally, it is sup­ple­ment­ing oth­er retire­ment income. Issues that are com­plex for a young­er cohort, may be less so for retir­ees over 65. Access to health bene­fits, for example, which is an issue for many inde­pend­ent work­ers, is less of an issue for those eli­gible for Medi­care.”

What do you think the future of work looks like? More micro busi­ness own­er­ship and gig work­ing?

I think, the empower­ment that comes from inde­pend­ent work will con­tin­ue. Regard­ing Boomers and retir­ees, I think the tal­ent short­age may force many com­pan­ies to recog­nize the value of Boomer expert­ise and wel­come the notion of pro­ject con­tri­bu­tions. Chip Con­ley, the Founder of Joie de Vivre Hotels and later an advisor at AirB­nB, is pro­mot­ing the idea of ‘Mod­ern Eld­ers’, and the role they can play in help­ing to grow young organ­iz­a­tions.

How­ever, as with many things, the policy side has not kept pace with the social adop­tion of the trend. Reg­u­la­tions around inde­pend­ent con­tract­ors and employ­ees may con­strain growth. New York City just put a lim­it on Uber and Lyft drivers today. Des­pite that though, it is a trend that shows no sign of abat­ing, as 67% of com­pan­ies say that extern­al work­ers, inde­pend­ent work­ers or gig workers—whatever term you use are crit­ic­al to their oper­a­tions. Sim­il­arly, 63% of the inde­pend­ent work­ers are work­ing that way by choice, and that is a ratio that has been hold­ing steady. It seems, there­fore, like sup­ply and demand will still remain strong.”

New retire­ment

For those that can’t com­pletely retire per­haps for eco­nom­ic reas­ons, or those that want to keep work­ing – but on their terms – today you have a vast choice of options: The Gig Eco­nomy is rap­idly chan­ging what it means to work, in many ways mov­ing the power away from man­age­ment and into the hands of the work­ers them­selves.

Start­ing a micro busi­ness does not require large fin­an­cial invest­ments. Stay­ing small has its advant­ages, as you stay in con­trol. The low-cost digit­al tools avail­able are diverse and access­ible.

That busi­ness idea you may have had in your 20s could become how you have an excit­ing and fin­an­cially stable old age. And if you have had a light-bulb moment and think you have a great idea for a new busi­ness, your age has noth­ing to do with your abil­ity to test that idea and per­haps start a world-beat­ing enter­prise.

David Howell

David Howell

Journalist, Writer, Micro Publisher at Nexus Publishing
Dave Howell is Nexus Publishing. I have been working as a freelance writer, journalist and publisher for the last 20 years. I specialise in technology and business subjects. My work has appeared in the national press and many of the leading technology and business magazines.
David Howell

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