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Experience pays off
When you were younger, working was a given -- and it was likely in a job or industry that wasn't particularly engaging for you.
Now that you're retired, you have the opportunity to pursue something you love. For many older people, that means starting their own business.
You're certainly not alone. The Small Business Administration estimates that as many as 15% of people 55 and older expect to start a small business. For many, it's the chance to do something they're genuinely interested in; for those who are unwilling to give up work completely, it's an alternative to trying to find a job in a marketplace where younger competitors willing to work for less are often more appealing to employers.
But that doesn't mean you should start a business from an idea yanked out of a hat. If the notion of stepping out on your own later in life sounds appealing, take these factors into consideration:
  • Choose an idea you'll follow through on. Whether your motivation is staying active or earning extra income, be certain to go with an idea that you'll be eager (and able) to build on. For instance, starting a business that you find to be more technology-focused than you expected can prove painful. "When it comes to suggested ventures to start . . . I always say 'The one that you'll do!'" says Charles Matthews, the executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship Education and Research at the University of Cincinnati. "While entrepreneurship is about conceptualization and formulation, it always comes down to implementation and execution. That is, what idea are you willing to act on and not just contemplate?"
  • Identify your goals. What time frame do you have in mind for your business? Will you want to sell it in five or 10 years, or pass it along to your heirs?
  • Do you want to leverage past experience or break new ground? Think about your skills and how much you want to apply them to a business. Many retirees are comfortable making the most of what they already know; others are looking for fresh experiences. If you're interested in something different, can you apply your past experience in some way?
  • How much risk can you take on? Will your business require significant upfront capital, or can you get up and running on a shoestring? One rule of thumb: Don't dip into your retirement savings to fund the business. Instead, consider other options, such as a home equity loan or reverse mortgage.
  • Match the business to your lifestyle. How much time do you want the business to take up? If there's a lot of physical activity involved, are you in good enough shape to keep up? Craft the business so it becomes part of your life -- not your whole life.
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