The recession has hit everyone hard, but unemployment among over-50s saw a 40% jump between 2010 and 2012, according to the government. Rather than spending time looking for another salaried job, starting up a company becomes an option – guaranteeing financial independence and the opportunity to use skills on a new challenge about which they’re really passionate.
Many start businesses as a way of eking out their retirement income, because low interest rates and gyrating stock markets have left them anxious about whether they might outlive their pension pots.
The rise of the internet has meant it’s never been easier for these silver surfers to run a business from home. They have the chance to be their own bosses as well as the ability to choose their own hours.
The level of self-employment among the over-50s is about 1 in 5, considerably higher than any other age group, says Age UK. The number of over-55 Britons who are setting up a new business or have just set one up is much higher than in France or Germany, according to a 2011 report by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. In fact, the biggest number of British entrepreneurs are 55 years and over, found a 2011 study commissioned by Nominet Trust.
Many of them consider themselves to be as mentally and physically fit as they ever were (according to research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission), and the business nous and expertise they have collected over their working lives means they are more likely to succeed. Over 70% of olderpreneur start-ups last more than 5 years, compared with 28% of those created by younger entrepreneurs, states Age UK.
The government has, so far, focused its efforts on encouraging young people to start up their own businesses. Its start-up loan initiative, which offers £2,500 to help set up a business, is available only to 18-24 year olds.
But some help is at hand. PRIME is an organisation set up by Prince Charles that helps over-50s to become self-employed or start a business. It offers advice and access to loans to help older people get their businesses off the ground. Also, Nominet Trust in 2012 launched a competition for digital entrepreneurs over the age of 55 to win a share of £250,000 to help them launch internet companies that address social challenges for people over 65.
If you’re a 50-something looking for a new challenge, then why not turn your hobby into a business? Examples of olderpreneurs include a PA who was made redundant and then set up a local secretarial agency; a retired IT manager who created his own online printing firm; an ex-financial services professional who established a capital management firm to stave off boredom. They prove that it’s never too late to set up your own business if you have a good idea and plenty of enthusiasm.
On Nominet research and the competition:
Equality and Human Rights Commission study:
A piece on over 50s who’ve set up businesses: