LV= uses cookies to give you the best experience online and to provide anonymised, aggregated site usage data. You can find out what cookies we use and how you can disable them in our Cookie Policy. By continuing to use our website, you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy unless you have disabled them.

skip to main content
Woman sat at desk with a notepad and books

Posted 10 March 2016

The new retirees: rise of the over-50 entrepreneur

Over 50 and itching to set up your own business? Or are you finding that your pension doesn’t pay the bills? Then perhaps it’s time to join the ranks of the over-50 entrepreneurs. In the first of our ‘new retirees’ series, Tony Watts (@tonywattswriter) talks to one of these entrepreneurs about her journey, as well as the start-up experts who share their wisdom on how you can start on a new career of your own in later life.

With LV= research showing that 40% of workers at retirement age are working on out of choice, it’s clear that ‘traditional retirement’ is no longer the only option.

But neither is staying in a traditional career – there’s a growing tide of people casting aside the nine-to-five in order to plough their own financial furrow. In fact, a record 657,790 start-ups were launched in 2016, and over-50s are among the trendsetters. [1]

These are the over-50 entrepreneurs, some of the ‘new retirees’ who are taking advantage of opportunities available to the current generation of people aged 50 and over.

Perhaps assisted by accessing part of their pension pot, some feel they can make a go of it, while others simply want a more flexible lifestyle, where they can combine care duties with earning a supplementary income on the side.

Julia Skinner is typical of the new ‘breed’ of older entrepreneurs – although the first part of her journey was more accidental than deliberate.

‘I spent my life in teaching: my last role as head teacher was to amalgamate a junior and an infant school,’ explains Julia. ‘After that had been successfully completed, I decided it was better for someone else to take the school forward.

‘For the first six months after I retired, I cried every morning. After I’d done the household chores my days were empty. But then I realised that I needed to move my life forwards – and put my skills and life experience to work.’

At the time, Julia was just 56 – young enough to take on a fresh challenge. But how could she best apply her talents and life experiences?

'I realised that I needed to move my life forwards - and put my skills and life experience to work'

‘I had always loved writing, so I started posting blogs – mostly my take on the educational sector – and I got to grips with using social media to promote them. Then I struck on the idea of encouraging youngsters to write too, by setting a ‘100 word challenge’ to schools, giving them space to post pieces by children and enabling others to post their comments.’

When it kicked off, Julia had hoped that perhaps 30 schools might take part. But on the internet, anything can happen. Soon 150 entries a week were coming in, then 1,000 – from all around the world. At the last check, people from 146 countries had been on the website.

‘It’s now acting as a platform for my burgeoning business,’ says Julia, ‘providing consultancy work into the educational sector, including school governorship. I haven't intended to make a lot of money from this, but any additional income is really welcome. More importantly, it’s incredibly exciting and rewarding.’

'I haven't intended to make a lot of money from this, but any additional income is really welcome.'

The need to make money is important for some – but for others, like Julia, it’s more a question of staying active, current and making a difference. So just how easy is it to make the transition from paid employment to being your own boss?

Adapting to your new circumstances – not having a regular salary or hours, and a position in a company hierarchy – requires a degree of resilience, according to Dr Jonathan Collie.

Over the last few years, Jonathan has made a major impact in the world of older workers by setting up ‘The Age of No Retirement’ – a conduit for fresh thinking on all aspects of later life working. He also runs a website, Trading Times, which puts businesses in touch with older people with the experience and skills to help them.

‘The narrative around olderpreneurs has changed a lot recently,’ he says. ‘Previously there was a lot of rhetoric around the importance of keeping one’s skills current, being flexible, being able to adapt to change and so on. And while those factors remain relevant, there’s a growing recognition that for many people setting up a business it’s far more about keeping your head above water in later life, as well as seeking out new opportunities that excite you.

'It's about keeping your head above water in later life, as well as seeking out new opportunities that excite you.'

‘The issue for some people coming out of larger organisations can be suddenly confronting large white spaces in your diary. You may also have focused on just one or two areas of business, so the shift to running an operation all on your own may mean you have gaps to fill.’

Working out which of your skills might be ‘transferable’ to your new situation is one important step that is always advocated.

Then, if you feel that you’d like to test the water, there is help out there – not least because the government has an agenda to encourage older people to stay economically active for as long as possible.

Tara Gillam helps manage the ‘Business Start-up Services’ at Business West, one of a nationwide network of 39 ‘Growth Hub’ organisations there to help aspiring entrepreneurs.

‘We sit down with people and help firm up their thinking on the business they want to run, and make sure they have thought through some of the basics,’ explains Tara. ‘Is there a market for their products or services? Who are their customers? What would their business proposition be? Have they got a business plan? Do they need a start-up loan? If so, how do they plan to repay it?

'One of the first stages is getting down a personal survival budget.'

‘We can help with all of that, but one of the first stages is getting down a personal survival budget. Imagine that no money comes through the door for months... just how long can you last before eating into funds that you can't afford to spend?

‘We can point them in the direction of finance, get a business plan underway and also direct them towards specialists in areas such as marketing, finance or social media if that support is needed.’

A level of government support is also available to those who don’t have financial resources to fall back on. Since its launch in 2011, the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) scheme has supported the establishment of over 96,000 businesses – 22,290 of them set up by people aged 50 and over. [2]

The NEA offers mentoring support to help participants develop a robust business plan, and financial support once the business plan has been approved and they have progressed to trading.

So how ready are you to set up your own business? Here are the top three tips from Business West’s Tara Gillam.

Ask yourself:

  1. How much will it cost to start and how will I finance it?
  2. Who are my target customers?
  3. Will I have enough to survive if I don't generate a profit for some time?

Above all, ask yourself whether this is something you need to do to earn money, or is it simply a lifestyle decision – keeping yourself mentally, physically and socially active? Even if your start-up is a passion project, it could end up making a profit. With ambition, drive and the right support, who knows what might be possible?




Share this article

Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Google+

Explore Love Retirement

You might also like...

The rise of the bucket list

The rise of the bucket list

The bucket list has become a great motivational tool to help people live life to the fullest and pursue their dreams.

Shhh! These secret holidays won’t drain your retirement fund

Couple on the beach

There are plenty of low-cost locations that have just as much to offer as the better-known holiday hot spots. Travel and finance journalist Melanie Wright reveals three of the best alternatives.