By Tim Knox
The first wave of Baby Boomers turned 60 this year and as many approach the traditional retirement age of 65 they are finding that (a) they are still vibrant and don' t want to stop working; and/or (b) their life expectancy has been extended and they will be dead broke long before they are dead and gone.
As a result Baby Boomers are not slowing down now that they're approaching what once would have been considered their "golden years." If you were a man you expected to retire at 65 and die at 75; and if you were smart you banked enough dough to see you comfortably through that stretch. We figured we'd get at least 10 good leisurely years before the grim reaper shows up without having to worry about money. Turns out, we were wrong.
Leave it to modern medicine and Mother Nature to throw a monkey wrench in our plans. People are living longer, which is one of those good news/bad news scenarios. It's good that you're living longer, but it stinks that you have no idea how you're going to finance all that extra life. Who wants to live forever on a diet of crackers and cat food? Certainly not me and I expect, not you. And do me a favor: if you see me thirty years from now passing out buggies at Wal-Mart, please, just kill me where I stand. You'll be doing me and all Wal-Mart shoppers a huge service.
Personally, I think Viagra is the reason men are now living longer. Let's be honest; if a man thinks there's still a chance of getting lucky when he's in his eighties he'll hold on for dear life. And women are living longer because they know old men couldn't survive without them. We'd never find our car keys or our pants or our reading glasses or our way home from the drug store.
Being your average, white male in good health, I can now expect to live into my eighties if I can avoid an unexpected heart attack, getting creamed by a runaway truck, or the wrath of my lovely wife (who I believe is actually killing me a little every day).
And by the time I get to eighty years old someone will have discovered a pill that extends my life into the hundred and ten range. Personally I don't think I want to live to be a hundred and ten. I'm crotchety enough now in my forties. Imagine what a pain in the backside I'll be fifty years from now.
All kidding aside, older Americans are finding that they have the time, energy, desire and, sometimes, the need to start their own business. I talked about the insurgence of older entrepreneurs in this column two years ago and as I predicted then, the trend toward elder entrepreneurship continues today.
- A report from Barclays Bank showed that older entrepreneurs are responsible for 50 percent more business start-ups than 10 years ago. This amounted to around 60,000 business start-ups in 2005 alone. 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.
- Americans over 60 are the fastest growing segment of Internet users and many are starting online businesses.
I talked to "Boomer Expert" John Howe, 63, of Dallas, TX, who has started an organization designed to assist Baby Boomers who want to learn more about entrepreneurship and making their older years more fulfilling and profitable. Howe publishes the weekly electronic magazine for Boomers found at Boomer-Ezine.com. I asked: How are boomer entrepreneurs different from younger entrepreneurs?
"Boomers have the benefit of the lessons that many bumps and scars of life taught them," Howe said. "They are more conservative than the younger group. Patience is a trait that one learns with age. When we are young, we tend to shoot from the hip a lot. A little age teaches you to take aim and fire.
"Boomers also have more money to invest in their venture than the younger group, but the fact that this money is from retirement savings makes a Boomer conservative. The Boomer will study the opportunity and do a lot more homework before jumping in."
Howe makes a good point. Boomers are more careful with their money because they have less time to rebuild their fortune than someone who goes belly up at 25. I asked Howe why he thought so many Boomers were starting businesses. Was it out of desperation and need or because they enjoy the challenge?
Howe responded, "I believe it is a mix of all of these. It also depends on the person. A major concern is that modern medicine will make us live longer and we will outlive our savings. When we started saving 30 years ago, many planned savings for living a shorter time that we are now projected to live."
And why are so many boomers now looking at entrepreneurship as a way to supplement their retirement income?
"Some, like myself, cannot think about not having a challenge to wake up to everyday," said Howe. "Sitting around without a definite direction is not my idea of retirement. I am also not doing this for free so it is also profit motivated. We Boomers made a lot of money over the course of our lives, but many lived for the moment and did not plan for retirement like they should have, or they suffered in the stock market downturn and lost a considerable amount of their savings."
In the end, Howe believes, the decision by Baby Boomers to start a business comes down to energy and economics. "If the desire and finances are there, there is no reason someone over 60 should not consider becoming an entrepreneur."
If you're a Booomer interested in starting your own business you can contact John Howe at Boomer-Ezine.com.
From "Small Business Q&A" With Tim Knox
Tim Knox is a nationally-known entrepreneur, author, speaker, and radio show host. Tim has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs realize their business dreams. To learn more please visit http://www.timknox.com
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