How entrepreneurship extends boomers’ careers «
There’s been no shortage of gloomy headlines about the struggles of workers age 50 and over. But there’s one area in which this age group continues to shine: entrepreneurship.
“The older you are, the more likely you are to be an entrepreneur,” said Edward Rogoff, professor of entrepreneurship at Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business, and co-author of “The Second Chance Revolution: Becoming Your Own Boss After 50.”
“It’s a very prevalent form of economic activity for older Americans,” he said.
Of the roughly 8.2 million Americans aged 65 and older who are still counted as workers, about 42% are running a well-established small business, about 9% own a business that’s less than 3 1/2 years old, and 11% own a fledgling new business, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the 2012 U.S. Report of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), an annual assessment of entrepreneurial activity world-wide. (Rogoff is a co-author of the entrepreneurship report.)
Among Americans 65 and older who are still working, more than 40% are running their own, established small business. Keep in mind that these percentages apply to people who are in the workforce and don’t count retirees or those not looking for work. Only about 19% of people age 65 and older are counted as workers, compared with about 65% of 55- to 64-year-olds and about 80% of people aged 25 to 54. (Also, there could be some overlap, with one entrepreneur owning more than one business.)
Among workers aged 55 to 64, more than 19% have an established business, 4% have a young business and about 11% have a nascent business. Read More retirees want to start their own businesses, and see the data in Chapter 5 of the GEM report .
It’s not as though the oldest workers are bereft of dreams, either: Fully 26% of workers age 65 and older said they plan to start a business. The only age group with a higher portion of workers with a similar rate of “entrepreneurial intention” is the 18- to 24-year old workers.
While older entrepreneurs might face some unique risks—a big one is not having as much time as younger workers to bounce back financially if a business fails—they also enjoy advantages that their younger competitors don’t.
“There are particular skills and resources that older Americans have that give them advantages,” Rogoff said. “Older entrepreneurs tend to have more money, more social-capital resources—a network of people, and they tend to have industry knowledge,” he said. Plus, “They tend to be highly motivated.”
According to the GEM report, among all of the age groups surveyed, those aged 55 and older were least likely to say they were afraid of failure.
Challenges and solutions
William Zinke is on a mission to ramp up entrepreneurial activity among older Americans. The 86-year-old, a former human-resources professional, is now president of the Center for Productive Longevity, a nonprofit advocacy group that recently hosted a conference in Washington, D.C., titled “The Entrepreneurship Imperative for Engaging People 50 and Older.”
Zinke sees older Americans as one solution to the U.S.’s current economic malaise. These workers “represent a large and growing talent pool,” he said.
“These are people with experience, expertise, seasoned judgment and proven performance. Millions of these people want to continue working, but no jobs are available. [Becoming an entrepreneur] may be the only viable option for these people who want to continue working,” Zinke said.
He said he’d like to see easier access to financing for older people who seek to start new businesses, plus a simplification of the rules governing small-business ownership.