Jan. 5, 2018
When you think of a typical entrepreneur, Mike Sandness isn’t the first image that comes to mind. He’s a greying, 50-something, Air Force vet who spent 20 years at the same corporate job. Life was comfortable and, like many people his age, he had started planning for retirement. Then he was laid off.
As he struggled to figure out what to do next, he realized getting laid off could be an opportunity to have a second career doing something he’d always dreamed of. He took a leap and chose entrepreneurship over retirement; now he runs a thriving WOW 1 DAY PAINTING franchise.
You’re never too old to get off the corporate ladder!
Mike is one of a growing population of retire-preneurs: people using their would-be retirement as a chance to be their own boss. We’ve seen this first hand at our company, as more and more of our franchise applicants fall into this older age bracket. Apparently, the face of entrepreneurship is older than we thought!
Boomers vs. Millennials: Who Makes a Better Entrepreneur?
Twenty years ago, more than a third of entrepreneurs were the same age that millennials are now. Today, three quarters are gen X or older, with 70% of soon-to-be retirees saying they want to keep working. Boomers are now more likely to start businesses than their millennial counterparts.
It makes sense: Boomers have decades of experience, which means they also have access to larger networks. They’ve had years to stockpile funds so they don’t need to worry as much about startup capital. In our franchise system alone, they’re some of the strongest business owners.
Despite these clear advantages, there’s a common misconception that “entrepreneur” is synonymous with “20-something tech genius.” But there’s no age limit on creativity, strategic thinking or leadership; entrepreneurship is a skill that transcends the confines of any given generation.
Why Not Just Retire?
Layoffs, age discrimination, corporate burnout — there’s a number of reasons people end up without a job in middle age. Although many take retirement as a natural next step, others have the drive to keep going and build something of their own. It’s a dream they’ve never had the luxury to pursue, until now.
When Boomers entered the working world, it was normal to stick to one job for life. Post-Depression, if you had a good job, you damn well kept it. Now, in their 50s and 60s (or even 70s and 80s!), they’re ready to walk away from the 9 to 5. This doesn’t mean they want to call it quits on work altogether — but they’re sick of someone else controlling their lives.
Retire-preneurs value a flexible schedule over a high-paying job. This is often the first time in their lives they can actually afford to work less, and that’s what makes entrepreneurship an appealing option. Running a business lets them set their own schedules, take the leadership seat, and it keeps their minds active. It’s less about making money; it’s about wanting to do something meaningful with their retirement.
What Do Retire-preneurs Mean for the Economy?
When Mike was laid off, he had three choices: find another corporate job, lean in to early retirement, or take a chance on himself. Like many of his fellow retire-preneurs, he thought it was too late (and too risky) to start a business in his 50s. But he also realized it was now or never — so he chose to believe in himself and leveraged his years of experience to become an entrepreneur.
The rise of the retire-preneur does more than give the aging population something to pass the time; it’s allowing them to contribute to the economy by creating a rich ecosystem of knowledge and support for entrepreneurs across the board. By using their life’s experience to lead their own businesses, this cohort is passing their wisdom on to the next generation. Their second careers are an opportunity to advise and coach business leaders of tomorrow.
The question is this: if you’re fulfilling a dream, does it really matter when you do it? Or is it about finally finding the opportunity to take the road less travelled and create a future you always envisioned?