Plus: Ideas for how to get started.
Entrepreneur’s New Year’s Guide
Let the business resources in our guide inspire you and help you achieve your goals in 2021.
January 22, 2021 6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
If sitting around just isn’t your thing, then retirement is the perfect time to live out the dreams you may have put on hold. Simply filling empty hours with pointless recreation may feel like the opposite of freedom for many of the 72 million U.S. baby boomers, who have worked their entire lives. Launching your own business may be your ideal “retirement lifestyle.”
Six reasons to start a business in retirement
- Stay active. Studies have indicated that the average retiree will experience a significant health issue within six years of retirement, commonly including heart disease, stroke, arthritis and depression. Staying motivated, active and connected is the best way to combat health declines due to aging. Being active includes exercising daily. Exercise may seem like a daunting task, but it’s easier to be active than one might think. A great way to stay active is to start a business, which involves packing materials, going to the post office and attending networking events. All of this gets your blood pumping.
- Keep mentally alert. The brain needs regular exercise, too. One way to improve your quality of life is by keeping your brain active through continuous learning. The day you stop learning is the day you start becoming old, no matter your biological age. Staying mentally active can reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Learning how to run a business and planning marketing campaigns will keep your brain active.
- Pursue a passion. You don’t stop dreaming at 50. Find that niche that you are really passionate about. Research has shown that having a purpose in life can lead to a longer life. If the main goal is not to make money, then dig into your interests and hobbies and focus on something that brings you joy. If you enjoy woodworking or needlecraft, consider selling your handmade items online (e.g., Etsy) or at local fairs. When you have time on your hands, there are few barriers to turning your hobby into a business.
- Supplement your pension or income. You may be relying on reduced income after you retire. A small business could provide support for staying on top of bills, paying down debt or tucking away for a rainy day. You might want to rethink your former career. For example, I used to be a college writing professor. I now use those skills to guide people in writing their life stories.
- Stay social. Maintaining strong social ties is essential for aging adults to feel a sense of purpose and avoid feelings of loneliness or depression. Nearly one-half of all older Americans report feeling lonely sometimes or always. Leaving a job may mean giving up most of your daily social interaction. By starting a business, you can replenish some of that interaction — with customers, suppliers, postal carriers and other professionals. There are also plenty of online communities for small-business owners where you can get advice and meet people with similar interests.
- Give back to the community.
- Volunteer at a school: Public schools, in particular, are chronically underfunded and in need of volunteers for a wide array of tasks: tutor, crossing guard and mentor. There are always kids and teachers who need some help.
- Work at a hospital: Volunteers receive thorough training for the particular positions and annual refresher courses are common, the American Hospital Association says. Some typical volunteer roles include visiting patients, working at the gift shop and assisting in blood drives.
- Get involved in politics: Volunteer for a political crusade, grassroots organization or political action committee. You can also work for a candidate you support.
- Help on a hotline: Suicide hotlines exist in almost every city, manned by volunteers. This is obviously an important — even life-saving — way to help. Help lines are also available for people who just need to hear another voice.
- Contact animal shelters and humane societies: Local animal shelters and humane societies need volunteers to care for animals, organize fundraising events, perform administrative tasks, and help rescue pets in the wake of natural disasters such as floods and fires.
- Check with the AARP: The American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) has a page on its website for volunteers.
Business ideas to consider
The best retirement business ideas start with what you know. If the goal is not necessarily to make money, dig into your interests and hobbies, and choose something that brings you pleasure. If you are looking for something new, here are some ideas.
- Services. Babysitting, pet sitting, guiding tours and interior decorating are activities that can keep you physically active and social while focusing on your community and picking your own hours.
- Handcrafted goods. What are you already doing in your spare time? Things to make and sell might include soap, candles, jewelry and pottery.
- Courses. You have a wealth of life and work experience! How can you monetize what you know? Teaching online courses may require more work upfront, but it offers excellent margins and takes minimal effort in the long run. In addition, you can work from home.
Take control of your life
It just doesn’t make sense to throw away all your knowledge and experience just because of a particular date on the calendar. With life spans increasing, you could easily change your career when you’re 50 or 60 or embark on an exciting entrepreneurial venture for the next 20 to 30 years. So why be stuck in a dull retirement when you can take control of your life and do something interesting, rewarding and fulfilling while contributing to society at the same time?
To become an entrepreneur, you must first, change your mindset. If you think you’re too set in your ways and can’t possibly do something so daring at this point in your life, I’m here to tell you that you can — if you want to.
Stop labeling yourself according to your age or what you’ve done for a career. By seeing yourself as a banker, accountant or salesperson, you’re subconsciously telling yourself that’s what you are; this stops your ability to reinvent yourself.
If you need business training or guidance (and you almost certainly will if you’ve always worked for someone else), find the right courses and programs that will give you the necessary skills. Better still, find a mentor, someone with business experience to provide feedback about what you’re doing or intending to do. SCORE network offers free mentorship.
Becoming an entrepreneur after retirement may be your best retirement plan as it puts you in control of your life and your future.