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I won’t retire: How semi-retirement is the choice for a growing number of people

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Dog lover Michelle Bateman had been making special treats for her dogs Sherlock, Daisy and Licorice for years, and decided to turn this interest into a business called Woof’s Treats. She set up her own business in 2013 after being made redundant from her NHS job.

She says: "When I left my job it was like the merry-go-round had stopped. After a week rattling around the house cleaning out cupboards I realised I was bored."
 
After learning new online skills to market her business through sites like Twitter and Facebook, she now spends many of her weekends going across the country selling her DEFRA-approved products at dog fayres.
 
She admits: "It’s not easy, I home bake all the treats myself and I have a lot of inspections, testing and safety legislation to comply with. But I go to new places and meet fantastic people who share my passion for the health and wellbeing of dogs."
 
Ms Bateman, who walks her dogs for 10 miles every day, plans to expand her business soon by producing treats for cats.
 
She states: I certainly don’t have any plans to retire. Why would I want to just sit at home all day?
 

An increasing trend

Many other baby boomers seem to agree. With the default retirement age scrapped in 2011, making it illegal to sack a person simply for turning 65, more people are working for longer.
 
In the three months to April 2014 there were 1.128 million over-65s in the workforce, which was 10% higher than in the same period of 2013, according to the Office for National Statistics.
 
Many large companies are now proud to be targeting older workers – such as coach company National Express, where almost one in three of its 1,700-strong workforce are over 50. It makes sound business sense. In the next 10 years, there will be 700,000 fewer people aged 16 to 49 in the UK labour market but 3.7 million more people aged between 50 and state pension age, according to government estimates.
 
Dr Ros Altmann, the government’s Business Champion for Older Workers, says:
 
We need to get rid of the traditional stereotype which suggests people over 50 are too old to learn or change. There can be a world of opportunities for older workers which can enrich their lives and also boost our economy.
 

Doing the sums

Of course for some, the decision to keep working is made out of necessity, not choice. Falls in annuity rates over the past 25 years have left many people disappointed with the value of their pension. An individual who wanted to start retirement with an annual income of £10,000 would have needed a pension pot of £65,000 in 1990, but by 2013 this had increased to over £175,000, according to the International Longevity Centre.
 
The average earner working one year longer not only benefits from the income, but also has the potential to boost their pension pot by around £4,500, according to government figures. Conversely, an average earner retiring 10 years early could see their pension pot shrink by a third.
 
Working for longer also means you can delay drawing your state pension, which will also help you in the long-term. For every year you defer, there's a 10.4% boost to your eventual state pension. So if you deferred a weekly pension of £100 by five years, you'd end up receiving £152, says the Money Advice Service.
 

Self employment

For many baby boomers, self-employment is the key to providing the sort of flexible working hours wanted in later life – the ability to pick and choose your hours, location and workload. The number of self-employed people over the age of 65 has increased substantially in recent years, up from 241,000 in 2009 to 428,000 today, according to the Office for National Statistics.
 
Prime (The Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise), the charity, has helped many older people on the path to self-employment through training and services. One of these is Anne Williams, 59, who has no plans to retire anytime soon after setting up Linchpin PA, a virtual personal assistant service, two years ago.
 
Mrs Williams works from home in Northumberland providing virtual office support, event co-ordination and travel planning to small businesses. She was previously a schools programme coordinator before being made redundant at the age of 56 under government funding cuts.
 
She says: It was quite challenging to build up the business at first, but I did a lot of networking and increased my online presence with sites like LinkedIn, and it snowballed from there. Now business is booming.
 
Mrs Williams, whose 63-year-old husband still works as a teacher, says they have no firm plans about when to retire.
 
She states: "I thought I’d be going on cruises by the time I got to 60, but now I’m older that sounds incredibly boring. I’m happy to keep working for now, and being my own boss means I can eventually reduce my hours instead of stopping work overnight."
 
Are you an older worker? Have you recently set up your own business? Share your stories with us below.
 
This article has been commissioned by retiresavvy and any opinions voiced are the author's own.

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