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Setting up your own business in retirement

Retirement doesn’t have to be the end of work – it can be the start of a whole new career, says Louise Farrand

Self-employment is growing among older generations – sometimes called ‘olderpreneurs’ or ‘silver start-ups’. Data from the Office for National Statistics show that 5% of the self-employed population were over 65 in 2004-5; this increased to 9% in 2014-15 .

For some, retirement is an opportunity to turn a hobby into a small business. For others, it’s a chance to realise a long-held dream, or challenge themselves to try something totally new. 

Others will see retirement as a chance to slow down on their existing commitments and embrace flexibility, perhaps in the form of self-employment. 

What sort of business should I set up?

Deciding what kind of business to set up is the million pound question if you’re thinking about going self-employed in retirement. The answer will be different for everyone. It depends on so many factors, from the skills you’ve amassed during your working life to your aspirations, to your appetite for risk and how much time you want to – or can – spend building and running your business.

“People do loads of things, from a spot of freelance work to launching their own company,” says career psychologist Denise Taylor, who runs Amazing People, a boutique career coaching company. 

A good place to start is by thinking about your reasons for working in retirement. Are you looking to make some extra income, or do you want to develop a business so you can sell it? Do you want to employ other people, or not?

You may have a professional skill that you’d like to continue to use to earn some money from in retirement. For example, if you’re an accountant, you could think about cultivating a couple of companies that will use your skills for a few days a week, or when they need to file their accounts and tax returns. 

Alternatively, like many of Denise’s clients, you may have no idea what you want to do. She asks her clients what interests they used to have. One was interested in sewing and now runs a successful curtain-making business. “Someone else is doing furniture re-upholstery. Another started doing French polishing,” she says.

Think about retraining

You could also continue to monetise your professional skills part-time while learning something new. One of Denise’s clients works for two days a week as an accountant and is also training to become a practitioner of Feldenkrais, which improves its students’ awareness of movement, breathing and posture. 

Other semi-retired people have developed their part-time work gradually, and see it as an opportunity to learn new skills. Jackie Pearce thinks having multiple income streams is the way forward. She has an income from some properties, and isn’t afraid to experiment with the unknown, from taking a stand-up comedy course to selling wine chiller sticks on Amazon. 

“This has been an absolute year of learning,” says Jackie. Her advice to people who are thinking about experimenting with new things? “Feel your fears and step outside of them.” She recommends checking out American motivational speaker Tony Robbins on YouTube for extra courage and inspiration.

Other older people have been tempted out of retirement by lightbulb moments. Sanjay Aggarwal runs artisanal spice company Spice Kitchen with his mother, Shashi. Shashi is a terrific cook and over Christmas 2012, sitting around the dining table, Sanjay realised it would be terrific to turn his mother’s talent into a business. 

“There’s always lots of fear that holds people back – but just give it a go and you’ll be amazed at how far it can take you,” says Sanjay, four years later.

Real life: “Older people have a lot of experience.”

Stuart KerrWhen Stuart Kerr retired, he was looking forward to spending time with his daughter in Hawaii, renovating his new house, and working in his garage with his three motorbikes.

He enjoyed seeing his daughter and travelling the world, but he had travelled a lot during his high-flying career as a motor industry chief executive, when he worked with companies such as Nissan, Volvo and Ford. 

He renovated his and his wife’s new home, laying floors himself and even fixing the roof, but after a couple of years, the house was finished. Even his motorbikes were in perfect running order.

Gradually, Stuart ticked his retirement projects off his list. He realised that he needed a new project which would take him out of retirement and back into the world of work.

Stuart’s experience is typical of a new, youthful and more active generation of retirees who are no longer content to see retirement as a quiet and unadventurous period. They’ve had adventurous, varied lives. Why should retirement be any different?

Stuart decided to get involved with an area which had always interested him: “I’ve always been fascinated with small businesses. There are some fantastic people who decide they want to work for themselves, from bricklayers to computer technicians.

“But the statistics around small business survival are really very bad and I was aware of that. I decided that to keep busy I wanted to help them, thinking that my knowledge of running businesses would enable me to guide them to better management of their businesses.”

Stuart also felt passionately that older people have so much experience and perspective to offer younger workers. He decided that having an organisation behind him would be best, rather than working entirely by himself. However, he didn’t want to take on another salaried position, nor did he want to take on responsibility for the actions of a company by taking on a non-executive directorship. He opted to join the Business Doctors franchise. 

“Older people have an awful lot of experience. If there are people out there who are bored as retired people, I can think of nothing better than helping people who are stepping into jobs to perform better,” he says. 


Retiresavvy is brought to you by Skipton Building Society. This article has been commissioned by retiresavvy and any opinions voiced are the author's own.

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