In this week's blog: The number of self-employed people aged 65 and over has more than doubled in the past five years. What does the rise of the "olderpreneurs" mean for your business?
“I have some news to share…. I’m leaving my job to set up my own business.”
Over the past few years, I have heard this sentence repeated many times from my friends.
They have generally done well in their careers. But now they are in their early 50s, entrepreneurship beckons.
The trend is not confined to my social circle. According to the Financial Times, 43% of those starting their own businesses are over 50.1
What is prompting all these “olderpreneurs”?
The Financial Times speculates that over 50s have a harder time finding work, but because they can access their pension pots under pension freedoms, they can fund a new venture.
This may very well be part of it, but it’s not the story for most of my friends, who are leaving good jobs.
No. For them I suspect something else is going on – something which has enormous implications both for companies and for all of us individually.
You see, not that long ago, it would not have made any sense for my friends to leave their positions.
They simply had to last another 10-15 years before they could collect their pensions and retire.
But nowadays, we live much longer than we used to.2 And we work much longer, too.3
I suspect that many people in their late 40s and early 50s are looking to the future, and realising that they still have a good 20-30 years of work ahead of them. They are not at the end of their careers, but mid-career.
For example, we recently surveyed readers of our Focus blog (the latest insights from our team of financial advisers – read it here). 25% of those aged under 50 said that after reaching 65, they planned to cut down their hours - but continue working part time or casually, rather than retiring completely.4
So they might ask themselves: “How do I really want to spend this time? What do I really want to do for the next couple of decades?”
It prompts a re-evaluation of their priorities, their needs and their career path.
Now, some in my group of friends have come to one answer. They want to strike out alone.
But I know others who have come up with different answers.
Last year, I took a month off to go climbing in the Himalayas. After many years working hard and bringing up a family, I decided it was time to get back in touch with myself.
Other friends and acquaintances have taken sabbaticals to volunteer, study and to travel, investing in their personal development and taking a mental break from daily life before returning to their previous jobs.
Yet others have changed career paths, retraining or going back to university for a few years, to do another degree.
Once upon a time, this may have been called a midlife crisis. But as we live longer, I believe that this “mid-career” phase of change is going to become routine, normal and entirely understandable.
You see, it can be difficult to stay on one career trajectory when you work for 50-60 years.
It is only natural that people working for that long will want to stop, re-evaluate, take time out to pursue other interests and often change course altogether.
This means that in a few years’ time, the normal structure of our careers may look very different to the way it did just a decade or two ago.
Expect less of a straight line (first job, series of promotions, retirement), more of a meander (first job, promotions, go back to school, second career, become self-employed, semi-retire).
For individuals, this throws up many challenges. For example, how are people going to finance their “adult gap years” or degrees later in life? We may find that people’s savings patterns and priorities change.
Or how might an individual go about finding a new job, after retraining in their 40s? It isn’t necessarily easy.5
But there are implications for companies as well.
Should your recruitment strategy change, if it becomes normal for people in their 40s and 50s to temporarily “drop out” or retrain? How about retention – how are you going to keep your best people, under these circumstances?
And what kinds of skills will you need to give your staff, when they are dropping in and out of the workplace, and changing careers more frequently?
These are the kinds of questions I am going to be addressing over the next few weeks. Watch out for those emails.
And if you have already begun to see these trends in your own company – or amongst your friends – please do drop me a line. I’d love to hear about it.
 ‘Managing employees beyond age 65: from the margins to the mainstream?’, Lain & Loretto, 2016
 Retirement survey conducted by PS Aspire, April 2019, 174 respondents.
 A 2018 ‘Centre for Ageing Better’ survey polled 1,100 employees over the age of 50, and found that since turning 50, 14% of over-50 employees believe they have been turned down for a job due to their age (https://www.ageing-better.org.uk/news/becoming-age-friendly-employer)