WASHINGTON — You don’t have to retire.

Maybe you don’t want to be the on-call babysitter for your grandchildren. You have no desire to play golf or travel the world.

What if your retirement meant finally pursuing your lifelong passion of becoming an entrepreneur?

After all, you have a wealth of work experience you can apply to your new venture as you enter the next season of your life.

And you would have plenty of company.

Self-employment is increasing among seniors. In 2015, people 65 and older had the highest self-employment rate (15.5 percent) of any age group, according to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


You can retire to a rich life of self-employment, according to Kerry Hannon, author of this month’s Color of Money Book Club pick, “Never Too Old to Get Rich: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting a Business Mid-Life.”

The title is a bit of a tease, Hannon admits. Yes, it’s great to make money, but the entrepreneurs she interviewed – there are 20 profiled in the book – talk about something more priceless than what money can buy.

“The title refers in many ways to the inner richness of doing work you love, with people you care about and making a difference with your work,” she says.

Hannon lives what she preaches. She started her own company at 42. She’s the author of a dozen books. She writes a column for Forbes on second acts and retirement, and she is the entrepreneurship and personal-finance expert for NextAvenue.org.

Her guide is as much an explainer of how to become an entrepreneur as it is a pep rally encouraging you to take the risk.

“It’s about fearlessly creating something new regardless of your age,” Hannon writes. “It’s scary. It’s risky. It’s hard work, and most entrepreneurs I have interviewed have told me that their only regret is that they didn’t do it sooner.”


This senior entrepreneurship movement makes sense. People are living longer, and many worry about outliving their savings. Some seasoned workers are also victims of ageism.

“The frustrating reality of ageism bias by employers is alive and well, which is why being your own boss has become the default for droves of older workers who are shut out of the workforce by employers who see their expiration date and view them as lacking stamina, up-to-date skills, or perhaps simply being too expensive in terms of salary demands,” Hannon writes.

Not sure what business is right for you?

Start with your passion, Hannon recommends. However, make sure it’s bankable. I get so frustrated when I meet folks who have wasted a lot of time and money trying to monetize a dream.

I loved this example in the book: One avid gardener decided to open up a landscape-design business after taking an early retirement package from her law firm.

“She soon realized when her garden time was every day and the long hours were mostly spent alone, she had made a big mistake,” Hannon writes. “Her garden was her respite from her hectic life. When it was her life, she missed the people connection.”


The best entrepreneurs have a higher level of “human, social and financial capital,” according to Cal J. Halvorsen, a retirement researcher and assistant professor at the Boston College School of Social Work, who is quoted in the book.

“Human capital might be, for example, education and work experience,” he says. “Social capital would be their social network. Financial capital would be their financial assets and wealth.”

Before you take the entrepreneurship leap, know your limits. Do some research and line up the money, Hannon suggests. Set goals. Get help. (The Small Business Administration is a good start.) It takes more than grit to succeed as a self-employed individual. You want a profit-making business, not a hobby.

Here’s Hannon’s three-part business-fitness program.

  • Get financially fit: Create a lean budget. Save as much as you can. Pay down any loans. “Debt is a dream killer,” she writes. “The biggest stumbling block for many midlife entrepreneurs is money.”
  • Get physically fit: Your health is connected to your wealth. “When you’re fit, you bring positivity to your work and your life.”
  • Get spiritually fit: “Find a place to center yourself, and de-stress.”

You may not be hardwired to be your own boss, but if you think you could make self-employment work, you’ll find some useful and inspiring advice in this guide.

I’m hosting an online chat about “Never Too Old to Get Rich” at noon Eastern on Sept. 26 at washingtonpost.com/discussions. Hannon will join me to answer questions about starting a business after 50 — or before.

Michelle Singletary can be contacted at c/o The Washington Post, 1301 K St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Her email address is michelle.singletary@washpost.com.

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