You Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Job

older worker posterOut of work? Retired but bored? No problem, say the experts. Start your own business and make your own job.

O, that it were so easy. While it’s true that the fastest growing demographic of entrepreneurs in the U.S. is age 55 and over, that does not mean it’s the track for everyone. The Small Business Administration notes that five million Americans age 55 or older run their own businesses or are self-employed. Between 2000 and 2007, the number of self-employed persons ages 55 to 64 increased 52 percent.

The lure is obvious. If you’re 60 years of age and suddenly find yourself unemployed and have virtually no hope that some employer will hire you, the options are limited. You can try low-paying service industry jobs, but even those can be off limits due to age.

The many stories of other peoples’ success can produce high hopes. Even the SBA website touts self-employment when it proclaims that age 50 to 70 is “the perfect time to leverage experience, passions, hobbies and resources to launch or purchase a small business.”

Uh huh. But tapping limited retirement funds or savings can be very risky business if you’re a marginal “seniorpreneur.” It’s one thing if you always knew you had the skills, discipline and motivation to start your own business, but something else all together if you are trying to start a business because you have no other alternative. If all it took was some older entrepreneurscapital and a great idea, you could literally “be in business.” The harsh reality is that you have to be able to wear ten hats. You’re the boss, and the marketer, and the bookkeeper, the lawyer, and the government form/tax completer, and more things than you can imagine.

Do I have to be so pessimistic? Yes. Because the odds are stacked against you. The combination of talent, motivation, capital and the right idea are rare enough that for every seniorpreneur that succeeds, my guess is that at the very least, twenty-five fail.

My solution to unemployment in the 55 and over demo doesn’t have much better odds. I still think that there should be public employment programs for senior citizens, so that this country would finally begin to tap the huge reservoir of skills that could be put to use helping our schools, recreation centers, nursing homes, etc. Are the odds for this happening any better than the odds of a sixty-something entrepreneur succeeding? Probably worse.

Maybe you should start your own business after all.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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