I help families/small businesses discover wealth-building strategies.
Watch out, Millennials! The OG “Me” generation is nipping at your virtual tails.
Yes, that’s right. Baby Boomers have found a new way to retire—by becoming internet entrepreneurs. Not all of them, but the numbers may shock you.
According to a recent study, nearly one in five people who remain working past age 65 are self-employed. This number does not include—and in fact exceeds the number of—independent contractors older than 65.
“There is an outdated idea that people want to retire at 60 or 65,” says Dave Smith, Founder of the Online Trainers Federation in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. “Many Boomers still want to contribute to society and the economy. They have a lifetime of knowledge and experience that they want to share with others. They don’t want to simply play golf and sit by the beach.”
It’s not that Baby Boomers continue in their original careers. Twenty-five years ago, most new entrepreneurs came from the youngest age cohort with the oldest generation spawning the fewest. Today, entrepreneurs come from each generation in roughly equal shares.
Sometimes they create businesses by choice. Sometimes they create them because they have no choice.
“Life took me out of my live/in-person job, so I had to go online in order to continue on my path,” says Pam Sherman, CEO of The Perfect Balance in Roseville, California. “I found an amazing gal to build my website and help me publish books on Amazon. It’s been a really smooth and easy process to go from in-person training to online training.”
Baby Boomers have decided they’d rather start a new business at an age when their parents were retired and their grandparents were past their life expectancy. And with a growing familiarity and comfort with the internet, they’re finding it is surprisingly easy to start many of these businesses online.
“It’s a myth that Baby Boomers couldn’t possibly get into how social media works with new technologies or have the drive to try because of thinking that they are too old or that it needs too much time,” says Online fitness coach Beate Probst, founder of Be-At-Ease Solutions in Vegreville, Alberta, Canada.
The evolution of internet-based delivery systems has opened the entrepreneurial door to many entering what would normally be considered their retirement years.
“The internet has evolved so much,” says Smith, who teaches people how to transition their businesses online. “Ten or fifteen years ago, online business required a website and often knowledge of web development. The web was much more transactional back then. Online businesses were typically e-commerce businesses that sold products.”
Today, it’s easier and more efficient than you think to start a business online “because the technology is available to reach people all over the world with little investment but so much life experience and information,” says Probst.
You don’t even need your own website to capture this reach. The internet has become a social place. “Profitable businesses are run directly from social platforms like Facebook or Instagram, which makes it so easy to sell services, not just products,” says Smith. “A ‘relational’ digital world has made it easy for experts to sell their expertise. The older population is full of expertise, so they are perfect candidates to monetize their knowledge through an online business.”
You may believe the ever-changing world of social media has left Baby Boomers behind. It’s a common misconception that they will have to learn how to navigate through a complicated sea of technical gizmos.
It turns out, social media is far less intricate and more naturally intuitive than, say, your typical TV remote.
“Most Baby Boomers are already quite active on social media,” says Smith. “This means they already have the skills they need to grow an audience and sell an online service.”
Will Baby Boomers have the same entrepreneurial goals as Millennials? Probably not.
“Younger entrepreneurs typically thrive off of innovation,” says Smith. “They don’t necessarily have the life experience or expertise that can be packaged and sold online. Instead, they often work at coming up with new ideas and creating never-before-seen businesses.”
Millennials must think outside the box because they haven’t spent much time working in the box. They may even reject the idea of a “box” to begin with.
Baby Boomers, on the other hand, understand the more things change the more they stay the same. They bring with them a creativity where experience allows them to find the undiscovered gems in their own backyards. In a sense, they can extract broad benefits by thinking inside the box.
“While older entrepreneurs can be innovative, they inherently have something of value to offer the world simply because they’ve lived a full life,” says Smith. “They have been through ups and downs that other people are struggling with right now. They can translate the lessons they’ve learned over the decades into online informational products and/or services that will help others avoid pitfalls that they would otherwise fall into.”
This mindset leads to a dramatically different objective for businesses started by Baby Boomers.
“Boomers are more focused on serving people and getting them the results,” says Probst. “Their needs are more on a personal level with proven and tested methods. This allows them to target a more specific audience with a specific message. In turn, this results in helping and serving people in a more cost and energy efficient manner (after all, we got the life experience so we know what target areas need to be addressed).”
While Millennials may seek to create the next billion-dollar internet sensation, Baby Boomers are driven less by money and more by philosophy.
“As for their goals, young entrepreneurs are often looking to make their mark, to build their empire,” says Smith. “Older entrepreneurs are often looking for a new challenge, an opportunity to give back, and something to bring them purpose in their later years.”
But it’s not just about altruism. This is a business, after all, not a non-profit. There’s still a bottom-line to mind. And the internet makes it a lot easier to start a business that will last.
“It’s easy to start a business online as the costs are very low,” says Sherman. “Opening a brick and mortar business has a lot of costs involved. Online is far lower. For my business, I coach women on health/wellness/weight loss. I utilize Zoom but have very little outside costs besides that.”
With many worried about how current conditions may impact their golden years, the trend to this new entrepreneurial retirement has arrived just when it’s needed most.