Boomers Have Amazing Choices On Retirement: Tips for that Encore Venture
By Pamela Dennis, PhD
An estimated 31 million Americans age 44 to 70 are interested in “encore careers,” namely, “pursuits that enable individuals to put their passion to work for the greater good.” Only 14 percent see retirement as a time to “take a well-deserved rest.” When asked about their ideal retirement work arrangement, the most common choices were to:
- Repeatedly “cycle” between periods of work and leisure (42%)
- Have part-time work (16%)
- Start a business (13%)
- Work full time (6%)
Whether you are transitioning from a lifelong career or a business you spent your life building, there is an urge for many to build something new. For some it’s a venture in the not-for-profit world; for others it’s to buy or build a new for-profit business.
After building a business, selling it and “retiring,” I am among the 31 million encore folks, and I’m so busy I don’t know how I ever had the time to work! I just spent three years writing a book on how to prepare your head, heart, and company for an ownership transfer – Exit Signs: The Expressway to Selling Your Company with Pride and Profit. And after all the research and diverse owner interviews, I found a common angst: what comes next?
We now need a book for those millions of experienced, wise, energized Boomers thinking it’s starting a new venture. Maybe it’s called Encore Start-Ups for Boomers.
Like Exit Signs, it would have a lot of questions in it. Because it’s the questions that keep us awake at night. Most business start-up books give us answers to transactional questions such as financing, branding, and legal entity choices. They seldom pose the strategic questions only we can answer. So here’s what I would include in Encore Start-Ups for Boomers.
Chapter 1: Am I Crazy to Even Think About an Encore Start-Up? In other words, what motivates you? For example, is it building and innovating, making a difference in this world, touching people on a personal basis, running something bigger than you? It is not surprising to learn that 75 percent of business owners regret selling their businesses only one year post-sale. If your reason to launch a start-up is to recreate the past, hit pause. Don’t even start that business plan or look in the businesses-for-sale websites if you don’t have an honest answer to this question!
Chapter 2: What Counts Most? What are your goals and priorities? What do you want to say you have achieved when you leave this encore venture? Do you want to build equity and leave a business for others to carry on, or more simply create a nice income for the next X years? Do you want to leave a legacy for your community, the industry, or perhaps your family? These end games are all valid. Which is yours?
Chapter 3: Whose Show Is This? Whom do you want to involve in this venture? Is this a solo endeavor or a team effort? Do you want to play the technical innovator role and avoid the people and administrative sides of a business venture? Are you willing to let others do this work as true partners? If so, what values and end-game goals must others share with you?
For example, if I see the end game for my new venture as maximizing yearly income and creating tax write-offs, I will value short-term growth over long-term investments. I will be a minimalist when determining the infrastructure necessary: a good bookkeeper and a decent spreadsheet to track receivables. However, what if my new venture partner is all about building equity for a big return-on-investment payout down the road?
Chapter 4: How Big is Big Enough?Start-Ups for Boomers Nothing hooks us like size, be it an engine, a boat, a diamond, or a serving of great fries – “Supersize me!” If you type “grow your business” into a search engine, you will get 53 million results. In Exit Signs I ask “How Big?” because size is a road hazard to leaving. It’s the seduction of taking just “one more year” in order to hit that next growth milestone. Whether a solo encorist or in a partnership, the answer to “How Big?” is a volatile one if it isn’t decided early in a start-up. It’s a question with three parts: the hook, the hazard, and hindsight.
The Hook: ask yourself what hooks you about size and growth? Bragging rights? Impact? Security?
The Hazard: ask yourself what, if any, are the repercussions of Big Growth on health, relationships, other long, unfulfilled dreams?
Hindsight: ask yourself what you know about yourself when growth and size were part of your previous work or business? What was its impact on you, your family, and your colleagues?
Chapter 5: What Does Porky Pig’s “That’s All Folks!” Look Like? Boomers, more than younger generations, have a sense of their mortality. It guides them to either define the milestones and timelines to letting go OR causes great anxiety and fear about “is that all there is?” So write down the milestones or timelines that define when “The End” is as you begin your encore venture. What end-game will let you say, as Dr. Seuss wrote: “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened”?
It’s an exciting time for boomers. We define retirement differently than other generations and have aspirations for continuing activity, contribution and satisfaction. The options are ours to decide. Whatever yours, I hope you will ask and answer some of the questions here in your pondering.
About the Author:
Pamela Dennis, Ph.D, is the author of Exit Signs: The Expressway to Selling Your Business with Pride and Profit (Sustainable Business Press, 2015). She built and led an international consulting business that received recognition for its own growth and impact: “Mercury 100 Fastest Growing Colorado Companies,” “Boulder Top 25 Women Owned Companies,” and “Colorado Top 100 Women Owned Businesses.” She sold that business after nearly 20 years and the firm continues today – profitably, with new and legacy organizations in the US and internationally. For more information on Exit Signs or Pamela visit www.pameladennisphd.com or www.Amazon.com/author/PamelaDennis.