Tips for Boomers Looking to Launch their Own Business in Retirement

“The Boomer” is a column written for adults nearing retirement age and those already in their “golden years.” It will also promote reader interaction by posting e-mail responses and answering reader questions. E-mail your questions or topic ideas to

Baby boomers are reshaping the idea of retirement with many of us choosing to continue to work in some capacity.

Whether boomers are staying in the workforce to stay active and involved in the marketplace or looking for an income stream in their golden years, a home-based business allows you to work according to your own schedule and pace and best of all, be your own boss.

Paul and Sarah Edwards, authors and sustainable lifestyle experts, shared their expertise and knowledge of many different aspects relating to home based businesses and what baby boomers need to know before launching their own venture.

Boomer: It seems as if people start home businesses from two places, either they want to or they have to. What’s attracting boomers to home businesses?

When the first edition of our first book, Working From Home, came out, we arranged to speak to a number of preretirement groups where we learned that the last thing members of the GI generation wanted to do was any kind of income-producing work, even as their own boss. They wanted to travel, spend time with their grandchildren and pursue their favorite leisure-time activities.

Now 54% of workers plan to work after the age of 65, according to the 13th Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies  because they enjoy the work they do and want to stay involved.

In interviewing for our book The Best Home Businesses for People 50+, we found men and woman had already retired once or twice, only to find it boring. Others felt a need for more flexibility and freedom than a job allows, but that didn't mean they were not interested in working. They still wanted to work, just on their own terms.

These days though we find that with boomers the "want to" and "have to" behind starting a business often overlap—but money issues play a major role. A report from the Federal Reserve finds that half of households headed by individuals between the ages 65 and 74 have no money in retirement accounts. Also, according to the AARP, the risk of "serious delinquency" on mortgages has grown fastest for people over 50. Gallup finds that the number of non-retired American who do not think they will have enough money to live comfortably in retirement grew from 32% in 2003 to 53% in 2011. It’s not unusual to hear people say "My money isn’t enough anymore."

Boomer: What are the options for boomers to work from home and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

There are three main areas of opportunity for boomers:

Working a salaried job at home. Companies find it to their advantage to allow employees to work virtually, which usually means at home.

Operating a full and part-time home business. This may mean creating a business of your own which has the benefit of being your own boss, setting your own hours and rules and enjoying the gratification of choosing meaningful work. However, operating a business involves many responsibilities and be overly time consuming, so boomers should consider all their options and heavily research any prospective businesses before taking the leap.

Buying a business opportunity or franchise. This is appropriate when your primary objective for going into business is to produce an income and you prefer a ready-made business or blueprint to creating something from scratch. That can be a good choice as long as you do not have a problem following policies developed by others.

Franchises are typically more expensive than business opportunities and it’s vital to research the business opportunity or franchise thoroughly, by doing what is called "due diligence." The upfront costs usually means acquiring debt, and sometimes the franchise royalty is too high to justify the amount of money you can earn from running a one- or two-person business. You may find you’re paying too much for a name that few people know. Sometimes though with low start-up fees that make entry easy may mean the parent company does not have the resources to provide you with as much support and training as you need.

Direct selling can be a good opportunity when someone feels passionately about the product they are selling and enjoys recruiting others to sell also sell it. However, most people don’t make much money from direct selling. According to data compiled by the Direct Selling Association, the average gross monthly income for all salespeople in multilevel in 2010 was only $2,400. Gross income must cover business expenses, leaving net income dependent on how much is spent to produce one’s sales organization.

Boomer: What are some of the best home businesses for boomers and what makes them especially good?

We believe boomers will find serving the needs of other boomers and older adults provides the basis for a number of promising businesses. A recent survey by Charles Schwab found workers 51-69 years old earning $40,000 to $90,00 a year said what they worry about most are financial fitness (51%) and physical fitness (49%). So businesses that help people with their money and their health are high on our lists. These include:

Financial services like:

  • Bill collecting
  • Bookkeeping
  • Daily Money Management
  • Disease management service
  • Financial counseling
  • Tax preparation
  • Transition advice and counseling

Health services like:

  • Elder services
  • Health and fitness coaching
  • Home health care aide
  • Medical claims assistance/ advocacy
  • Medical intuitive
  • Facial and skin care services
  • Teaching yoga, meditation and relaxation

Others find opportunities and satisfaction doing handy work, providing child or pet car, or offering repair and restoration services.

Boomer: What kind of lifestyle do people expect after retirement?

Before the recession beginning in 2007, 69% of boomers expected to maintain their current lifestyle with only 24% expecting to downscale current lifestyle. Now many boomers seek simpler, less expensive lifestyles and are downsizing and making major geographical moves.

Boomer: What are the most common mistakes/challenges boomers have in choosing a business?

If it’s a new field, learning enough about the business to avoid costly mistakes, such as finding oneself undercapitalized or marketing in ineffective ways is a big task. Undercharging is chronic as is not asking prospects and clients for referrals, not remembering clients who have already purchased are your best prospects and how who best to market one’s business.

For those starting a business in a familiar field, underestimating the amount of marketing or ineffective marketing are common mistakes. Finding marketing methods that work for a particular business is a trial and error and takes consistent effort.

There are also mistakes specific to particular businesses --typical ones are spending too much on equipment and inventory too soon, not getting written contracts, and keeping clients or customers that should be fired.