Throughout corporate America daily water cooler gossip often involves talk of retirement. Perhaps you recognize such retirement conversations, the day many dream to sail off into the sunset resting at that peaceful gated community or golf resort.
But today, we live under the burdens of $9 trillion national debt and spiraling healthcare costs reaching almost $2.4 trillion annually about 17 percent of GDP. The realities have shifted an entire generation's thinking, as one in three entrepreneurs ages 51 to 69 plan to make the career transition to self-employment after age 50. Initially, one of their primary driving factors is to recapture financial losses suffered recently during the most devastating economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Over the past year, the average baby boomer between 45-54 has lost about 45 percent of their median assets, leaving them with just $100,000 in net worth, including home equity. Older boomers have fared marginally better. The majority between 55-64 have lost about 38 percent of their assets, leaving them about $170,000 net worth. As this group rapidly approaches retirement, most plan by necessity to continue working to recapture financial losses.
Traditionally, financial resources are a key ingredient for most successful entrepreneurs. And it is here that we find the baby boomers in the top 50 percent of the U.S. population by net worth. Although, the baby boomers have suffered loss during the economic crisis most can still muster the necessary $10,000 or less that typically helps fund over 75 percent of all startups. Further, many business ventures require no more than a couple thousand dollars particularly given low cost mobile Internet technologies that enable immediate access to millions of potential customers.
But financial resources is not the only advantage baby boomer entrepreneurs offer, in fact they bring a wide range of skills, years of trusted experience and social networking connections. The vast career opportunities available to mature entrepreneurs includes healthcare, financial advisor, employment counseling, educational writing and teaching, carpentry, alternative medicine therapy, security guard, retail sales, bakery goods or senior fitness coach.
According to U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, the self-employed aged 55 - 65 rose 33 percent in 2008, double the number of self-employed 25 - 35 year-olds. Research shows that about 22 percent of all new startup businesses are registered by people between 47 and 65 years of age. No matter what the age or circumstance - the sky is the limit, life's perceived boundaries lie only in the mind regardless of external fears of failure.
In times of doubt, remember the inspirational story of Nelson Mandela – born in 1918, he spent 27 years in jail as a political prisoner fighting for democracy and human rights in South Africa. Upon his release in 1990, he later rose to become an elder political world leader. Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, at the age of 75. He once said: "I really wanted to retire and rest and spend more time with my children, my grandchildren and of course with my wife. But the problems are such that for anybody with a conscience who can use whatever influence he may have to try to bring about progress and peace, it's difficult to say no. The greatest glory in living lies not in ever falling, but in rising every time we fall."
Today, despite all the perceived obstacles associated with aging, economic crisis, and social duress — we often find inspiration in our "quiet heroes." Those that labored silently for years to scratch out a living and give back something of community value, satisfied by only receiving simple but core rewards of life's true purpose. This is a radical shift in thinking for a group often dubbed the "me generation." We see an acceleration of the baby boomers transitioning into second careers not only to make millions of dollars but to leave a sustainable foundation to those that follow in their footsteps. Their small business goals extend far beyond selfish dreams to incorporate ideas such as peace, equality, inspiration, learning, and family financial security.
The most recent statistics report over 15 million Americans are out of work, with rising unemployment rates. Worldwide companies are aggressively cutting workers starting with those labeled as "aging health or benefit expenses." Increasingly, the baby boomers are learning that when one door closes another opens. Success is built with energy, wisdom, and relentless focus. Regardless of age or circumstance, today millions of retirees are creating second career opportunities that better define their heritage.
Farrah Gray is the author of "The Truth Shall Make You Rich: The New Road Map to Radical Prosperity."