Two weeks ago in this space we started talking about starting over. I said that I have been at this for 10 year now and as my way of saying thank you, I wanted to Pay It Forward.
I spoke previously about having to start over. I talked about fear freezing you in your tracks when you try to start over. I also talked about the bridge on fire and the motivation to get off it. That fear is there whether you are 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 or 80.
The one thing I didn’t talk about is being old.
I don’t feel old. I am starting to admit I might look it. My wife is very kind to deny it, but I think she just needs her contacts changed. Some clients think I am old and think that is a good thing. Some clients think “why aren’t you retiring?” They don’t seem to get that I am where I want to be. (Plus there is the small matter of some unpaid college loans.) What all of it has made me realize is that age is just a number, not a prison sentence. I truly am doing what I want to be doing regardless of that number.
Older newbie entrepreneurs like me are proving it true over recent years by starting businesses and not only not only doing what they want to do, but also thriving. My fear factor shows the biggest obstacle standing in the way of an older entrepreneur starting a business is typically self inflicted. But time, and a burning bridge, changes everything.
Age is more than a number
A recent study found that entrepreneurs between 50 and 59 years old started 20 percent of all new businesses in 2013. The group of 60 years old and over was also responsible for another 15 percent, the study said.
And those numbers may be only going up. In an older study, outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas found that 5.5 percent of jobless managers and executives launched their own businesses in 2013 – a number that shot up 31 percent when compared to 2012 and was the highest in five years.
Reasons to start over
Recently, the New York Times reported on some of the reasons as to why older entrepreneurs were making such a dent in the business market over recent years and outlined somewhat of a perfect storm to allow for such a move. They said it all started with a tough job market centering on the glorified young worker, making it a bit tougher for workers over 50 to get hired. (Does anyone smell the smoke from the bridge here?)
The Times thought it was a newfound desire to be your own boss coupled with the personal and social satisfaction of doing new what you can believe in were what drove older entrepreneurs to start up their new ventures. I thought it was the realization there were no other options.
It won’t be easy
Every entrepreneur, regardless of age, looking to a start new business venture has a unique set of obstacles to overcome.
You have to be willing to do everything. You have to know when it is better to hire an expert than do it yourself. You have to know how to not look hungry. You need cash in the bank. Most small new businesses make their way on the backs of personal savings. It is worse if you are “experienced” like me because of banks’ reluctance to give older business owners a boost.
Banking regulations have changed. A doctor client told me the tale of walking into a bank with his diploma and receiving a $50,000 loan based on the diploma. The banker who gave him the loan verified the story. Unfortunately, the days of the “good guy” loans are gone. Now they are all looking for “security”.
But of course, there are some ways around that, like starting your own microbusiness, or even freelancing out of your home or strictly online and take on only a fraction of those kinds of operating costs.
If you step on the bridge, don’t stop
Don’t forget my diving board example. If you are going out, go. Don’t look back. There are plenty of skill sets you can offer if you spent decades working in one career and decide you want to shift gears and start your own business. And despite what some may believe, older age can be an advantage.
Having gray or no hair seems to provide a sense of comfort in certain businesses. Having a sense of “by any means necessary” mentality doesn’t hurt, either. Older entrepreneurs have that kind of approach to making their mark on the startup scene, tapping into retirement accounts or seeking out difficult development loans. Anne Arundel County Economic Development Commission numbers showed they tend to come out on top.
A Last Word
There is nothing magical here — just the message you can do it if you want it bad enough. Sometimes you have to remind yourself to just be too stubborn to fail.
We’ll wade back into the estate planning pool in this space next week. Clients come and go in that area and it’s time to talk about what all the documents are about.
Until then, good luck and good hunting.
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The Fisher Law Office is known for its experience in estate planning, probate administration, asset protection, and business development. Annapolis attorney Randall D. Fisher has practiced for over 20 years, maintains the highest peer review rating for ethics (AV Preeminent) by Martindale-Hubbell, and is a sucker for long walks on the fairways.