A new AARP/Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey of 50-plus employed workers shows that one in 20 plans to start his or her own business. Nearly one in five unemployed workers would like to do the same.
For the most part, we’re not talking Silicon Valley start-ups here, but one-person shops that might employ a handful of helpers.
Older entrepreneurs can have a lot of things working in their favor — a strong work ethic, management experience and well-established networks of potential customers. But be forewarned. Running a business usually takes more than a simple passion for what you’re doing. You may need to go back to school and get certifications. You’ll definitely need a list of pros to help you, from a lawyer to a tax accountant. And, it’s always good to try out the job first as an apprentice or moonlight to be sure it’s right for you.
With so many people taking the plunge, AARP and the Small Business Administration recently formed a collaboration to promote entrepreneurship as a career option for older Americans. The aim is to link 100,000 Americans over age 50 with small-business development resources, including conferences and mentoring programs.
The nitty-gritty: Got the knack for fixing things? If you know woodworking and carpentry, painting, stonemasonry, tile or marble work, there’s a homeowner near you looking for your help. Landlords, too, often need skilled craftsmen on a part-time basis.
Average pay range: $10.29 to $40.06 an hour and up to $50 for certain custom work, according to payscale.com. Annually, wages can run anywhere from $21,000 to $85,000.
Qualifications: You must be skilled in a range of home improvement tasks, have your own tools, good customer-service manners and initiative. Some states may require you to have a contractor’s, electrician’s or plumber’s certificate, depending on the project. Clients might require you to be licensed, bonded and insured.
2. Real estate appraiser
The nitty-gritty: When real estate tanked a few years back, lots of people who worked in the industry moved on to other jobs. Now that the housing market is gaining some traction, there are opportunities to provide appraisal services, for refinancing or purchases. Inc.com picked this as one of the best industries for starting a business.
The work is typically a combination of out of the office eyeballing of property and computer-based research for comparable properties.
Median pay: $23.32 per hour; $48,500 per year
Qualifications: You must be licensed or certified, but requirements vary by state. Check with your state’s licensing board for specific requirements. For more information on licensing, visit the American Society of Appraisers and the Appraisal Institute, the nation’s largest professional association of real estate appraisers.
3. Physical Therapist
The nitty-gritty: If you’ve worked in health care, this might be a nice segue for you. Employment of physical therapists is expected to increase 39 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Active boomers are helping spur the demand.
You may set up your business in your own space, but it’s more likely you’ll take your practice on the road to homes, fitness centers, outpatient clinics and assisted-living residences. The work can be physically demanding, but if you’re in good shape and have the expertise, you shouldn’t have trouble finding clients who want you to work your magic.
Median pay: $36.69 per hour; $76,310 per year
Qualifications: All states require physical therapists to be licensed. Requirements vary, but include passing the state-administered National Physical Therapy Examination. Educational requirements vary from a masters degree to a clinical doctorate. You can even start as a physical therapist assistant or aide, and receive on-the-job training while completing your education.
4. Senior Helper
The nitty-gritty: Name it and you might be asked to do it: take seniors to doctor appointments, pay bills, make meals, shop for groceries and run all kinds of errands. You are the one-stop shop that seniors can tap. You might be hired by an adult child who lives out of the area to be eyes and ears to keep track of how the parents are doing.
People with Alzheimer’s will need special attention, so some nursing or caregiving skills are useful. Emergency medical technician training might come in handy. All in all, the key is building trust and being patient, flexible and reliable.
Average pay: According to Indeed.com, a personal assistant service like this might bring in $38,000 annually. You can probably charge hourly fees that range from $9.57 to $24.96, according to payscale.com.
Qualifications: There are no formal training courses or certifications for this business. But you might need to be physically fit to handle some requests you’ll get. You may be asked to be bonded for the client’s protection if you will be providing services in someone’s home. Many clients will request a background check and references. If you’ll be behind the wheel, you’ll need a driver’s license in good standing.
5. Financial Planner
The nitty-gritty: It’s not unusual for seniors to struggle with managing investments and paying expenses. There’s a pent-up demand for experts who can help them mind their money sensibly. A good planner can devise an overall financial plan to allocate assets and achieve the right blend to meet the client’s goals.
There are simpler jobs in this field too: Consider starting a budgeting service that simply helps folks track their monthly inflow and outflow and make sure payments are made on time.
Pay range: $10 to $50 an hour for daily and monthly bill and budget aides. Advanced management services can earn you $120 to $300 per hour, or a percentage of assets under management, generally 1 percent to 3 percent per year.
Qualifications: To earn the big bucks, you’ll need advanced certifications. To learn more about training, visit the Washington, D.C.-based Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.
A cautionary note
Only about half of the more than 600,000 small firms that were started in the United States last year are likely to last beyond five years, according to the Small Business Administration.
For that reason, you need to be very careful about putting any portion of your retirement savings into a new business. There’s just too much risk that down the road you’ll be left without either a company or the money needed to live on.
Kerry Hannon is the author of What’s Next? Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job.