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Got Retirement Plans?

4 small business ideas for an empty-nester’s encore career (and 3 reasons why being older works to your advantage)

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It’s that moment so many mothers guiltily yearn for: Your kids are leaving the nest. You’re finally free from carpools and lunch-making and homework and bake sales. The world is your oyster and now you can recalibrate your life to focus on your retirement plans!

So now what? What will you do? How will you fill the void? How will you spend your days? The truth is, retirement can be pretty dull and lonely if you don’t have a reason to get out of bed every morning. You may think it sounds great to sleep in, have lunch with your girlfriends, volunteer at an animal shelter, and host game nights — but after a short time, that gets old. You’ll yearn for a purpose and probably some extra income. After all, how will you fund all the travel and hobbies you’ve been waiting decades to enjoy?

Understandably, the thought of taking a 9-5 job (if that even exists today) sounds terribly stifling and lacks the flexibility you’ve most certainly earned at this point in your life. When you dreamt about your retirement plans someday, that’s definitely not what you had in mind. So how can you fill your days with something meaningful that brings you joy? And how can you get closer to achieving financial independence in your golden years?

The trend is called an “encore career” and it’s steadily gaining traction. In fact, according to the Kaufman Foundation, more businesses are started by people ages 55 to 64 than by those under 25. That’s right, start-ups aren’t just for millennials — now is the perfect time for baby boomers to scratch their entrepreneurial itch. Let’s explore four options you might want to consider:

  1. Turn your passion into a business

    Do you make the most beautiful flower arrangements from your own garden? Are you constantly being complimented on your jewelry—you know, the pieces you artistically cobbled together out of recycled parts? Have you attracted a following blogging about your travels? Do people always want to leave their pets with you when they travel, because you just have a way with canines? Do friends rave about your blueberry muffins and beg you to bring them to every gathering?

    Take note of the things you do especially well (or, if you’re too humble, the things others admire about you)—these are your hidden money-making opportunities.


    These are things you obviously already enjoy (because you’ve been doing them for free) and excel at. How can you morph these passions into a profitable business? You could open a small florist shop in your neighborhood or offer virtual flower arranging classes, build an Etsy account to sell your one-of-a-kind jewelry or place it in neighborhood consignment boutiques, pitch articles to travel magazines or find sponsors and advertisers for your blog, start a home-based pet-sitting business, or start selling your muffins to local cafes or farmer’s markets.

    Sometimes, the best retirement plans are those that allow you to work for yourself, work at your own pace, have a low start-up cost, and give you the flexibility you desire. Following your passion could be the perfect retirement plan.

  2. Transfer a skillset to entrepreneurship

    Perhaps you’ve acquired a skill while staying at home raising kids or working that could easily translate into a new business venture. Maybe you’ve always had a knack for numbers and have been doing bookkeeping for a friend’s business each month, or you homeschooled your children and want to keep teaching. Now’s the time to morph these things you have a demonstrated aptitude for into your own business venture.

    Look into becoming a virtual assistant who offers bookkeeping services, or begin tutoring specific subjects or helping students prep for their SATs. Sure, you might need to take a few courses or read a few books to brush up on your skills or obtain a certification if required by your chosen field, but that’s a small investment into the next phase of your life.

  3. Invent a product to solve problems for parents

    Nobody knows better than you the trials and tribulations of parenting—and after all these years of hands-on experience, you’ve always wondered why nobody has ever invented X to solve Y.

    Well, maybe it’s because you’re the only one who has come up with that idea! Or you’re the only one who’s going to figure out how to actually create it, market it and profit from it. So put on your inventor’s hat, and start by looking for the low-hanging fruit.

    How else do you think things like sippy cups, teddy bear nanny cams, and tinkle targets were conceived? Okay, I’m not sure who invented these things, but for illustration purposes, I’m going to assume it was a frustrated mother who channeled her energy into fixing a problem she was experiencing at home. If you have a great idea and need some capital to get started, don’t be shy about trying Kickstarter.

  4. Become a landlord in your own home

    Perhaps you never thought about using real estate investing to create cash flow that will help fund your retirement. You can always start the process on a very small scale by renting out a spare room in your home. Look into listing an extra bedroom on Airbnb— it’s a great way to enjoy additional income (and maybe some much-needed company) without having the other responsibilities associated with owning rental property.

    Feel free to think outside the box here too — for instance, if you have an unused parking space and live in a big city, plenty of people would be thrilled to rent that space from you. Find creative ways to use the assets you already have to turn a profit.

It’s definitely not too late to start your business

Now, I meet a lot of women who want to start their own business but feel that it’s just “too late.” For women, this is especially tough because many have spent most of their lives juggling many responsibilities that involve taking care of others as a wife, mother, and employee. So, when they get to a point in life when they can start to dream for themselves, they can be intimidated by not just gender bias, but also age bias.

And I actually get why they might feel that way. When Robert and I started the Rich Dad Company, we were in our middle ages. After the failure of Robert’s first business selling Velcro wallets, we had to climb out of over a million dollars in debt. We spent much of our early years learning about money and improving our personal finance skills. We invested in ourselves and our future, and then we launched another business. We weren’t the youngest or the boldest, but we were much wiser.

For both Robert and I, there were some distinct advantages to starting a business when we were a little older.

  1. We learned to learn from failure

    Fear of failure is one of the things that hold many people back from starting their own business. As you get older, you realize that you cannot avoid failure — in fact, it’s OK to make mistakes! Instead, if you want to be successful, you learn to live with failure, to understand the lessons it teaches you, and to be that much better the next time. For most people, this is something that can be only learned with age. Most successful entrepreneurs and business owners will tell you that failure and the lessons they’ve learned from it has been a major factor in preparing for their present success.

  2. We were more focused

    When you’re younger the world is so wide open that it can sometimes be hard to know exactly what you want and to focus on going after it. This is not a bad thing, as many younger people have extreme amounts of energy and passion for multiple things and projects until they find something that sticks. But there is a distinct advantage to coming into your own, to knowing what you want and what you have to do to get it.

    For Robert and I, this was the realization that we wanted to teach people about money. We had done a number of different ventures prior to that, but once we really discovered our passion, that is when we became most successful. We were more focused, and that focus equaled greater entrepreneurial accomplishment.

  3. We were more comfortable with others and ourselves

    Being a successful business owner takes great skill in selling, speaking, and leading others. These are skills that can only be developed over time, even if you have some amazing natural talent. Going back to learning from failures, one of the biggest things you learn is how to better sell, better speak, and better lead — because you’ll make a lot of mistakes in those areas along the way!

    Of course, this is not to say that young people can’t start and run great companies. Many do, and I hope more do! But the reality is that people in their middle ages (and beyond) do bring a unique perspective to the entrepreneurial table, and they can be just as successful as their younger counterparts. All you have to do is start.

    Every one of us is a unique and gifted woman, which means our retirement plans will vary. But the best part of entering this second phase of life is that this is your journey, your dream, your process and your time. It’s never too late to start your next chapter. It’s never too late to be who you want to be and do what you want to do. So make it all about you and the money will follow!

Original publish date: August 03, 2017

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