Need to Work in Retirement? Think Small

Williams says his clients often start up businesses for well under $5,000 and incur monthly overhead expenses of less than $500. The most successful ventures he’s witnessed share three common traits: deep knowledge about a specific topic, the ability to consult or share knowledge about the topic, and the ability to sell their services online.

A good example: Nancy Kessler, a museum curator with a lifelong interest in oral history and folklore. Kessler’s micro-enterprise is Memoirs Plus, which specializes in writing memoirs for seniors. Palmer’s book includes a list of the 50 best side-gig opportunities, ranging from website design to marketing consulting, copywriting, and tutors.

Some older entrepreneurs are even tapping into new shared-economy platforms such as Airbnb and Uber. Nearly 25% of Uber’s drivers are over age 50, according to a study commissioned by the company recently. Farrell says he hears often from older entrepreneurs who have become de facto B&B operators via Airbnb. “I had thought it would be more of a young person’s game, but it makes sense–if you’re comfortable with it from a security standpoint and you have kids who are out of the house or you’re widowed, it’s a fairly easy way to make some money.”

The two major challenges for newbie micro-entrepreneurs, Farrell says, are selling yourself and getting paid. “If you’ve always worked in the corporate world, it’s getting used to presenting yourself as having a product or service that can solve your problem–and the other is asking for money, because they’ve never had to do it before.”

Rosenberg sees similar transitional problems. “I see a lot of people who are retired, or about to retire, who have good skills and think they’ll do consulting work but know nothing about how to run a business–or people who may have a business but don’t know how to grow it to the next level,” she says.

Rosenberg has published an e-book, Financial Security After 50: Residual Income Solutions, which explores other micro-enterprise niches, such as freelance writing, franchises, and affiliate marketing programs.

One downside to micro-enterprise is that it rarely provides a route to building up equity in a business that can be sold when it’s finally time to fully retire. Farrell cautions that that’s the wrong way to think about it. “What a micro-enterprise allows you to do is buy a lifestyle–it’s not about creating a business with a five-year exit strategy.”

Put another way: The exit is the exit.

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