Five myths about starting a business in later life

By Jake Martin

2 min read

Oldpreneur Starting a business in later life is not unusual these days, but there are still quite a few myths floating around about it – we try and bust a few of them here.

1. Entrepreneurship is for the young

Clearly this is rubbish but entrepreneurs are often portrayed in the media as young go-getters. There’s an army of innovative older people out there striking out and starting their own business when they’re well past 50.

For many, their age is an advantage because they have the life skills, expertise and, often, the financial stability to really make a go of it.

2. Older people are risk averse

Obviously, there’s a degree of risk in starting your own business and it’s not for the faint-hearted. However, Ian Stobie from Prime, a charity that helps people over the age of 50 get back into work through self-employment, says there’s a misconception in some quarters that older people might not have the sense of adventure required to make a business work.

He said: “This isn’t true, as can be seen from the astonishing variety of different kinds of businesses that older people start.

“Where older people may differ from younger ones is in their attitude to debt. There is some evidence that they are less likely to borrow. This may be because they have more experience and have learned about the problems of getting into debt the hard way.”

3. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks

The business world is fast-moving and technology is evolving all the time, with social media and an online presence being more important that ever. However, it’s a fallacy that older people are baffled by all this new-fangled gadgetry.

A survey by Prime conducted earlier this year found that 69% of the over-50s surveyed used Facebook regularly, whilst 50% used LinkedIn and 28% were on Twitter. Almost half of the respondents said that they use Skype.

4. Older people want to start hobby businesses

Some people seem to think older people start businesses just to make a bit of token cash from a hobby, but they couldn’t be more wrong. The reasons to start a business in later life are as many and varied as those to start a business at any stage. Some people want the flexibility of working for themselves or finally have the money and the time to pursue a long-held dream or idea.

Of course, like anyone else, many older people simply start a business to make money, especially in the current climate of increased redundancies and competition for work, which can particularly affect the over-50s. In a survey carried out last year by Prime, 68% of the 3,500 clients surveyed said that their primary reason for going into business was to provide their main source of income.

5. All older people are alike

This one might surprise you, but Ian Stobie said: “This is very noticeably a myth in the context of starting a business.”

However, he commented: “Since older people have spent 30 or 40 years of adult life doing something, this tends to affect what they are like. If you have been a tycoon, a cleaner, in prison or bringing up a family for most of these years, your experiences have been very different. This inevitably affects the skills, attitudes and knowledge that people have and the sorts of businesses they start.”

We recently interviewed Bob White, who started his own business successfully at the age of 57. Find out more about him and his business.

Have you started a business when you were 50 or over? Have you noticed any misconceptions?

Image: Ambro

Information may be abridged and therefore incomplete. This document/information does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for, legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation.

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