Fairygodboss recently published an article on how much money millennials will need to save for retirement, which rightly pointed out that there are some very handy tools online for determining exactly how much you’re likely to need. That advice also got me thinking: what other steps might retirees be able to take in supporting themselves once they’ve said goodbye to the morning commute?
A great many people who reach retirement age aren’t nearly ready to completely put down the tools. Given that retirement affords us so much more time and freedom to work on our own projects at our own pace, it’s hardly surprising that millions of people see it as the ideal opportunity to get busy on something new.
As with most other chapters in life, though, retirement — particularly an active and productive one — is always best approached with a plan. Below I’ve outlined a few key steps to bear in mind when sketching out ways to earn a safe secondary income.
1. Have a clear goal.
After years of dedicated salary-earning, stepping into retirement can feel like arriving on a vast open prairie with no signposts or obvious landmarks. Liberating, absolutely — but also a little daunting for those of us who like direction. If you’re planning on starting up your own business venture as a retiree, it can be a very good idea to first sit down and think about precisely what you’d like to achieve with it.
Note that this step should come before you even settle on exactly what it is you want to do — if you’re picking out a venture and then thinking about what you want out of it, you’re putting the cart before the horse.
Perhaps your chief goal for starting a retirement business is purely financial, and a means to stretch out those savings a bit further? Or maybe you’ve always fancied trying your hand at a particular craft, trade or enterprise, but never had the chance before? Other common goals might include learning a new skill, keeping an existing one sharp, meeting new people or simply rising to a fresh challenge. The point is, they’re all good reasons to launch a retirement enterprise. Come to think of it, there are very few bad ones — but it absolutely pays dividends to know which ones best apply to you.
Being able to keep a clear sense of your main goals in mind right from the beginning will help give you a much stronger sense of purpose, making it easier to stay focused and motivated as you move forward into the more active phases of your plan. It can also offer a greater sense of satisfaction and achievement once you start ticking those boxes — or, in if things don’t quite go to plan (and sometimes they won’t), it can help you sense much more instinctively when something’s just not working out the way you’d imagined.
2. Be honest with yourself.
Once you’ve outlined some basic aims for your project or business, the next step is to understand exactly what it is you’re bringing to the table.
Again, this needs to happen prior to settling on any one particular venture. Before any specific roles are assigned, you need to have a frank discussion with your new boss — that’s you now, remember? — about your main skills, weaknesses and habits.
This can be tricky, but honesty is key. Running a successful retirement startup is all about setting round pegs in round holes. Remember that you’re effectively going to be your own supervisor, publicist, strategist, HR manager, PA, canteen cook, janitor… and there’s little point in taking on all of those roles in pursuit of something that doesn’t really suit your interests, talents or working habits, right? Let’s face it, it’s just not going to pan out.
An effective way to approach this step can be to imagine you’re interviewing yourself for an as-yet-unspecified position. Ask the sorts of questions any potential new employer would ask: why do you want to work here? What would you say are your best qualities and your biggest weaknesses as a staff member? What specific scenarios have you dealt with successfully in previous jobs? What aspects of a role have you tended to find particularly challenging?
The beauty of doing this ‘interview’ as a precursor to planning a retirement venture is that – possibly for the first time in your life — you can be completely open and frank when answering to the above questions.
Nobody knows you better, and nobody else is judging, so avoid the temptation to sugarcoat things (which we all do sometimes, even to ourselves). Any half-truths you tell yourself at this stage will more than likely bite you in the butt once you start working for yourself.
If you know you haven’t got the patience of a saint when dealing with annoying customers, own it. If you feel you’re great at written communication but get tongue-tied on the phone, make a note of that too. If you know you’re only going to want to work irregular hours to fit around your yoga, bar crawls, family visits and skydiving lessons, don’t pretend you’re up for a full-time gig.
3. Take stock.
Okay, we’re almost there — it won’t be long before you can start fleshing out the details of precisely what your retiree start-up enterprise is going to be. But first, have a good look around you: you might find some helpful pointers sitting right under your nose, particularly if boosting your income was always the main goal here.
It’s always a smart idea to keep initial costs down to a bare minimum when starting out in a new retirement business, and one way many retirees do this is by using some of their existing, unwanted assets to finance those first forays into small-scale, self-starter operations.
This can be as simple as selling household goods on auction sites — which can sometimes morph into a business venture of its own — or perhaps making better use of vacant space in your home or garden. (Many people out there make money from their unused driveway parking spots, for example, and there are always people looking to rent small office spaces — even in outhouses and basements — to work on novels, art projects or small start-ups of their own.)
If you don’t fancy selling on cherished souvenirs or giving up a chunk of your private space, maybe you could utilize skills you picked up over the course of your career for just a little longer on a freelance basis? Think about any useful contacts you’ve picked up over the course of your previous employment, and whether they might be in a position to help with whatever it is you’re looking to do next.
Picking up a previous line of work may be the last thing you want to do long-term in retirement, but while the skills are still razor sharp and the demand is still out there, consulting or tutoring can be an excellent way to bring in extra start-up funds off the back of a job you only recently left. And don’t forget that you can always tutor remotely via Skype or even email, which is really useful in terms of being able to set your own hours and schedules.
The point here is looking for ways to foot the startup costs so that even if your business venture doesn’t work out the first time, it won’t end up making you a net loss.
Do all of the above, and you’ll be well positioned to start figuring out the specifics of your retirement income plan. Once you get to this stage, you’ll find there are countless options available to you, regardless of what your ultimate aims might be: today’s prevailing culture of worldwide online connectivity means there’s literally an entire planet of potential retiree startup ideas and freelance opportunities right at your fingertips. Go get ‘em!
Emily Birling is a writer and a marketer at Tubz Brands, based in southern England. Emily is interested in helping people find career opportunities that suit their lifestyle, at whatever stage of life they are.
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