On Your Own

Why the Gig Economy May be a Boomer's Best Bet

OnYourOwnI've written frequently about how age discrimination tends to force Boomers out of their jobs and into early retirement. In March 2018, a rather stunning report by Pro Publica and Mother Jones uncovered alleged massive elimination of older workers at no less a stellar company than IBM. According to the Pro Publica investigation, "ProPublica estimates that in the past five years alone, IBM has eliminated more than 20,000 American employees ages 40 and over, about 60 percent of its estimated total U.S. job cuts during those years. 

"In making these cuts, IBM has flouted or outflanked U.S. laws and regulations intended to protect later-career workers from age discrimination, according to a ProPublica review of internal company documents, legal filings and public records, as well as information provided via interviews and questionnaires filled out by more than 1,000 former IBM employees."

Sadly, this is just one example of widespread actions taken against highly skilled Boomer workers who have decades of experience, want to continue to work, and in many cases, need to continue to work. Once let go, of course, age discrimination continues to plague them, since an unfairly fired Boomer often has great difficulty getting re-hired by another company.

This is one reason the gig economy is flourishing. Self-employment in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is highest among people 65 and older (24.1 percent), with second highest among people 55 to 64 years of age (14.7 percent). A forecast by Intuit predicts that 7.6 million Americans will be working in the "on-demand" economy by 2020, which is  more than double the number in 2015. The on-demand economy will continue to see healthy growth in subsequent years, with some 79 percent of workers saying they take on part-time gigs.

Some other facts about the gig economy are impressive enough to open the eyes of Boomers who need to seek non-traditional employment, as reported by The Balance:

  • 70 percent of self-employed workers chose that status of their own free will for either a primary or supplemental source of income (McKinsey Global Institute)
  • Over 50 percent of self-employed workers want to stay that way -- they intend never to return to traditional full-time employment (LinkedIn ProFinder)
  • 20 to 30 percent of workers in the U.S. and Europe are engaged in "some form of independent work" (McKinsey Global Institute)
  • Numerous industries are showing robust growth for self-employed workers, including healthcare, real estate, construction, finance, and software/IT services (LinkedIn).

Bottom line: If you are on the outs with full-time employment, maybe it's time to get into the gig economy.

 


That Hobby of Yours May Make You Some Money

OnYourOwnIf you're looking for a little extra income in retirement but you don't really want to work in a traditional job, the most obvious option is working a gig. The "gig economy" is thriving, with such opportunities as car driving services, home rentals, and freelance jobs. But there is another interesting possibility: Turning that hobby of yours into a money-maker. One recent study indicates that over one-quarter of American entrepreneurs launched startup businesses from a hobby.

If this sounds intriguing, be sure to read "A Beginner's Guide to Monetizing a Hobby" at MagnifyMoney.com. This comprehensive article covers many of the issues related to turning a hobby into a money-making venture, including:

  • Assessing goals
  • Testing your hobby as a business
  • Outsourcing
  • Finding clients
  • Marketing
  • Pricing
  • Common mistakes
  • Tax implications

The article also includes stories of hobbyists-turned-entrepreneurs.

The area in which I live is flush with artists and craftspeople. While the competition is stiff, I personally know two Boomers who retired from traditional jobs and pursued artistic money-making hobbies. One of them, a former business executive, had a passion for working with wood. He learned the craft and started to make small objects, such as pens and Christmas tree ornaments, as a hobby. He turned that into a part-time business. Another person, a former floral designer, had a talent for watercolor painting. She concentrated on painting birds and began to sell her work at craft fairs. People liked the bird paintings so much that she opened a small studio and has become locally recognized for her unique style. She is even being asked to do custom paintings.

Maybe becoming a money-making hobbyist is something you could consider to spark life's second half.    


Your Child as Your Business Partner

OnYourOwnFor some Boomers, the dream of owning a business is a family affair. I have first-hand knowledge of this: My wife and I started a small service business together after we left our professional careers. We wrote a book about it: Let's Make Money, Honey: The Couple's Guide to Starting a Service Business. While not all couples have the ability to work together, we found it to be a good fit for us and a great experience.

Here's a different spin on starting a family business: Taking the plunge with your adult child. A recent article in The New York Times explores this possibility and cites a few relevant examples of Boomers who made working with their children work. There are solid reasons such an arrangement can be successful. For one thing, Boomer parents seem to have better relationships with their adult children than previous generations. For another, adult children ages 18 to 34 are more likely to live in their parents' homes, making working together a natural next step.

There is a practical aspect to a parent-child business proposition, writes Christopher Farrell: "Age discrimination can be a major hurdle to employment for those 50 years and over. At the same time, young people can find it tough to land a job that’s engaging and offers a career path. For both age cohorts, starting a business can often be a better alternative." Another nice benefit: If the business is successful, the Boomer never has to worry about a succession plan; the adult child simply takes over when the Boomer is ready to retire.

A Boomer-adult child business relationship is just one more way Boomers are redefining our retirement years.

 


Is Consulting for You?

OnYourOwnI remember a time when a professional became a "consultant" for a brief period of time while looking for full-time work; sometimes, in fact, "consultant" was a code word on a resume for "on my own until something better comes along." Nowadays, however, consulting is not only a legitimate career path for the self-employed, it is also a viable second career for older professionals.

There are numerous potential benefits to becoming an independent consultant, not the least of which is the very word "independent." Benefits include the potential to earn high income, setting your own schedule, and re-purposing skills you already have and expertise you developed during your first career.

Still, consulting isn't a "slam dunk" for everyone. Writing for NextAvenue.org, Jonathan Dison, author of the book The Consulting Economy, has some sound advice for you before you consider plunging into the world of consulting. He talks about four lessons he wished he had learned before he became a consultant:

  1. Trust is everything
  2. Become indispensable
  3. Know the skills that are in demand
  4. Know your tax write-offs as a consultant

This article is a must-read if you're considering becoming a consultant. If you'd like a copy of Jonathan's book, you can purchase it directly from Amazon below.


Boomers Serving the Boomer Market

OnYourOwnThe notion of being your own boss has great appeal for a growing percentage of Boomers who want to continue to work but on their own terms. Self-employment offers you freedom, flexibility and, potentially, higher income than a traditional and sometimes menial job.

Of all the self-employment options available to Boomers, one of the more intriguing ideas may be to concentrate your efforts on a business that actually serves Boomers. Due to the aging of America, services for those 65 and older are booming. As a result, the "longevity economy" could spell opportunity for an enterprising Boomer, according to Kiplinger. Contributing editor Susan Garland writes, "The inclination of many older individuals to take advice and help from their peers offers aging boomers a big advantage in the growing senior-oriented market. Just think of a service or product that you or your aging parents could use, and it may be a niche that you can fill."

Garland cites as examples a number of Boomers who have entered the market with services targeting the senior set. CPA Barbara Green started a business helping older Americans deal with "their day-to-day financial affairs." Freelance writer Cristina Pastor works part-time as a dementia-care coach. Psychologist Eloise Stiglitz started her own retirement coaching business. Tavis Schriefer came up with a novel way to screen calls from telephone scammers that resulted in a new business designed to protect the elderly.

Imagine what your parents have needed as they age, or what you will need as you advance in age, and there is probably a service opportunity awaiting you. Potential service areas include healthcare, finance, personal shopping, cooking, home safety, specialized organizational services, downsizing consultation, and more. In many cases, older clients will feel much more at ease dealing with a business owner who is older himself or herself.

If you've ever considered striking out on your own, don't overlook an audience segment you already know a lot about -- Boomers like you!


Freelancing at Any Age

OnYourOwn"Older but wiser" is an old adage that Boomers could put to good use when it comes to establishing a freelance career. Often, your background and experience can be a plus in freelancing, unlike in the traditional job market, where younger employees are sometimes favored over older ones. Freelancing is essentially a form of self-employment in which you offer your services on an hourly or contracted job basis, directly to a client company, or via "resellers," who provide you with work on behalf of their clients. You may have heard this referred to as the "gig economy," (working on specific assignments rather than as a part-time or full-time employee) but that's just a contemporary term for freelancing.

There are several attractive aspects to freelancing. Freelancing offers you the ability to be your own boss, set your own rates (although they must be competitive), and enjoy a flexible work schedule. Contrary to popular belief, freelancing is not just for creative types; it used to be that a freelancer typically was a writer or graphic designer, but these days, companies are looking for freelance workers with a wide variety of skills. There are, for example, freelance software engineers, legal assistants, accountants, marketing project managers, and so on.

Carol Tice is an "older" freelancer who worked in banking and law for more than three decades and transitioned into a full-time freelance writer. She has some great advice for Boomers who may want to consider starting a freelance writing career in an article on her blog, "Make a Living Writing." When I read it, I was impressed by the fact that Carol's counsel could just as easily apply to any older freelancer, not just a freelance writer. The five steps she suggests are:

  1. Take stock of your skills
  2. Step up your marketing efforts
  3. Keep learning
  4. Manage your time
  5. Plan ahead.

You can read the entire article here: http://www.makealivingwriting.com/older-freelance-writing-career/


The Leisure Retiree

OnYourOwnOne of the ways we Boomers are redefining retirement is by combining work and leisure in the pursuit of happiness. While not every Boomer is in a position to pursue this creative concept, it is certainly worth considering if you can make it a reality.

A good example of the leisure retiree, writes Claudia Dreifus for The New York Times, is Dr. John Siebel, a retired oncologist. Siebel decided at age 64 that he wanted to continue to see patients, but only part-time, and he wanted to find a way to combine that with his love for adventure and the outdoors. Dreifus reports that "Dr. Siebel’s answer was to become a kind of oncological 'temp,' covering for vacationing doctors with practices in interesting places — including Alaska."

This is how it works, according to Dreifus: "For up to three months of every year — the limitation is Dr. Siebel’s choice — a medical employment agency books him for short stints in remote parts of Alaska, California or Idaho. He will only accept assignments near wilderness areas.

Weekdays, he sees patients. On weekends, he heads to the mountains and explores."

Dreifus shares other examples of leisure retirees in her excellent article.

The point, I think, is that an ideal rewirement (I use the term to replace mere "retirement") is one that leverages your career skills into a flexible part-time position so you can pursue leisure activities as well. In order to do this, certain conditions must exist, of course:

  • You need to have sufficient retirement savings/income so that you can work part-time rather than full-time.
  • Your skills must be in demand, at least to the extent that you can achieve the kind of attractive work/leisure balance as did Dr. Siebel.

I have taken a slightly different but similar approach. I was a direct marketing professional who had started a direct marketing agency, and I also authored a number of marketing and business books. When I left the profession, I struck out as a part-time marketing consultant/part-time business writer. Nowadays, I write more than I consult. I combine that with volunteering for non-profit organizations, as well as enjoying some leisure time. In my case, the three-way balance of part-time self-employment, volunteering, and leisure work just fine. Perhaps that would work for you, too. 


Is Coaching or Consulting for You?

OnYourOwnThink about how much intellectual capital is lost when an experienced employee leaves a company. That person has developed a knowledge base, the expertise, and the stature to work as a high-level professional.

If you have been fortunate enough to hold such a career position, chances are your value in the marketplace can apply to a potentially lucrative, flexible second career: coaching or consulting. Writing for Harvard Business Review, Dorie Clark, author of the book Reinventing You, offers some excellent advice in "How to Become a Coach or Consultant After You Retire."

Clark recommends giving yourself plenty of time to make the transition from your full-time job to becoming self-employed -- as much as a year or more. She recommends conducting a self-assessment skills analysis to determine where you need to improve.

Clark says it's a good idea to concentrate early efforts on recruiting clients, even if some are volunteer efforts: "To gain experience as a coach or consultant," writes Clark, "take on a few volunteer clients on the side, while you’re still employed, in exchange for testimonials and future referrals (assuming it’s a good experience)." She also recommends a sensible attitude toward marketing: "Recognize the goal of your marketing," Clark writes, "[is] establishing a baseline of credibility for when a potential client checks you out." And taking a break between your job and starting a consulting practice is not a bad idea, either.

Coaching or consulting is not for everyone, but it is certainly a viable option if you have both the depth of experience and the desire to run your own show.

 


Partners in Life and in Business

OnYourOwnIf you and your spouse have some basic business skills and you are leaving the traditional workplace, you might consider running a business together. Partners in life can be partners in business, although it does take a clear recognition of the differences.

My wife and I ran a small service business together after I left my professional career as an advertising executive. We used that business as a bridge from full-time work to part-time retirement. An unexpected bonus was that we were able to sell the business after seven years.

So what does it really take to start a business together? One of the most important things is setting boundaries. In our case, we tried to be as specific and detailed as possible in divvying up who did what, basing the decision on who was best suited to which area and tasks. We agreed early on that each of us would have responsibility for certain areas, but part of our mutual responsibility was keeping the other person informed about our respective areas. 

It may seem mundane, but you and your partner should sit down and put on paper every single function of your business and assign one of your names to each. Both of you should keep copies of the list so there is never a misunderstanding. It is also important to determine which decisions can be made individually and which should be made together. For example, any decision about financing your business should be a joint decision; which bills to pay when, however, probably doesn’t require dual decision-making.

Another area where boundaries come into play is personal versus business time. Being in business together often makes it difficult to separate your business lives from your personal lives. It is a real comfort to know that you can talk about business matters with your partner after business hours, but that can cut both ways. Hard though it is, try to turn the business switch off when you leave the office for the day (especially if the office is your home). You both need some breathing room away from the business – time for yourselves to talk about other things, to spend time together having fun, and to re-connect as a non-business couple.

Cover openWe were so invigorated by our experience being in business together that we wrote a book about it: Let's Make Money, Honey: The Couple's Guide to Starting a Service Business.

As a reader of Happily Rewired, you can get a copy of the print edition of this book for just $10.95 -- $6.00 off the regular price of $16.95, a 35 percent savings!

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If you have ever considered going into business with your spouse or significant other, this book is a must-read. It has received rave reviews from reviewers and readers alike. 

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Looking for a Second Career? Start with Questions

OnYourOwnPursuing a second career can be equal parts rewarding and scary. It may make sense to work in a field you're most familiar with, but it also might be that your goal is to do something completely different with your life during your "second act."

As with any research project (and that's what finding a second career really is), you won't have all the information you need to make a well-considered decision without asking the right questions. My retirement colleague Nancy Collamer, who I've quoted numerous times in the past, can help with that. Her article for U.S. News, "10 Questions to Help You Discover a Fulfilling Second-Act Career," is the perfect starting point.

Nancy says that the transition to a second-act career will be easier "when you build on at least a small piece of what you currently do." That was my experience: After I sold the direct marketing agency I started, I briefly worked for an ad agency in a senior marketing position. When I decided to retire from the agency, I leveraged my writing skill to become a freelance marketing writer and book reviewer. It was a relatively easy transition for me since I always loved to write. I also used my skills from starting and running a business to help my wife launch her own small business. (You can read the story of that business in our book, Let's Make Money, Honey: The Couple's Guide to Starting a Service Business.)

These are a few of the ten questions Nancy suggests asking yourself before striking out on your own.

1. What opportunities, services or products are currently being overlooked in your industry? 

2. Which of your skills could you market on a freelance and flexible basis? 

3. Do you have technology-related expertise that could help someone become more efficient or profitable? 

4. What tools can you create to make it easier for people to do their job, accomplish their goals or enjoy their hobbies? 

See the other six questions, along with some additional helpful advice, in the complete article, which you can read here:
http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/on-retirement/articles/2017-03-17/10-questions-to-help-you-discover-a-fulfilling-second-act-career