A new and enthusiastic group of would-be-entrepreneurs is seeking to create businesses they hope will bring social benefits to their communities.
Civic Ventures says a recent study finds that one-in-four Americans approaching middle age or in their retirement years wants to create a business. Of those individuals between the ages of 44 and 70 surveyed, half said they want their business to have a social purpose.
“Encore Career Choices: Purpose, Passion and a Paycheck in a Tough Economy” is the second in a series of three Civic Ventures reports funded by the MetLife Foundation. The study was conducted by Penn Schoen Berland between June and October 2011.
The study’s findings show as many as nine million people in the 44- to 70-year-old age bracket are already engaged in so-called encore careers — an increase from about 8.4 million people in 2008. An additional 31 million Americans say they are interested in an encore career.
“The survey provides new evidence that what many people want from work changes after midlife,” said Marc Freedman, founder and chief executive officer, Civic Ventures, and author of The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife. “In the new, encore stage of life between midlife and true old age, many want work that has deeper personal meaning and that connects them to something larger than themselves.”
“Not all entrepreneurs are kids in college dorms, eating Ramen noodles, working through the night,” Randal Charlton, a 71-year-old serial entrepreneur told The Christian Science Monitor. “There’s a generation of baby boomers who want to start businesses too.”
The study found most of these entrepreneurs are seeking only modest capital to launch their businesses. Typically, the funding they stated they needed was around $50,000 or less.
“This is small-scale, local, almost personal entrepreneurship, not tech IPO or paradigm-shifting social entrepreneurship,” stated David Bank of Civic Ventures. “These businesses require little start-up capital, produce modest but respectable income, and serve real and demonstrated needs with proven business models. People really can create their own jobs.”
But roughly half of those surveyed are concerned about the economy, which they surmise may make it difficult to change careers.
“We can see this aging population as an economic problem or as the economic solution,” Charlton stated. “I think they can be part of the solution. We’ve just got to help them ‘shift gears,’ retrain them, and help them apply all their years of experience to something new.”
However, the study found that this age group does not unilaterally agree on what their transition into this next phase of life should be. The survey found that 64% view this period as a time in which they need to keep working, while 31% stated they want to use their skills and experiences to help others in paid or volunteer positions. Another 33% said at this age, they simply needed to be able to earn enough income to cover their living expenses and maintain health insurance.
The tens of millions who are interested in encore careers want some level of financial security and the opportunity to work for the greater good. As a society, we need to do more to help them achieve both goals. When we do, we will tap into a huge new source of talent to help solve our greatest social problems.
Intel recently announced it is providing all of its U.S.-based employees who are eligible for retirement the chance to apply for Encore Fellowships. These are paid, part-time, yearlong assignments in which the recipient will work with a local nonprofit. Too, Civic Ventures stands behind its findings by annually awarding a select group of these 60-plus-aged “encore entrepreneurs” grants which recipients can use to invest in business and social organizations.
Images provided by Civic Ventures, used with permission.