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Bambi Price is busy. Since starting The SeniorPreneurs Foundation with her husband Frederick in 2014, people from all over Australia have been calling. Some have a dream or a business idea, others are floundering with no idea at all, but they’re all in their 50s, 60s and beyond and looking for clever ways to supplement their retirement income.
Bambi, 63, is a strong believer in nurturing the talent and experience of senior citizens. She is also CEO of TellUs2Day – a company dedicated to providing technology services to people over 55 – and founder of WarOnWastedTalent.com.au, a movement that helps people maintain employment as they age.
“Instead of retiring and collecting a pension like their parents did, many older Australians are learning about new technologies and entering the world of entrepreneurship,” she says. “Baby boomers are taking control of their own destinies by starting new businesses at an age where others might be looking to retire.
“The over 50s is now the fastest growing entrepreneurial group in Australia and 34% of young Australian firms are led by senior entrepreneurs. Older people are bringing a wealth of knowledge to small businesses. Experience and the right mindset are so important.”
Bambi saw the need for an entrepreneur support group when she was invited to speak at the Australian Computer Society about being over 50 and starting a new business. “I was unsure why anyone would be interested,” she says.
“Then I realised there was this assumption that people over 50 couldn’t or wouldn’t start a business. The speaker before me reinforced the message saying Australia was an ageist society and that older people have time against them. Of course, we now know that this assumption begins to impact people in their mid 40s.”
With more than 1000 members, the Melbourne-based SeniorPreneurs Foundation has helped mature-age people either start new businesses or use technology to enhance, develop and grow an existing one.
Sue Ramsay and Lisa Walker, both 55, are friends from Swinburne University and have spent most of their careers in the fashion industry, either teaching or in retail. When running a store in Melbourne with huge overheads, commercial leases and insurances was no longer financially viable, they needed to adapt to online marketing.
“We had a Facebook page and a website, but we didn’t understand things like search engine optimisation and Google algorithms,” says Sue. “We went to the monthly SeniorPreneurs meetings and found they were incredibly helpful and supportive.”
Beating the income squeeze
According to the 2019 Australian Senior’s 100 Year Lifespan Report, the vast majority of Australians (82%) feel it is important to be able to fund their own retirement. More than half (56%) say they want more control over this last life chapter and 52% want to be able to support a higher standard of living.
More than three quarters of the 5,000 over 50s surveyed (76%) believe society is underprepared for a life expectancy of 100. With interest rates at historic lows, superannuation accounts getting hammered by market volatility and the Age Pension falling short of the cost of living, many retirees are finding themselves in an income squeeze.
Trish and David are both in their late 60s. Trish works part time in a gift shop in Sydney and David runs a publishing business from home. They say funding their own retirement is vital to their quality of life.
“If we stopped working now and relied on our super, we wouldn’t be able to afford the lifestyle we want,” says David. “At 67, I don’t feel the need to slow down. I have been upskilling as I go along and have a good handle on social media. Life is all about learning no matter what your age.”
Maria, 68, makes ends meet by turning her Ballina home into a guesthouse. “My children have both left home now but instead of downsizing, I decided to rent out my spare rooms on Airbnb,” says Maria. “It’s extra money for me and also gives me the opportunity to meet new people.”
Airbnb claims their fastest-growing host demographic in Australia is people over 60 who are flocking to list their properties on the site. In 2017, Australian Airbnb hosts aged 60 and older received 802,000 guests and earned $158 million.
“I have the Airbnb app on my phone and it’s all very well organised,” says Maria. “The money is deposited automatically into my account. Airbnb takes a small booking fee, between 3% and 5%, and of course there’s the cost of a cleaner. I also have to provide breakfast and some toiletries, but it’s a good way to stay on top of the bills in these challenging times.”
If you’re on the Age Pension and working on a casual or part-time basis, you can also take advantage of the work bonus incentive. You could earn up to $300 per fortnight (or the amount accumulated within your Work Bonus balance) and Centrelink will not count this income towards the Age Pension income test.
Another way to supplement your income is through consulting. If you’re an expert in any field, there could be people willing to pay for your counsel. Starting a blog or setting up an online course on anything from creative writing to cooking classes is easier than you might think and can attract marketing opportunities.
“Not everyone is suited to running their own business,” says Bambi. “But after years of experience and practical knowledge, our value to others is often far greater than we realise.”
Tips for starting a small business
So if you’re looking to start a small business to keep you busy in retirement, here’s Bambi Price’s step-by-step guide to help get you get started.
- Ask yourself, what is the world missing? What could be improved? If you can find a gap in the market that no one is taking advantage of you could be on to an original idea.
- Explore creative and innovative opportunities.
- Use family and friends as idea generators.
- Build a prototype, show it to 100 people and listen to their feedback.
- Upskill, ensure you learn the business and technical skills to engage in start-up activities.
- Participate in entrepreneurship education and training.
- Network with like-minded people.
- Employ or take on a mentor.
- Protect yourself. Many legal issues businesses discover could have been avoided if the right advice was sought in the beginning.