Planning a retirement startup: three key assessments

retirement startup

The idea of planning the next stage of your working life when you retire may seem somewhat counterintuitive, but ­– whether for reasons of income, interest or inspiration – growing numbers of retired people all around the world are finding themselves doing just that. Many are simply looking to top up their retirement funds, while many others see an opportunity to dedicate real time and energy to a longstanding interest that they’d previously relegated to hobby status in order to focus on a previous career.

Thanks to the proliferation of digital platforms and easy worldwide connectivity these days, there are many dozens of options available for running your own independent operation from home. Whatever the reason or method for considering a startup business in retirement, there are several important factors to consider well in advance of launching anything publicly, and some universal tips apply with regards to planning such a venture appropriately.

Here we’ve outlined three core assessments that any retiree entrepreneur should undertake during the pre-planning stages of an independent business launch, each of which will prove helpful in navigating the path to a successful and enjoyable retirement startup.

  1. Assess your aims

It’s crucial to know exactly what it is you want to get out of running a small business startup before you actually start running it. In many cases, especially when the startup is intended to be your main career, the answer will simply be ‘to make a good living’ or ‘to be my own boss’. However, when looking to get a small, quite possibly part-time business up and running during retirement, there may well be a much broader range of other entirely reasonable motivations involved.

Is generating the bulk of your income from now on the main purpose of starting a retirement business for you? Or rather, is it to continue making use of skills you picked up in your previous career, to try your hand at something entirely new, or to give clearer focus to a lifelong hobby or interest? Perhaps it’s primarily intended to provide additional stimulus as opposed to income, or to generate opportunities to meet like-minded new people?

Any of the above (and more besides) would be a perfectly acceptable answer, but it pays to know exactly which ones apply most to you and your situation before you go in. The clearer you are about just what you hope to gain from the experience, the easier it will be to keep navigating with a real sense of direction and purpose as things progress. Naturally, it’s important to be very honest with yourself when formulating these sorts of initial goals. If you know, for example, that family commitments or other interests mean you’re only likely to spend a couple of days a week on the new venture, then it would be sensible to tailor your aims and objectives accordingly.

Be mindful of, and realistic about, any known limitations you’ll have to negotiate (particularly with regards to the space, time or money you’re able to dedicate to your new venture): if your new business will involve any degree of customer service, always remember that the customer doesn’t know, or necessarily care very much, about your specific situation. They’ll expect reasonable standards from you regardless, and it’s important that you’re able to deliver. Being clear and realistic about your motivations during the planning stages will stand you in far better stead when it comes to meeting both your own expectations and those of others.

  1. Assess yourself

Once you’ve got a clear picture in your head of what it is you’re looking to achieve from a retirement startup – and how well positioned you are to be able to deliver on those goals – the next step is to decide which methods of achieving them best suit your personality and your situation.

This involves some fairly frank self-analysis, typically arrived at by asking yourself a series of questions about what sorts of work you’re good at, and what aspects of running a business you’re likely to enjoy. The key starting point is to work out precisely what it is that interests you about your initial idea(s).

For example, during your career you may have built up considerable skill in a specialised field that still has solid moneymaking potential, but that you find largely uninspiring. Alternatively, you may be extremely passionate about a lifelong hobby or interest, but have no idea whether there’s a market in it for you. Neither of those scenarios necessarily closes that route off to you, but be aware that your ability to maintain a good degree of enthusiasm for the work is generally much more important when running your own startup than when clocking in for somebody else.

You also need to be honest with yourself about what sort of an employee – and indeed boss – you think you are/will be. What are your key strengths and weaknesses? What challenges, conflicts or compromises will you have to resolve in order to uphold a good standard of product or service as an independent operator? Narrow down your search by considering which aspects of previous jobs you’ve particularly enjoyed or disliked, and how those preferences impacted on the way you approached and completed unavoidable tasks. As your own boss, those tendencies will likely become more pronounced, which may have a big influence on how you manage your time and resources.

An open and honest appraisal of your own personality and preferences across these sorts of areas can help enormously when deciding not only what you’re going to do your new startup business, but also how you’re going to approach doing it.

  1. Assess your existing assets

When looking to launch any kind of startup – but particularly one that doesn’t involve a risky amount of investment up front, which most retirement businesses will sensibly look to avoid – it can really pay dividends to take a detailed inventory of what you already have before you start exploring any further costs. There may be a great deal of untapped potential lying around right under your nose, which could help take a huge amount of pressure off in the early days of getting a new venture off the ground.

Obviously, what counts as an asset will depend entirely on the sort of business you’re looking to run. You may, for instance, already have some very useable space in your home that could easily double as an office, studio or other workspace with very little additional investment. Alternatively, if the real estate you already have access to isn’t particularly suitable for your business purposes, perhaps it might be to somebody else’s? Spare rooms, garages, driveways and gardens can all be leveraged into handy sources of income for people looking to rent spaces for their own work, so you may find you’re able to offset any costs involved in launching your own startup by helping someone else to launch theirs.

On a related note, don’t forget to consider assets you’ve picked up through your previous working roles: as well as valuable experience and skills, you’re likely to have made some good contacts in various areas of expertise. While there may be no obvious way to leverage those directly into your own startup business immediately – especially if it’s a marked diversion from your previous career – it’s worth giving them a thorough review in this new context, as helpful footholds can often emerge in the most unexpected of places.

More tangible assets can, of course, prove equally valuable. If your chosen business model involves any trading in preowned goods and stock, for instance, then an extensive clear-out of your own attics and cupboards would be a very shrewd place to start. And even if that has little to do with your chosen model, you may find that such a clear-out could provide not only a useful float for absorbing any initial startup costs, but also free up more space than you realised you had to operate from. Businesses that involve selling from home, entertaining clients, tutoring, crafting or freelance work can all benefit hugely from any additional space you’re able to dedicate to them.