Boom in oldepreneurs

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Older woman: more likely to be self-employed

Since the onset of the recession, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of people over the age of 50 who class themselves as self-employed. As businesses laid off many of their most experienced and most expensive staff, a huge number have decided to take the opportunity to go it alone. They accounted for 70% of the growth in self-employment in the last five years.

But is this a matter for concern?

The figures were revealed by the Office For National Statistics, and published by the Daily Mail which said that almost half the over 50's in employment now are self-employed. According to Smarta, one in six new businesses are started by someone over the age of 50. They are more successful too - more than 70% of them are still going after five years - compared to 28% overall.

Is this a concern?

For many people, this has been a matter of necessity rather than choice. According to Prime, the Prince of Wales' organisation which supports older people who are starting their own business, over 3.5 million people in the UK are over 50 and out of work. After being let-go from a business during the downturn, they have found it particularly difficult to find an employer who is happy to take someone on who is over 50.

The ONS says that only 7% of 50-64 year-olds are in employment compared to 81% of 25-49 year-olds, and that 47% of unemployed people aged 50-64 have been unemployed for a year or more compared to 33% of unemployed 18-24 year-olds.

Self-employment is often less secure than full-time employment, there is no sick pay and no holiday pay, and if someone is unable to work, there's no-one to pick up the pieces. There's a risk that older people are more vulnerable because of their employment status.

Positive

However, on the other hand, there are some real positives to being your own boss later in life. There are plenty of people who have built a particular expertise during their working life, and this is their opportunity to exploit that in order to build something for themselves.

There have been a number of success stories of older people starting a business. Perhaps the most famous was McDonald's. which was set up by Raymond Kroc at the age of 52.

However, there are a huge array of flourishing businesses. Prime cites the success of Lynn Larman, a 60-year-old, from Birmingham, who set up her luggage identification company, face2case, with the help of The Prince's Initiative when she was 58. She told the charity: "Everything is really exciting at the moment. I've had some interesting requests from people – some even want to put photos of their pets on their suitcase!"

Jean Roberts, meanwhile, is a 58-year-old from Islington who started an environmental consultancy business after gaining a Masters Degree in Environmental Technology. She says: "I would definitely recommend becoming self-employed to other over 50s in a similar position. Although it's been a lot of hard work, the whole experience has been worthwhile and I'm really enjoying the flexibility of choosing my own hours, as well as the freedom that comes with being my own boss.

In addition to the opportunity to build a business for the future, self-employment can also be a useful way to continue to earn in retirement. The ONS found that over a third of all those who are still working after the age of 64 are working for themselves, and Saga says that a third of those currently aged over 50 expect to continue working in retirement. It offers the chance to build a business around their life and their interests - in the hours they choose to work.

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