Q: I’m nearly 60. I’ve dreamed of starting my own business ever since I was 5. I’ve recently gotten divorced and no longer have the safety net of a spouse’s income. Worse, my ex-husband cheated me in the divorce because I was too broken up to stand up to him and so I lack money saved up for retirement.
I have always been frugal, however, and will be Medicare-covered within the year. I’ve talked with my friends about my dream of going into business for myself. They all say “don’t,” that it’s too big a risk, and tell me I can ride out the next five to six years and just retire. What they don’t understand is how unhappy I am on the inside without anything to look forward to and that I won’t financially be able to retire.
They also don’t realize how little meaning my current work has for me, because I hide it well or what the next five to six years at work might be like. My supervisor plans to retire within the year and I dread knowing that she might be replaced by someone I don’t get along with, as has happened to a number of my former peers. They’re either miserable or have quit, only to find it’s hard to land a comparably paying job.
I want something happy in my life, and for me, that would be starting my own business and I have an idea of a business I could continue to run long after age 65. What are your thoughts?
A: Go for it, but create a solid game plan first.
Planning makes all the difference between success and failure when you leap off the cliff from a day job into your own business. Creating a plan may also give you the sense you need right now of doing something for yourself that you’ve always wanted to do.
Begin by running the numbers. What do you have put aside as a financial safety net? How much will it cost you to live for the year or two it may take for your business to become financially viable? While there will be expenses you can cut because you can do without items, you may also run into unexpected expenses, such as a leaky roof or a medical crisis.
Even if you don’t anticipate seeking a bank loan, create a business plan. This means assess your target market and how you plan to sell to them, what you plan to charge, the competitors you’ll be up against and what you anticipate your financial forecast will be for the next one to two years.
Running the numbers may lead you to realize you need to continue your day job and work on your business in the evenings and weekends for six months to a year. If this is true, review your employment agreement. If it includes an agreement to advise your management before you actively moonlight, secure that permission before you take on your first customer.
Starting your own business in the evenings and weekends while still on someone else’s payroll gives you financial stability and the chance to decide if entrepreneurial life brings happiness. Many go into business thinking they’ll enjoy being their own boss, only to realize that achieving small business success can require 24/7 commitment.
That said, you’ve wanted this for yourself for more than five decades. If not now, when?