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Reflections February 2018

Leslie Goes Boom

Boomers Are Booming

By Leslie Handler

People over 50 are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the United States. The Small Business Administration research shows that 2% of millennials are self-employed versus 8.3% for boomers. So boomers are actually driving the entrepreneurial boom.

I wonder why my pee smells after I eat asparagus. I wonder why the sky is blue. I wonder why my car warns me when the air in my tires is low, but my car battery dies with no warning whatsoever. I don't wonder about my future career.

As a baby boomer, I've been through many different careers. The last one ended by forcing me to go out of work on disability. I was only 50 years old. I couldn't hold down a "real" job anymore, but I still had a brain. I had good days and bad days, and although some days were filled with pain and a drug-induced fog, others found me clear-thinking – and frankly, bored. I started doing some volunteer work on the good days. That helped. I felt I was a contributing member of society, but there were still good days left unfulfilled.

One day, I went to run an errand. While out, I had an emotional experience that I couldn't get out of my head. The thoughts became so strong that 48 hours later I couldn't stop thinking about it. I couldn't sleep. I got up in the middle of the night, sat down at the computer, and wrote about it. Then I was finally able to go back to bed. I'm truly not sure what possessed me, but the next day I submitted the story to a news outlet and then promptly forgot all about it. When I later checked my e-mail, the editor wanted to publish it. I wrote another story and submitted it to him. The next thing I knew, he wanted to send me a contract and pay me for my work. A freelance hobby began.

Unfortunately, I remain ill on and off and will never be able to hold down a nine-to-five job again, but for me, this is a terrific compromise. When I'm not well, I don't write. When I am well, I can use my brain.

It seems I'm not alone. I'm not an entrepreneur with my little freelance writing, but there are many boomers who are. People over 50 are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the United States. The Small Business Administration research  shows that 2% of millennials are self-employed versus 8.3% for boomers. So boomers are actually driving the entrepreneurial boom.

Boomers are booming! We have experience, contacts, financial stability, and we know what we want and what our limitations are. Some of us were forced into these positions by health or lay-offs, but others found that once they retired, they still had the time and energy to continue to work. Many boomers have financially been able to start business with residual income from commissions or pensions, and some just want to supplement their Social Security benefits and their savings. Statistics show that eight out of every ten boomers start businesses not for financial reasons, but for lifestyle reasons. Just like me!

It could be that millennials feel they can't take the financial risk to start their own businesses. In 2016 these kids graduated with an average of over $30,000 in student loan debt. Additionally, millennial unemployment is high and under employment is even higher. Many just can't take the risk.

Who knows the exact reason why more boomers become entrepreneurs than millennials. Perhaps boomers just feel they have a lifetime of experience behind them that gives them confidence. Perhaps the millennials who spent their childhoods winning trophies just for showing up don't have the confidence to go out on their own without the assurance of success.

I don't have all the answers. When I google urine and asparagus together, I find out something about acid and sulfur, but I still don't get it. When I research why the sky is blue I find it has something to do with light and molecules, but I still don't really get it. When I ask at my auto dealer why there's no warning light that goes on when my battery is low, they just shrug their shoulders and tell me they don't know. But you know what? They're not boomers. If they were, they just might have the experience, confidence, and gumption, to start a business that does just that, because boomers, they get it!

 

I’ve fallen and I CAN get up are the words I live by because when I fall and go BOOM, I always get back up."

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