He is one of the few old time friends I have found, still actively employed but with a very clear plan for his future. While most 30 to 40 something employees are clueless about their next steps, he is very clear about the academic achievements he wants to notch up in the next six years and when he plans to retire.
As a strong believer in retirement, he plans to retire at 55 years and then maybe become an entrepreneur. This is the point at which we diverted in thought.
First and foremost, I don’t believe in retirement as most people view it i.e. stop working and start spending your savings till you die. Secondly, I don’t believe entrepreneurship is best kept for ‘retirement.’
Why don’t I believe in retirement?
Dictionary.com defines retirement as “the act of retiring or of leaving one’s job, career, or occupation permanently, usually because of age.” We have been brought up to believe that in life, you have to be one thing and remain defined by that. Someone who studied engineering and practices it will always be regarded as an engineer all his life and if he came up and introduced himself as a Poet or Farmer, eyebrows would be raised.
Why should one leave their profession permanently only to do nothing? This is one of the reasons many retirees die early. I have seen a number of retired elderly people whose bodies turn into customers of all nature of diseases due to being idle after years of having a steady regime of programmed activity. A move towards engaging them physically and mentally tends to reduce the ailments they suffer from.
I also believe that retirement from one profession should be heralded by entry into another. This is what lifelong learning and working is all about. It encourages re-invention and pursuit of passions that one could have put on hold earlier. I for one do have a passion for astronomy. While I never had a chance to study it in detail in my yester years, I have promised myself to one day engage in full scale astronomy. As to whether I’ll go to class to achieve this or be a self taught astronomer, I don’t really care, but I will, one day. I have already been able to acquire a Telescope and a few books on the subject matter and I believe that am on my way to re-igniting that passion at the right point in time. So, when you meet me ten years from now and I introduce myself as Astronomer James Wire, don’t fret. Now you know am working on it.
So, in my vocabulary, retirement as defined by the dictionary doesn’t exist.
Entrepreneurship isn’t merely a retirement package
I have met many whose fuzzy idea of their retirement is ‘doing business‘ or conveniently referred to as ‘entrepreneurship.’ While I mentioned in this post that you can make it at any age of life, there are usually a couple of challenges in business that get magnified as you grow older. Some of them could be;
Diminishing range of business opportunities. As one grows older, the kind of businesses they can engage in tend to become limited. Those that usually require physical aggression and mobility tend to be a No Go for them. Even when they may try to employ others to do the donkey work, the level of involvement of the visionary in a start-up is such that you cant avoid these intricacies at least during the first year or two.
Technology allergy. Most times elderly entrepreneurs tend to be averse to newer technologies and that could be the game changer in their business. Imagine trying to do global business today without email, it’s a disaster. For people who grew up without much exposure to the new technologies, trying to embrace them at this late stage may prove a challenge and hence lead to failed business.
All-Round Knowledge. You have had a 30 year career in the Production Department of that company. Grew up in the ranks till you probably headed the department or even became a director in the company. The time has come to be off loaded and you are attempting your first ever start-up. Chances are, you’re likely to draw onto your corporate world experiences to run the new outfit. While some ideas may work outright, others are likely to fail due to the unique nature of start-ups. A number of start-up ventures do require one to have all-round knowledge of business operations. So, if you were in production and never took time to understand how company finances run, marketing and sales, human resource among others, you are likely to face a very rough time ahead. Figuring out these issues at an advanced age may require a lot more effort than when you’re still relatively younger.
Being flexible. As we grow older, our ability to be flexible tends to diminish. Business tends to require a flexible mindset considering that markets can be quite fickle. What you prepared in a business plan may have to change overnight due to a sudden event affecting your intended market. Let’s take the example of someone who had just gone into Chilli farming in Uganda as a result of the vast European Union market that had been promised by the exporters. A few weeks ago, the Government of Uganda had to come up with a self imposed ban on such produce to the EU due to quality control challenges among the exporters. As a new farmer who was banking on Chilli, you definitely needed to change tact immediately.
My advice first and foremost therefore is for one to cease having the retirement mindset as it is known today and instead consider the ability to professionally mutate as they navigate through life. You can be something different tomorrow for as long as it’s one that you are passionate about.
On entrepreneurship, I do advise that one start NOW and not wait till they have been retired from work. There is a level of maturity you are likely to attain under the safety net of your current employment thereby preparing you better for the after ’employment’ entrepreneurship terrain.
Finally, Entrepreneurs never retire.
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