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Senior Correspondent

What Do I Do After Retirement: Start a Business?

Satisfying Retirement

The events of the last week or two in the financial world have probably caught your attention. Maybe you are thinking, here we go again. You have just begun to see some light after the mess in 2008 through 2009 when the hand of fate reaches back down to flip the switch off again with huge stock market swings. Visions of a satisfying retirement begin to evaporate.

Working after retirement was the subject of an earlier post. Click here if you missed it, Choosing to have another job after retirement is no longer uncommon. Some want to work for the satisfaction of accomplishing something. Others work to stay in touch with people. Some haven't developed hobbies or interests that occupy enough of their free time. Of course, as the world economies continue to struggle attempting to find another source of income is important to many of us.

This time I'd like to explore the idea of starting your own business. Maybe that has always been a dream of yours: the corner bookstore or coffee house, the fabric store, a carpet cleaning service, a day care center…whatever has been bubbling in the back of your mind for years. Or, maybe the state of your investments has prompted you to think about this subject for the first time in your life. You have no idea how to start or what to do.

This post is not the place for all the specific legal and financial aspects of starting a business. There are thousands of sites on the Internet to get help with building a business plan or finding investors. My goals are more modest: helping you think through your options. What kind of business makes sense for someone who is retired?

One of the obvious choices is to build on whatever you did before retiring from full time employment. Could you act as a consultant to others in your field of expertise or industry? We tend to think of consultants only for major industries. But, maybe that is too restrictive. Were you employed in a retail establishment? Did you learn the right and wrong ways to display merchandise, the importance of customer service, the ins and outs of pricing and promotion? There are all sorts of mom and pop or smaller retail stores that could benefit from what you know.

Were you a school teacher that learned how to motivate and stimulate your students? Did you master the art of getting a difficult child to suddenly come alive for learning? There are charter schools that might be looking for just what you could teach them. Tutoring can be both satisfying and lucrative. I could continue, but you see the point. It is a rare employment history that doesn't offer some ability to parlay that experience into a business for others.

Hobbies are another important source for additional income. If you love woodworking could you produce cabinets, tables, chairs, bookshelves, or wall decorations that others would like? Can you make and sell high end quilts? Like me, you may dabble in something like ham radio. Do you know enough to repair electronic equipment? Could you be a private golf tutor for beginners? Look closely at a hobby or passion you already enjoy. Is there a way to turn it into a business?

Franchising is a choice made by many. If you have the money and know something about the business, having a turnkey situation where all product, marketing and legal issues are taken care for you may be your best bet. This is an area where you can make a lot, or lose it all. Research franchising options carefully before moving forward.

Start a blog or web site. Here I can give you a bit of personal advice. It is the rare blog that makes money. Unless the market niche is large and presently undeserved, you will be competing with thousands, maybe millions of others. However, a blog or web site can make nice extra income with the products and services that the blog supports. E-books, newsletters, audio courses, speaking engagements, and consulting arrangements are logical extensions of a blog. If there is a subject you are passionate about and have enough knowledge about to deal with on a daily basis, getting a start in blogging or a web site is inexpensive.

Many folks make anywhere from pocket change to a full income by selling something on eBay. Buy virtually anything from an estate sale or large yard sale, clean up and fix it up a bit, take a photo, write a strong description, and sell it for many times what it cost you. Sell unused things from your attic. I am always amazed at what other folks are willing to pay for. There are all sorts of books and online reference sources for making money with eBay.

What about starting a brick-and-mortar business? The reality is a lot of small retail establishments have gone out of business in the last few years, leaving empty storefronts and the possibility of an under-served market. Of course, that business did fail. You would need to determine why. If it was a lack of expertise in that industry, poor merchandising, or service practices, you may be able to succeed where they didn't.

My goal is not to list every option you may have. I worked for several years as a tour guide that gave me an extra $3,000 a year for very easy, seasonal work. I didn't even know there was such a job until I got it! The point is there are opportunities everywhere. If you are serious about starting a business or supplementing your income, now may be a great time.

I do ask that you leave a comment about a particular business or idea I have not mentioned that you believe strongly in. Let's share possibilities.

What do I do after retirement? Maybe go back to work. That can be an important part of your satisfying retirement.

Here are some links to web sites that may give you another perspective or idea to pursue.

    * Small businesses that offer strong profit potential
    * 12 good businesses for retirees
    * 100 Retirement Businesses (book)
    * 100 Retirement Business Ideas (blog)

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