A traditional retirement may not be in the cards for you. You might not have enough savings to stop working outright. Or rather than relishing the freedom of not having a job, you may feel stagnant, craving something to occupy your time.
Here’s the good news. Starting a business later in life is a great idea. You can use your experience and wisdom to help others, keep a steady income, or pursue a passion. You might also be better positioned to take a risk now with stronger financial stability and more time on your hands.
Whatever your reasons for exploring retirement business ideas, here you’ll find inspiration, real-life examples, and actionable advice.
1. Turn a Hobby Into a Business
In retirement, you may want to leave the regular daily grind behind and do something you actually enjoy instead. As Mark Twain (or possibly Confucius) said, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
After retiring, David Sperstad opened a bicycle shop, Touright Bicycle, in Little Falls, Minnesota.
The former pastor cites a fear of failing as the reason he didn’t do it sooner and says of his venture, “I love to cycle. So it doesn’t feel like I’m selling anything.”
To do something similar, first, consider your goals. If you just want a side hustle to keep you busy and bring in some extra income, you’ll take a different approach than if you want to build and scale a larger business that becomes your new full-time job (and maybe employs other people, too).
Determine the logistics, like whether you’ll run the business from home, sell online, and/or need a location. Putting together a formal business plan will help you answer all the key questions and figure out exactly how you’ll turn a hobby into a business.
2. Utilize Your Assets
To minimize startup costs and start a more flexible, easy-to-manage business, utilize what you already have.
After retiring, Tom Rothrock turned his land into an alpaca farm. When Tom passed, retired family members took the business even further, starting a small alpaca sock shop.
There are a number of ways you can utilize existing assets to start a business. Taking advantage of the sharing economy is one of the easiest ways to do this. For instance, you can rent out a room or guest house, rent out equipment you own, share your car, or charge for the use of your land as a parking space/lot for nearby apartment buildings or events.
To get started, advertise your offering on a free listing site such as Craigslist. Be sure to research liability insurance if you decide to go it alone. Or set up an LLC to protect your business assets.
3. Start a Freelance Business
Starting a freelance business gives you the opportunity to keep working at what you love and/or what you’re skilled at. But it gives you the freedom and flexibility of being your own boss, something which you may need in retirement.
There are tons of categories in which to go freelance. Consider what makes sense for you. It might be obvious. You might go from computer programming in an office to freelance computer programming or software consulting. Or there might be a change in role, like going from secretarial work to becoming a virtual assistant. Another option? Turn a hobby or passion into a freelance business, e.g., photography.
One way to get your first clients is to use your existing network. Or set yourself up on LinkedIn and begin to form relationships with existing freelancers and potential clients. Other freelancers may pass on projects when they don’t have the capacity, or a gig isn’t the right fit for them.
Establish a defined service and price list. Here, a freelance events planner breaks down their services into defined categories:
This will help you keep your work structured, explain what you do more clearly to clients, and earn what your time and effort are worth.
4. Become a Mentor
Draw on your years of experience to set up a mentoring business. After retiring from their jobs as management consultants, Chris and Susan Beesley set up a website selling educational resources and mentoring programs.
Entrepreneurship, business growth, management, and similar niches have great potential here. But there are a number of other fields in which mentorship makes sense, too. For instance, life coaching, finance, careers, and more.
Choose a niche in which you have the experience and credentials to be able to sell yourself as a worthy mentor. Then, research potential mentees to discover their biggest pain points and start to formulate ways in which you can help them.
You’ll also need to establish a business model. Will you deliver online courses or an in-person mentorship program? Will you offer one-on-one mentoring? Group coaching? Both?
To attract participants, it’s a good idea to provide a taste of what they’ll receive when they sign up. Note, for instance, how the Beesleys offer a set of free educational videos to lure people in.
5. Become a Handyperson
This is an excellent opportunity for retirees as it allows you to stay active, meet new people, and have the satisfaction of helping others. As a business idea, it’s easy to get started, particularly if you already have your own tools and skills you’ve developed over the years.
Handypeople, on average, earn around $19 per hour. And you can always go on to scale the business by bringing in and managing other workers.
First, make sure you have any specific qualifications and/or licenses you require for the area you’ll operate in. Find out what you need and apply via your local government authority website.
Refine your business plan. Decide whether you’ll work in a domestic or commercial environment and whether you’ll choose a particular area of expertise or offer your services as an all-rounder.
Bag your first jobs by creating local listings on free sites, in newsletters/newspapers, pinning your business card on notice boards, and so on. Word of mouth will also help you to get work here, so don’t be afraid to spread the word about your services. Furthermore, there are apps you can use to pick up local gigs, such as TaskRabbit.
6. Start an Online Shop
There’s never been a better time to start an online shop as increasingly aware consumers prefer shopping small from brands with a story behind them. One example is retiree Angie Higa’s travel accessories store, Sky Dreams. Higa solved her own packing issues and invented a foldaway travel blanket that’s convenient for traveling with her grandchildren.
Sell your handmade wares online by opening a store on an e-commerce platform such as Shopify or BigCommerce. You can keep it a small boutique selling your one-off creations or scale by introducing a production line.
Alternatively, set up a shop on Etsy to reach an existing audience of handmade and craft lovers. The marketplace charges a fee of $0.20 per listing, but it’s worth it as Etsy is a lot easier to set up and manage when you’re starting out.
Whatever the platform, create a strong brand identity. Tell your story and express the meaning behind the pieces you create.
7. Become a Tour Guide
This business idea will suit retirees with a passion for history and days gone by. Perhaps, you’ve lived in an area for many years and you know everything about it. Share your knowledge by becoming an independent tour guide operator.
Later in life, Lynn Brooks started a volunteer organization greeting and showing visitors around New York City.
She started this group to share her insider perspective and passion for the city.
To do something similar, first choose a type of tourism on which to focus. For instance, think of historical sites, local breweries, food, art, and so on. Then think about your goals and motivations. This will help you create tours that provide value and a great experience.
Next, find out if you need a license or certification to become a tour guide in your local area. Certain cities, like New York City, New Orleans, and Washington, D.C., require professional licensing.
Finally, when it comes to creating your tours, make sure you do a couple of practice runs and get feedback.
8. Start a Reselling Business
Reselling businesses are fun and easy to run. There are so many platforms nowadays on which to resell items, such as eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and niche apps. The fun part is exploring flea markets, yard sales, and even your attic for unique finds, helping you stay active.
You may have existing knowledge of a particular industry that you can utilize when starting your reselling business, such as fashion or electronics. In categories like these, you can buy faulty or flawed items cheaply, fix them up, and resell them for a profit. You can see the popularity of this kind of thing with sites such as Amazon Warehouse:
When starting a reselling business, or almost any business, it’s better to niche down. You want to become the go-to person for a specific category and build a group of loyal buyers. Some examples of niches here are:
- Antique furniture
- Vintage clothing
- Refurbished tech
- Rare books
- Sports equipment
There’s a big audience of eco-conscious consumers looking to find second-hand, refurbished, repurposed, and upcycled goods. All you need to do is list your items on the right marketplace and get going.
9. Start a Tutoring Business
This is a sensible idea for former educators. Use it as a side hustle to keep busy and earn an income or scale to a fully-fledged tutoring business.
When Marcia Duhart retired from her job training people in how to use computers at Merrill Lynch, she started CyberSenior Services. There she taught elderly people the necessary tech skills to get by today.
Duhart found a gap in the market as seniors were particularly in need of computer and tech literacy. Do something similar by researching who needs an education in your discipline the most. This will represent your target market. Another option is to pick a niche according to a particular grade, subject, and/or exam.
Next, figure out exactly how your business will work. Will you work one-on-one or with groups? Will you work out of your own home, online, travel, or rent a classroom space?
Market your services on the most appropriate platform for your audience. Senior citizens, for instance, are unlikely to be heading to TikTok, while Gen Z-ers are unlikely to pick up a newspaper.
10. Try Consulting
Consulting is another business idea where you can utilize your experience to help others. It’s flexible and can be super lucrative if you have great skills and credentials. The top reason people go into consulting is to realize their potential.
Certain niches lend themselves well to consulting, such as management, marketing, HR, and IT. However, there’s nothing stopping you from becoming a consultant in any area as long as there are companies/individuals that need expert guidance.
You’ll need to perform a lot of research before starting a consulting business. First, find out if there’s a market for your consulting services, who your competitors are, and who your target market is.
Then refine your service offering by gaining a deep understanding of both potential clients and competitors. Establish your target market’s pain points to offer them training and guidance in the areas they need it most. Analyze competitors to figure out how you can offer a better service and attract more clients.
You may wish to offer a bespoke service based on individual needs or package your services. Once you have the right structures in place and the research completed, you’ll be ready to market your business. This is the type of business that scales well through hiring and/or partnering with other consultants in overlapping niches.