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How Does Ageism Affect Older Entrepreneurs?

What role does age discrimination play in shaping the decisions of older entrepreneurs to go out on their own?  

The question is an interesting one, given the rise of older business owners and the impact the oldest among us is having on the small-business landscape across the United States. 

As seen in the recent post, The Senior Startup: Tales from the Second Act, there are countless examples of older entrepreneurs that have had a transformational impact on their industries and communities. 

The State of Ageism in the Workplace 

How does ageism affect older entrepreneurs?  

In 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission saw nearly 21,000 age-related complaints filed, nearly 50 years after laws designed to protect older Americans from such behaviors were enacted. That number has doubled from 20 years ago. Companies paid $88.2 million in benefits to address age discrimination cases, with the average settlement at $26,600. 

In one of the largest studies of its kind, researchers sent more than 40,000 resumes to more than 13,000 job postings listed online in 12 cities. The researchers created three sets of resumes, representing young (ages 29-31), middle-aged (49-51), and senior (64-66) applicants, with similar skills. Older fictional male and female candidates received far fewer callbacks for positions in administrative, sales, and blue-collar positions. 

Despite the seemingly dire statistics, there is growing evidence that older entrepreneurs are a burgeoning growth area. The Kauffman Foundation’s Startup Index shows that among new entrepreneurs, those over 55 now represent 24.3 percent of the total, compared to just 14.8 percent 20 years ago. 

 

There is no right age to begin a startup venture. While many older workers may be intimidated by the technical abilities and comfortable familiarity of those younger members of the workforce, there is no need to avoid a startup simply based on whether you qualify for senior discounts at your local coffee shop. Here are some helpful tips for those seniors thinking about making the leap:

    • Turn your age into an advantage. Your experiences, insights, and perspective are invaluable assets that younger people do not have. Remember that these experiences, and the lessons learned from them, have shaped who you are and what you can offer. 
    • Seek perspective. One of your greatest benefits is the ability to leverage an extensive network of experienced colleagues and advisors. Use the collective wisdom and insight of your network to test ideas, consider concepts, and talk through proposals. 
    • Identify the problem. Older entrepreneurs have seen much more than younger people. What are the problems you have encountered that are begging for a solution? These solutions can become your next business idea, provided there is a market of others who also see it as a solution … and will pay for it. 
    • Align your passion. What do you care most about? Could these passions become your next business venture? Consider whether what you care most about could be your next business.

At Benetrends, we help older entrepreneurs with startup funding strategies. Our innovative methods leverage existing 401(k) and IRA funds to fuel entrepreneurial dreams. To see how Benetrends can help finance your startup, download Innovative Funding Strategies For Entrepreneurs

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