Can a Microbusiness Help You Enjoy a Better Retirement?

Not having enough money for a comfortable retirement tops thelist of financial concerns among aging Americans, according to a recent Gallup Poll. It even outweighs peoples' worries about having a serious illness or accident.

With statistics showing that Americans can expect to live 20 or more years after reaching retirement age and our longevity continuing to inch upward, these fears could be well founded.

Three out of 10 American workers haven't saved at all for retirement, and among those who do, many have not saved enough, according to another study. The study showed that three out of 10 workers age 55 or older have saved less than $25,000.

Many of us plan to work past the normal retirement age. But at this rate, we may not have a choice. Some of us inthe Baby Boom generation can expect to work beyond age 65, whether we want to or not.

There is an alternative to having to work full-time until we'rein a wheelchair. It's also a smart choice as we get past age 50 and want to slow down a bit, but still stay active andstimulated. And that's to gradually make the transition fromworking full-time as an employee to being in business for ourselves on a contract or per-project basis. By planning ahead,you can gradually turn your job skills into a "microbusiness" while you are still employed.

If you have worked in a specific industry for 10, 15 or more years, you are ideally suited for this type of transition. You can set up a home office in a spare bedroom of your home, get the equipment you need and gradually establish your business.

When the time comes and you want to make the change, you can do it on your own terms ? often by negotiating a contract with your existing employers for 50 percent of your time. There are other ways to make the change, such as negotiating with your employer for a reduced work week,or working from home as a "teleworker" for a few days a week.

Still others have begun their private practice by moonlighting? doing a few projects for other clients on the side at night or on weekends in the year leading up to their departure, and building up a clientele that way. Provided such work isn't prohibited by your full-time employment contract, it's anothersmart way to get started.

Enjoy The freedom

Being your own boss means you get to choose how hard you work and how much you are compensated. If you want to earnextra cash for an upcoming trip or purchase, you can work a fewextra hours per week or take an extra project. If you want to takefour weeks off and visit friends in Florida, simply plan ahead,keep your clients informed, and off you go.

Perhaps that's why people over 50 are much more likely to be self-employed, according to a study commissioned by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). The study showed that 16 percent of people over 50 were self-employed, compared with 10 percent of the general workforce. Plus one-third of self-employed seniors were first-time entrepreneurs who began their business after turning50 and spending many years working for other people.

Being in business for yourself? especially after a lifetime of being an employee for a larger organization? is the next best thing to being financially independent while still earning a living.

You can scale back your hours worked per week to ease intoretirement. Or work in bursts of activity to earn extra moneyfor special purchases or travel. And the best part is? it oftendoesn't even feel like "work" anymore.

Barnaby Kalan is an award-winning copywriter and direct marketing consultant who also helps people launch and build their businesses. His book Outsourcing Yourself revealsthe safest, smartest ways to turn your current job skills into a six-figure income as a self-employed freelancer or consultant.

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