August 15, 2011

What Do I Do After Retirement: Start a Business?

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 2008-2009 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 turn-key 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 on-line 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.


  1. Hi Bob, Good ideas! Here's one along the lines of your ebay idea. I have a friend who retired from a career as psychologist and counselor. She had a big office with floor to ceiling bookshelves filled with professional books that she didn't have room for at home. She sold them on Amazon and made about $4,000. She says the money still trickles in from those books.

    I've sold books back to Amazon myself after I've read them. It makes more than selling them to the half priced book store.

    I only do it to recycle my books and DVD's but many do this as a money making job.

    It's amazing what people will purchase. I did a blog posting a while back about a woman who sells tumbleweeds online and it making a big profit from that.

  2. Good Morning Joan,

    I had never considered selling old books through Amazon. I "donated" probably $1,000 worth to a used book store for I'll probably never use.

    How does selling back to Amazon work? That's a great tip.

    I remember your post about selling tumbleweeds. We discussed the difficulty of shipping them!

  3. I'm not sure how she ships those tumbleweeds-lol.

    I always have trouble finding the sell part of my Amazon account but you can google "sell books on Amazon" and it will take you there.

    You can either sell directly to Amazon and then they resell them, or you can list the books you have and the price you want. Amazon reemburses you for the $3.99 shipping but they do take out a fee so you have to make sure your price is high enough to pay the fee and make a profit.

    I've sold books to the Half Price Bookstore for credit and always use it. They will pay out what you don't use in cash, at least though.

  4. Good morning Bob. I started up a woodworking business after I left the corporate world. For six years I made country painted furniture, Hoosier cabinets, and old fashioned wooden toys. The wooden toys I sold at regional craft fairs to bring in the other business. It was a very fulfilling time but like most starting your own business takes to build up a clientele. For the first few years I'm sure I could have made more money flipping hamburgers. But after about four years the workflow became steady and I actually made a few bucks.

    The main advice I would have for anyone starting their own business is to hang in there; it takes time. The vast majority are not instant successes.

  5. Joan,

    Thanks for the info on Amazon. I'll follow your lead and see what it says. Unfortunately, the used bookstore I frequent uses the credit for a portion of the price of the book one buys so there is still a decent cost, and they don't have a cash back. I would have done better to use Bookman's, which applies full credit to the book or DVD price.

  6. RJ,

    You have a skill I've always wished I possessed: making something beautiful with my hands. The smell of freshly cut wood is one of my favorite scents.

    My wife dabbled in woodworking years ago. She actually made a beautiful cradle for our first daughter that was used for the second girl as well.

    Anything worth doing well is going to take time to develop. As you note, that is especially true of a business.

  7. Hi, Bob... Yep, the events of recent weeks do cause to consider, "Here we go again." And you're right; earning a few extra bucks offers a cushion during times of economic uncertainty. In my own case, I've been doing a bit of consulting with a long-term, favorite client. And it does ease my fears of economic uncertainty. Bill

  8. Bob,
    The voracious California government has cut off participation in Amazon's network for residents because they insist on taxing on line transactions. Perhaps you can still sell books back to Amazon but I don't thing you can use their platform if you have a selling business in California.

  9. Hi Bob,

    Consulting is a nice skill set to fall back on, both for the income and staying in touch with friends.

    Over the last few days things on the economic front have calmed down a bit, but how long that will last is anyone's guess.

  10. Bob,

    This has been on my mind lately as I don't have a very strong financial foundation for retirement. I appreciate the ideas you offer here and how you encourage to look close to home to the things we know, love, and enjoy as possible income generators.

    I love to write so I would most likely explore this arena.

  11. Ralph,

    I'll have to check on that. Since I live in Arizona where there are no taxes on interstate sales I think I'd be OK. My understanding was Amazon's decision only affected those who live in California, but I will double-check.

  12. Sandra,

    Exploring opportunities with your writing and meditation focus might produce some interesting results. Could you do any type of audio or video series? How about repackaging your posts into an e-book?

    Maybe you could connect with some of the resorts in Hawaii to offer half day seminars on meditation and focusing on health for hotel guests.

  13. My aunt worked at a local bakery. She didn't really need the money- but she loved that she brought home fresh bread after a short morning shift.

    I have noticed a store downtown (small town) that is closed during the day since both owners are in the Army and work during the day. I was thinking about asking if I could come in and work two hours a day (during lunch hour) and get discounts on books in the store. Does Target do discounts for their employees? I have thought of asking to work short shifts (rush hour) for them to get the discounts as well. Janette

  14. Janette,

    My father-in-law worked for Target for many years and received good discounts, though he was a full time employee.

    Working to get a discount and pick up a little pocket change-not a bad plan.

  15. I would say if there's a hobby that you love deeply, there's a possibility that you can turn it in to a business. The internet provides opportunities to provide services/advice/consulting to people on your hobby. If enough people hear about what you're doing you can possibly turn a little profit doing something you love. The only issue is figuring out the internet marketing seo stuff enough to get yourself some attention. Either way, some people enjoy the challenge of trying something new, and this may be just that.

  16. Roger,

    Turning a hobby into a money-making venture is probably the most common way to generate a little (or a lot of) extra income. The Internet has certainly made the potential more available. But, as you note, there is some work involved and a learning curve to master.