If we are lucky, all of us will get older and hopefully, wiser as well. In fact, one in five Americans will be 65 or older by 2030. Our senior population is the largest, fastest-growing, and most sustainable natural resource that we have. So, why does blatant ageism still exist especially when it comes to older workers? Why do many people see a senior worker as a negative rather than a positive? In a rapidly aging society, we are going to have to stop playing into ageist stereotypes and start embracing a workforce that is experienced, educated, motivated, and over 50. FirstLanticexplores how older workers are the secret weapon to fueling economic growth.
1. They start more businesses
Although most of the attention in the start-up world is focused on young entrepreneurs, the reality is that the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity in the US is among the 55 to 64 age group. This has been the case for the past 15 years, and the trend shows no sign of slowing down. And, a 2014 Merrill Lynch study, Work in Retirement: Myths and Motivations, found people eschewing traditional retirement are three times more likely to be entrepreneurs and small-business builders than young people.
2. They have a higher success rate
Older entrepreneurs are also more likely to stay in business longer as well because they have real-world experience that is a huge asset compared to their younger counterparts. 70% of ventures established by senior entrepreneursare still in operation, compared to 28% of enterprises established by younger entrepreneurs. Even in Silicon Valley, which is particularly biased towards the young, a recent study found the average founder of the fastest-growing tech startups was about 45-years-old — and 50-year-old entrepreneurs were about twice as likely to have a runaway business success as their 30-year-old counterparts. Remember when Mark Zuckerberg famously said, that “young people are just smarter”? Now that he is 35, he may start to realize the absurdity of that statement.
3. Older workers are not a drain on social programs
In the U.S., there is a common sentiment that older people are putting a huge strain on our society’s safety net. While it’s true that people are living longer and taking advantage of benefits like social security, senior entrepreneursare not depleting entitlement programs. In fact, seniors that are still working contribute more than $120 billion in federal taxes annually to support federal programs, thereby reducing dependence on government assistance. And the 120 billion does not even count the billions of dollars they contribute to state and local taxes. Besides, studies show that people that work longer tend to stay healthier both mentally and physically which means they use fewer Medicare benefits that their retired counterparts.
Contrary to popular rhetoric, seniors are actually a boost to our economy. Senior entrepreneurs create jobs both for themselves and others. In fact, 41% of small business owners are baby boomers. According to Gina Harman, “Of the 28.8 million businesses in the US, 91% have fewer than five employees. These businesses have been the largest net contributor of new jobs to the US economy in the past 15 years, and collectively employ 50% of all private-sector employees.” As CEO of Accion USA, Harman should know. Accion is the only nationwide nonprofit microfinance and small-business lending network in the United States, and they are passionately working to help people take control of their economic future regardless of age. So, if you think you are past the point of starting a business, think again. Chances are that you will be more successful as a result of your past experiences and there is another reason as well — older people are just smarter!