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The problem with youth is that it’s wasted on the young (on young entrepreneurs, in particular)


I have a problem with youth. Or to be more precise, I have a problem with society’s obsession around all things ‘youth’.

Take for example, Anthill’s 30under30 initiative, designed to “encourage and promote entrepreneurship among young Australians”.

Why has this particular demographic been singled out for recognition?

Your average under-30 entrepreneur these days is most likely to be tertiary-educated and still enjoying ‘supported living’ at home with Mum and/or Dad.

Where is the risk here if they choose to have a crack at an entrepreneurial venture? Maybe a year or two of no salary and a minor loss of seniority on the corporate ladder?

At worst they can live with the folks rent-free and enjoy having their meals prepared and laundry done. A further safety net is the fact that even if the venture does fail, they have many more years of productive working life to make up the loss.

Compare this with, say, over 50s entrepreneurs. This demographic may have been struggling to find a job after being made redundant, or have simply had a great idea that they decide to pursue.

Sure, they may have decades of education and experience to call on, but consider these advantages in regards to the potential risks – they are probably still funding their Gen Y children through an expensive education, they most likely have a significant mortgage and have enjoyed the security of a salaried position for the majority of their working lives.

Furthermore, if the venture fails they do not have the luxury of another few decades of working life to make up any losses.

In the US, people aged 55 to 64 represent the second-largest increase in entrepreneurial activity by age (just behind 35–to 44–year-olds) from 2008 to 2009, according to the Index of Entrepreneurial Activity recently released by entrepreneur-focused group Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. We don’t measure these figures for Australia because, well, we just don’t care.

Other US studies, such as a recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report, as well as data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), also show an increase in older age groups starting their own business.

The reasons behind this increase are thought to include factors such as retirees who don’t want to stop working and the rise in redundancies resulting from the GFC.

Or perhaps these closet entrepreneurs have taken longer to build up their courage and abandon the security of a 9 to 5 salary for the wild ride of starting their own business?

So before we go off and glorify our young achievers, perhaps we should spare a thought for the older entrepreneur, who is out there mixing it with significantly more at stake than our esteemed “30under30”?

Richard Andrews is the founder and director of Find My Retirement Home (www.findmyretirementhome.com.au), a business that provides independent advice and buyer’s agency services to retirees looking to purchase a retirement home, as well as training, information and resources to professional advisors.

Image by Nezemnaya