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Survey Finds Most Americans Want to Start a Business Rather Than Retire

Andrew Martins
Andrew Martins

Instead of enjoying a leisurely retirement, many want to stay active and start a business.

Regardless of how much we enjoy our careers, retirement is the golden ring that nearly all workers hope to attain one day. We set up retirement plans, save wages when we can, and daydream about how we'll cruise the world and spend leisurely days on the golf course during our golden years. But is this what we really want?

Released this morning, in conjunction with Small Business Week, the second annual Inside Small Business Survey announced that 65% of Americans polled said they dream of opening a business when they reach retirement. Commissioned by The UPS Store, Atomik Research polled more than 5,000 Americans between March 14 and 20, 2019 for the survey.

Dr. Luke Pittaway, professor of entrepreneurship at Ohio University, said the results weren't surprising, given how long the average lifespan is now.

"People are living longer ... and many are choosing to start a small business as a way to stay active," he said. "In fact, the proportion of people starting businesses in the age range of 55 to 65 has increased in recent years, and at one point, even surpassed the typical entrepreneur age group of 25 to 35-year-olds."

This year's numbers are largely consistent with last year's when 66% of respondents said they wanted to start a business when they retire. The advantage of starting a business at this time of life, Pittaway said, is that retirement-age people "tend to bring more financial wealth, experience and personal networks to their startup efforts."

Chasing the dream

While the survey showed consistent results in the number of people who dream of starting a business later in life, this year also marks a 4% upswing in the number of Americans who are excited to be their own boss, from 53% in 2018 to 57% this year. [See related story: How to Start a Business: A Step-by-Step Guide]

Along with their excitement to manage their own entrepreneurial destinies, 54% said the idea of succeeding and finding pride in their business is what excites them most. This number is up from 47% in 2018.

Community also matters to most respondents. According to researchers, 70% of those polled said they planned to support a small business if one opened in their community. Approximately 83% of small business owners said they would do the same. Convenience (46%) and quality of the goods and services provided (45%) would factor into whether respondents would support a mom-and-pop store versus a major retailer.

Tim Davis, president of The UPS Store, said the survey's findings in this area showed that most small business owners "really want to help new business owners in their communities succeed."

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Potential obstacles

As with any major life decision, some outside forces can get in the way of starting a business. For more than a decade, many Americans have been reticent to set up shop at their own expense, thanks to the recession in 2008 and volatility in the marketplace.

According to researchers, the biggest hindrance to starting a small business is fear. For the second year in a row, Americans identified concerns about financial security (40%), financial commitment to the business (35%) and fear of failure (35%) as their major roadblocks. Participants also shared the top expenses they were most worried about, pointing to basic operating costs (54%) and supplies and equipment (50%). Nearly 25% of those polled said shipping expenses would worry them.

It's not all doom and gloom on this front though. General feelings about the U.S. economy have improved in recent years. Officials said 72% of small business owners felt the current economic climate was beneficial to them. Meanwhile, just 42% of non-small business owners said the same thing.

High-tech hopes

While the economy and financial stability remain points of worry for some entrepreneurs, the adoption of new technology is not one of them.

Nearly 64% of Americans said they believe artificial intelligence tech, like that found in autonomous machines or automated customer support, will be a boon to businesses in the future. Further bucking the conception that automation is viewed as a threat to workers, 69% of respondents said they believed automation was a good thing for small business.

When focused on just small business owners, the excitement for artificial intelligence and automation only grows. According to researchers, 74% of small business owners polled said they believed AI will be helpful, while 78% said they believed automation would also be a major benefit.

"Surprisingly, Americans are far from fearing automation and artificial intelligence when used in small business settings," said Pittaway. "They see technology as a helping hand, providing tools and apps that make their day-to-day activities more efficient and seamless."

Image Credit: Nestor Rizhniak/Shutterstock
Andrew Martins
Andrew Martins
Business News Daily Staff
Andrew Martins has written more than 300 articles for and Business News Daily focused on the tools and services that small businesses and entrepreneurs need to succeed. Andrew writes about office hardware such as digital copiers, multifunctional printers and wide format printers, as well as critical technology services like live chat and online fax. Andrew has a long history in publishing, having been named a four-time New Jersey Press Award winner.