Although half of Baby Boomers in a recent Gallup survey said they plan to keep working past traditional retirement age, that doesn’t mean they plan to stay in their current jobs.

With children grown and mortgages under control, many baby boomers are scratching an entrepreneurial itch. People over age 50 are one of the fastest growing groups of entrepreneurs.

Gallup’s ho-hum lead is that “83% …say their main reason for launching a venture was a lifestyle choice or to increase their income.” Duh.

But unpack the statistics and the entrepreneurial boom looks more interesting:

Reason #1 (32%): “They want to be independent.”

Translation: It isn’t work we’re tired of; it’s the workplace. Boomers hope to ditch the politics and the paperwork. We may also be looking for something that allows more flexibility to work from home or travel the world.

Reason #2 (27%): They want to “pursue their interests and passions.”

Translation: We want to be the “Me Generation” again. Most of us cut our hair, bought real shoes and learned to pass the tox screen. That doesn’t mean we enjoyed it.

Reason #3 (24%): They have “an opportunity increase their income.”

Translation: Yes, I am worth more than two twenty-five-year-olds. At some point, the value of your knowledge and experience is no longer reflected in your corporate salary. At that point, it makes sense to take the show on the road.

And what about the remaining 17%?

“Have an idea that reflects an unmet need in the marketplace” is just 10%. “No jobs available in my area” is 3%. And the predictable “Other Reason/Don’t Know” is the standard 3%.

The folks at Gallup find it alarming that just 10 percent are focused on an unmet need. I would say that reflects a labeling problem rather than a motivational problem: Self-employment isn’t the same as true entrepreneurship. For every one Steve Jobs there are not just 90 but 9000 guys making a good living building websites.

There’s nothing wrong with that.


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