Everyone has their own vision for the ideal retirement. Staying physically and mentally active has proven benefits, and the freedom of being self-employed allows you to retire in a way that suits your personal circumstances and lifestyle.
You might want to continue working, but gradually reduce your commitments as you get older to allow more time for other things. Or, reaching retirement age (currently 66 but increasing to 67 from May 2026) might prompt you to make some changes and look at advisory roles, mentoring or volunteering. Of course, there’s always the choice to keep going indefinitely, if you prefer.
The earlier and more effectively you prepare for retirement, the wider your range of options will be. That includes understanding the state pension and retirement benefits, and how to get the most from private pensions and other investments. IPSE research has highlighted a growing self-employed pension crisis, the majority not saving for later life.
This means many people will continue to need an additional income post-retirement age, but how this is achieved might change as you get older.
Continuing and restructuring your self-employment
One of the biggest benefits of self-employment is that you’re able to choose clients and hours which match your personal objectives. You might decide to keep working in your business past retirement age, but potentially cutting down on your commitments.
This could include stepping down from a leadership or management position, in which case it’s a good idea to prepare a succession plan in advance. This allows you to train your replacement, before moving into a more suitable role for the commitment you want to continue providing.
Alternatively, you may just want to reduce your working hours from 40-50 per week to 10, for example. This could involve outsourcing more admin tasks, but increasing your rates slightly could cover any additional costs or even mean you’re making a higher income by working less.
If you’re selling your existing business, and intending to move into freelancing or consulting in the same field, you’ll need to check that any agreement doesn’t include a non-compete clause.
Starting a different type of business
If you’re no longer relying on your self-employment as your sole source of income, it gives you the freedom to try out other business ideas. Later in life you may have settled any mortgage, and now have your pension to cover some of your costs.
It could be the perfect time to pursue a hobby or interest, which could also earn you some additional money. You may have built up a legal or accountancy company, but always dreamed of selling paintings or photography, for example.
The income from your pension and any other investments will also mean there’s less pressure on you to turn a profit immediately. Which means you can spend more time enjoying the process of starting a completely different kind of business from those you’ve created or worked in until now.
You could also turn your skills to starting a charity, non-profit or social enterprise to make a positive change in the world.
Taking on advisory roles in retirement
The experience and skills you’ve built throughout your career can be immensely valuable to other businesses and companies, so taking on advisory roles in retirement allows you to share your knowledge.
This could be working with individuals in a one-on-one situation, usually at the executive level to help share your insights, identify future challenges, and provide support. Even experienced business owners might look for an advisor when facing a new challenge, such as selling their business.
Companies might need someone for a short-term contract to go through a particular business process, or may look for on-demand advisors which can be hired on an hourly rate when needed.
The alternative is taking a role on an advisory board, which is much less formal than a board of directors, and isn’t bound by any financial responsibilities. Other terms for an advisory board can be a steering or advisory committee. They’ll typically include an independent chair and advisors along with internal representatives from the company. You’ll meet regularly to provide knowledge, critical thinking, and analysis.
You could be compensated per meeting, via an annual retainer, or for expenses only. Alternatively, you may be offered company stock or post-launch profits.
Becoming a mentor
You might decide you want to share your advice, guidance, and feedback with other people in your retirement, without necessarily receiving any payment for your time. While advisors are usually compensated in some way, mentors often offer their support for free (although the reverse can also be true, and the topic of paid mentorship can provide some heated debate).
What you get in return is the chance to help someone through their professional career, and hopefully sharing in their success. Mentoring can also help you to improve as a listener, promotes continuous learning, and your mentee might also teach you some new things.
A stereotypical example might involve an experienced marketing director offering insight into traditional routes to customers, while a young mentee teaches them about the opportunities offered by new technology.
On a personal level, it can also provide the mentor with the chance to socialise and grow their network, and give you the satisfaction of seeing your experience used to help someone else.
Just as retirement can offer you the chance to start a new business or move into mentoring without the pressure of maintaining a regular income, it can also give you the chance to volunteer for organisations or causes that you care deeply about.
Whether it’s contributing to improving mental or physical wellbeing, helping the environment, or making a positive change to your local area, volunteering is a beneficial way to use the skills and knowledge you’ve acquired over the years.
As with mentoring, it also helps you meet new people as part of a team working towards a common objective. And you may also get the opportunity to receive training and develop new skills as part of being a volunteer.
There are a huge range of opportunities to volunteer for national and local organisations, with useful starting points including the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, and Volunteering Matters.
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