I still enjoy the paper version of the FLORIDA TODAY every morning, for me it is part of my start the day ritual.
Even if I donâ€™t have time to read cover to cover, I never miss columns relating to business and career like â€śThe Edgeâ€ť and â€śCareer Answers.â€ť
In a recent Career Answers (March 22), Judy Gillespie gave some great advice to an employee who had spent an entire career at one company (35 years), who worried about possible regret in the â€śgolden yearsâ€ť about spending so much time with one employer. In my work as a health insurance advisor I meet people every day who are changing careers, retiring, forced or voluntary and are seeking advice about health insurance to cover the gap years between early retirement and Medicare (age 65 for most people). Often those discussions evolve beyond talking about health insurance to a life discussion about transitioning from a traditional work environment into entrepreneurial opportunities.
This begs the question; Who are todayâ€™s entrepreneurs? That answer is different today than it was 10 or 20 years ago.
While it is perceived that many new entrepreneurs are young and male, the entrepreneurial profile in the US is more diverse that ever. The fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs are ages 55-64 according to a recent study. People in that demographic are typically more established in their careers but may have run into roadblocks to their advancement, been laid off and unable to find suitable replacement employment, want a more flexible schedule than employers may offer, or may just have had a lifelong dream of going out on their own.
For many in the past a major obstacle to striking out on their own was the loss of benefits provided by their employer such as health insurance. With the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2014, most Americans now have the opportunity to obtain health insurance for themselves and their family regardless of health status.
In 2013, the idea that the ACA could end the phenomenon called â€śjob lockâ€ť where employees stay in a job mainly for access to health insurance benefits was just a theory. Since then an estimated 20 million people have gained access to health care and many of them are new entrepreneurs. The ACA gave them the necessary security of knowing they would not have to be without health insurance if they were to go out on their own.
Data from a small business survey conducted by an on-line research and business information firm, found that about one-third of the 5,400 small business contacted said one of the reasons they had the confidence to start their own business was because they had access to health care through the ACA. Department of Labor data appears to replicate the trend. Between 2013 when ACA exchanges launched, and year-end 2015, the number of self-employed people increased 3.5 percent, for estimated 183,000 new entrepreneurs.
From a personal standpoint, health insurance is my business, but I came about entrepreneurship not because of the ACA but despite it. Back in 2008 I was enjoying a successful corporate career when like millions of other â€śtoo young to retire middle management typesâ€ť I got a layoff notice. Iâ€™d had been a banker over 25 years specializing in financing start-up businesses through Small Business Administration guaranteed loan programs. I spent nearly a full year looking for replacement employment with no luck. As a former lender I knew the odds are against success for a start-up business. The risk was compounded by the fact that we were enduring the worst recession in almost 100 years, nevertheless I took the plunge.
During the nearly one year I was unemployed I had the same problem with finding health insurance as everyone else. It was my frustration with the industry that lead me into the industry. I just knew if I were having these many problems finding health insurance, there must be more individuals like me out there. My experience in administering SBA government guaranteed loan programs and my analytical bent gave me the confidence needed to believe I could master the knowledge necessary to succeed. It took another 4 years to find a client base. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, Iâ€™m glad I too the plunge when I did. Entrepreneurship gave me the opportunity to utilize the skills gained through a long corporate career plus required me to master a variety of new ones. Best of all Entrepreneurship continues to be an exciting and interesting challenge and a continued learning experience.
The truth is it is never to early or too late to consider becoming an entrepreneur. Some of us are forced into it out of necessity but I believe late career is an ideal time to consider making the transition. There are more resources today than ever before to help you be successful including; Free or low-cost entrepreneurship classes at places such as weVENTURE at FIT, the SBDC at EFSC, counseling services through SCORE plus many on-line sources. Technology is abundant, portable and relatively inexpensive. Many successful entrepreneurs have started from home with nothing more than a great idea and a cell phone.
Pat Shankle is agent/owner of Brevard Health Advantage, a company that specializes in Medicare and Health Insurance Marketplace plans.
Columnist series are sponsored by weVENTURE at the Florida Institute of Technology College of Business. weVENTURE has locations in Melbourne and Rockledge. The Center is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. For more information, visit weventure.org or call 321-674-7007.
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