"And if you should survive to a hundred and five. Look at all you'll derive out of bein' alive." — from "Young at Heart" as performed by Frank Sinatra
Technological changes that have occurred in our lifetimes are truly remarkable, aren't they?
Consider advances in communication. Remember the manual typewriter? Then the electric one? I thought the automatic return was an incredible invention.
We then discarded the typewriter and educated ourselves on the computer. Then we learned to utilize the iPhone and eschewed land lines in favor of mobile ones. Now we read on our iPads as print fades from our lives like ancient, dried ink on parchment.
Since most innovative ideas in technology are offered by those under 30, we tend to associate positive technological change with young people. Most of us Baby Boomers understand ageism intuitively. Who isn't familiar with the looks of scorn and derision we receive when we ask our children and younger co-workers about tech issues?
So you would think that nearly all successful start-ups and entrepreneurial enterprises are launched by youngsters, right? Not even close. An article in the New Republic states among other things that "most successful entrepreneurs are middle-aged, not young." Why? Because there's more to developing a successful business than hatching an innovative idea. There's financing, marketing, business plans, and personnel management. Our life experience and our business acumen, earned over decades, can take a great idea and then make it work in the marketplace.
Young people are good at getting into business. Boomers are skilled at getting out and more likely to enjoy a positive final outcome with commercial endeavors. Someone who creates a business at age 50 is almost twice as likely to employ a successful exit strategy as someone who starts a business at age 30. "The mean founder age of startups with a successful exit, through IPO or acquisition, is 46.7," the article stated.
The message? It's never too late, and we're never too old, to put our experience to work. Henry Ford was 50 years old in 1913 when he developed the assembly line to mass-produce his cars. Ray Kroc was 52 when he opened his first McDonald's in Des Plaines, Illinois, and older than that when he finally figured out how to profit from franchising.
To someone who is 30, the future is always infinite. But many Americans who amass small fortunes do so through selling a business. It takes years of experience and skill to build an enterprise that others see value in; then it takes marketing and negotiating ability to consummate the transfer of ownership and reap the profits.
Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC, AIF, a syndicated economic columnist, is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management LLC, (850-608-6121 — www.arborwealth.net), a "fee-only" registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin.