65-plus is the perfect age to be employed - or, better, self-employed

We're very much of the opinion that it's not fair to force someone into retirement just because it happens to be their 65th birthday (not exactly the greatest present they'll ever receive, is it? "Many happy returns - we're cutting off your income and you won't have much to do from now on, at all. Have a great day!").

Fairness doesn't always make for great business, but in this case we think allowing older employees to carry on working can reap some pretty lucrative benefits for small business owners. They're already fully trained up in the role, have years of experience and have all the skills that only decades spent in the working world can bring. An 18-year-old replacement on minimum wage might be cheaper, but they don't come with all that as part of the package.

In a survey of more than 100 small business owners, 60% said they were against a government-set default retirement age. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) research found that, actually, almost 80% of small businesses already ignore the state retirement age for their staff. 76% think retirement 'should be based on a mutual decision between the employee and employer'.

That's a key point - the idea of the business owner and the employee deciding together. Because most state-pension age staff don't want to stop working. 62% of women over 50 and 59% of men want to carry on working past retirement age, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. And if they're willing, and it's helpful to small businesses, who is the government to say it shouldn't be allowed? Particularly when allowing the age-group to carry on working for even just 18 months extra would add up to £15 bn to the economy through taxes, as Equality and Human Rights Commission spokesperson Andrea Murray told The Today Programme this morning.

Of course, if any of these talked-about proposals to push back or abolish retirement age are pushed through, it's going to take a while yet. In the meantime, we can suggest a pretty good path forward for over-65-year-olds who have been forced out of work, or even for those slightly younger who have been made redundant and are struggling to find a new job (there's only a one in 10 chance of reemployment once you're over the age of 50). We propose starting a business.

With the wealth of experience, contacts and industry knowledge accumulated over all those decades, you're in a prime position to start a healthy business. Over-50s are more likely to get bank funding for a new business than those younger than them, and their startups have a greater chance of long-term success.

And you know what? If you run your own business you can carry on working for as long as you like, and earn far more than a state pension is going to provide for you. Look at turkey emperor Bernard Matthews - only just now, at age 80, is he pulling back from the front line of his company.

If you're nearing or at state retirement age, don't despair. Starting a business is a lot safer and less daunting than it sounds. In fact, more over-50s are starting up than ever before. Read our feature on over-50 entrepreneurs for all the advice and insight you need, and give entrepreneurship a go. Until the government's legislation recognises how valuable this age group is to the UK's workforce, you'll have to prove it yourself.

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