Think millennials are the most likely age group to start a new business? Think again. Seniors — Americans ages 55 and over — now make up the fastest-growing group of new small business entrepreneurs.
Today, 33 percent more seniors are actively working than seniors 20 years ago. And 64 percent more seniors (ages 55 to 64) are now entrepreneurs. (Entrepreneurship among 20-34 year-olds has actually declined by 27 percent in the past 20 years, according to recent data.)
So what are the best places for seniors to own a business in the U.S.?
The list of top cities for seniors showed mixed results: While southern cities from states like Virginia, Kentucky, and Alabama dominated the list, the No. 1 city overall was Columbus, Ohio, in the midwest. And Manchester, New Hampshire — a New England city that ranked No. 1 city for Small Business Friendliness in 2015 — also landed the No. 4 spot on our list of cities where seniors are the most optimistic about their businesses.
Seniors Are Most Optimistic in Southern Cities and States
Even though the cities with the most optimistic senior business owners were primarily located in the south, the top states for this group of entrepreneurs were actually spread throughout the country. In fact, New Hampshire topped the list.
Amid a strong showing from southern states, the midwestern states of Michigan and Illinois, along with the western states of Utah and Washington, also made an appearance.
Seniors work in diverse fields
Fascinatingly, the most common profession among the seniors we surveyed was Wedding Officiant, suggesting that many seniors are embracing the wisdom of their years by facilitating rites of passage for the next generation. That said, the data reflects a diverse set of professions among seniors — from home improvement work as general contractors, painters, handymen, and house cleaners to creative work as event DJ’s, photographers, and caterers.
In general, Thumbtack data shows that seniors command hourly rates on par with average market prices, though in some more physically demanding fields such as moving and furniture lifting, rates among professionals over 55 are higher than those for the rest of the population.
For more context, you can visit historical Thumbtack Small Business Sentiment Survey data.
On Thumbtack, 200,000 skilled professionals offer 1,100 types of services, and 17 percent of these business owners are seniors. Our monthly Small Business Sentiment Survey uniquely captures the economic outlook of this population of entrepreneurs. To better understand their views and needs, our analysts studied our proprietary marketplace data to identify the cities and states where seniors are most optimistic about their prospects (i.e., where they’re happiest running a business). Between January and June 2016, we surveyed 7,696 seniors who own small businesses on Thumbtack.