Turning a hobby into a later life income

The world of work is changing, and changing fast. For sure, most of us still need to earn a living wage, and a decent one at that. And unless the government decides to deposit several hundreds of thousands of pounds in to each and everyone’s bank account, that isn’t going to change. But the way people work and what they do is changing rapidly, particularly for those in their later years.

Fast disappearing are the days when people suddenly stopped working, and didn’t do anything that involved earning money. That was understandable for the vast majority. Work was drudgery for the greater part, and by the time you got to 55, 60, 65 years or so, you were totally knackered, having worked pretty much non-stop for 40 plus years. In the post-war period pensions were good, and people saved more thriftily. All that is also fast disappearing.

Pensions are not what they used to be, and people are not such good savers, especially since the financial crisis 2007-08 saw interest rates plummet, and remain very low to this day. Moreover, we have generally higher aspirations, and greater needs. Perhaps most importantly though, we are living longer, and for many over 55 their physical health is as good as it has always been. Indeed, talk of someone being old when 60 or 70 or beyond is now plain rubbish, and ageist. You are only as old as you feel, so the saying goes… Was Alex Ferguson too old (71) when he won the title with Manchester United? Is Jeremy Corbyn, at 68, too old to be leading the Labour Party? Is George Ginn, at 87, too old to be running a record store in Brighton? Are Michael Caine (84) and Clint Eastwood (87) too old to be acting?

We have higher aspirations, and greater needs. Perhaps most importantly though, we are living longer…

The answer is a big fat NO! But to do this you’ve got to be sure you’re internal engine is primed and serviced. That your mojo, your life force, is present and correct. There is a large and growing body of scientific research that suggests working is healthier than a sedentary lifestyle as we grow older. Keeping the mind sharp and remaining in a position where others are counting on you can have a salutary effect on your mental and physical health. Many want to be active, and to be useful, whilst at the same time, earning money. But on their terms. What could be better than that?

Mary and Clive, who in retirement have, in their 70s, successfully started using their home as an Air B’n’B in Newhaven. Their plan was to use the proceeds to spend on holidays, or for special occasions, such as for their children’s wedding. And that is exactly what has happened. Not only that, but it gives them that extra little purpose in life, and they get to meet new and interesting people all the time. “We have the rooms, and we have the time,” says Clive. “It gives us that extra bit of cash. It’s our holiday fund.”

For some it is a hobbyist business, delving into a lifelong passion and earning some money in the process. Those who are creatively inclined – for instance artists, potters, jewellers – have been doing this kind of thing for decades. But more and more are now doing so. Take Frances, for example, who spent most of her adult life bringing up her three children, before taking the plunge and expanding on her lifelong love of crafts and textiles. She set up a company (Beautiful and Useful) and she now sells her work online, in gift and museum shops, and at craft fairs, as well as during the hugely popular – and indeed profitable – Artists Open Houses in Brighton. Not only that but she also is an exam invigilator, which is seasonal and part time work. She doesn’t necessarily need the money, but it keeps her wheels oiled.

Those over the age of 55 are the most likely to undergo a radical change in the nature of their work, with almost 90% starting up in a completely new field.

Recent research has shown that the number who are self-employed continues to rise year-on-year (from 3.8 million in 2008, to 4.6 million in 2015), and that it is mainly part-timers who account for this rising trend. In addition, there’s an increasing number of ‘entrepreneurs’ who have started a business based on their hobby, according to research conducted by AXA Insurance, with those over the age of 55 the most likely to undergo a radical change in the nature of their work, with almost 90% starting up in a completely new field. For instance, there’s Bill and Sarah, who once the kids had flown the fully paid-up family home in Eastbourne, decided to leave their respective jobs of psychiatric nursing and kitchen fitting, to live in Carmarthenshire, in South-West Wales, where they set up a business making bespoke products out of wood (from their own patch of woodland that they lease) for the hospitality industry, such as coasters, table matts, table numbers, and chopping boards. “It was a huge risk for us,” says Bill. “Not just financially, but also in terms of whether we would actually like living in an isolated part of the country. But, friends come and see us all the time…. we’re living the dream!”

Nowadays there are many niche opportunities out there for those who want to work their passion, and earn some money at the same time. Laura had been a teacher for the last 30 years, but she decided to take the plunge and go into dog grooming. She is a massive dog lover, and although she didn’t have much experience of grooming, she believed she had the natural ability and the get-up-and-go to just do it. “I practised on a few friends’ dogs, as well as my own, and felt confident to just go for it. I did a City and Guilds, got some cards printed, did some local advertising, and eventually I got a few inquiries and it went from there. Word of mouth has helped a lot. Even though I am self-employed, and the money can be a bit hit-or-miss, I’m so happy doing this. I cannot believe the levels of stress and anxiety I used to endure with my teaching job even though that was relatively secure.”

Eventually retiring, Steve was able to devote time and energy to his real passion, that of writing fiction, and has since published several books.

Some people’s lifelong careers can extend into their post-work passions, such as Steve, who for many years worked as a Fleet Street reporter. Eventually retiring, he suddenly was able to devote time and energy to his real passion, that of writing fiction, and has since published several books. And when anyone buys a book, he’ll pocket a few pounds. Not only that but he regularly performs at open mics, with just his guitar, and has even released his own CD! All this achieved ‘post-retirement’.

For sure, there are pressures in being part of the freelance/gig economy. But for those who have paid their dues, it is the pursuit of happiness and liberty that are the overriding concerns when taking the plunge. And the opportunities for making some money are also there in abundance. They used to say ’the world is your oyster’ to young men and women starting out in a life of work and education. Now it seems that can equally apply to those looking for new challenges in their later years.

Useful Links

  • You can check out details for Airbnb here
  • Just has some information about working in retirement here

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Jeff Hemmings

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