Passion and Purpose Drive Second Act Careers

Passion and purpose are driving forces among older adults. With greater longevity and perspective, many middle-aged and older adults are taking the leap from their traditional career into entrepreneurship – finding work that not only pays the necessary bills but also fulfills greater meaning in life.

According to a recent Maria Shriver Media post, at the end of 2020, applications to start new businesses were up by 42 percent from the previous year, according to the US Census Bureau. Although 2020 was a year of turmoil and uncertainty, many people also saw the drastic change in daily life resulting from a global pandemic as an opportunity to take stock and make bold decisions about their future.  

But long before the events of 2020 unfolded, older adults were starting new businesses at a growing rate.  In 2019, according to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, about 25 percent of new entrepreneurs were between 55 and 64, up from only 15 percent 20 years earlier.  Many of these new ventures were aimed at people 50 years and older. The longevity market spends more on health care, financial services, durable and nondurable good and motor vehicles than their younger counterparts.  Many older entrepreneurs saw an opportunity in the age-related market that, with their skills and passion, could create meaningful self-employment later in life. 

Adults pressured by the corporate world to work endless hours at a job in which they found no joy or meaning began to discover that material possessions did not fulfill their true vision for life or their core values.   But pivoting to a second, third or even fourth act career takes courage and is not without risk. 

Women, in particular, have been hard-hit by COVID-19. Their careers are suffering as they are stretched thin between looking after children at home while schools remain closed, working, doing the majority of household chores and often caring for aging parents.  It’s no wonder that many are reevaluating their roles and wondering if there is a better way to remain in the workplace, on their own terms.  Enter freelance work and entrepreneurship.  

For older women trying to find their place again in the workforce, ageism continues to rear its ugly head making job hunting daunting for women and men trying to revive their careers after raising children or taking time away to pursue other opportunities.  But if age is viewed as an asset, rather than a deficit, older employees and independent contractors can bring experience, knowledge and a deeper perspective younger people may have yet to attain. 

Although money can be lost and remade, it’s time that cannot be replaced – once spent it is gone forever.  Rather than staying pinned in an unhappy, unrewarding job that steals time without a deeper purpose, a growing number of people are considering what values besides a paycheck they seek from work.  Flexibility, independence, and meaning are all currencies that increasingly weigh into career decisions and in the future, it is likely that more people will consider a work/life balance as a key factor in their employment choices going forward. Passion and purpose can and do work together.