The rise of the 'greypreneur' - re-writing the rules of retirement

Elle Tucker

It’s not so long ago that retirement often meant the end of work.

For many who reached their 60s and were fortunate enough to leave work with a decent pension, the prospect of holidays, golf, family and free time about summed it up.

While that’s still how it is for some, times have changed. Within the space of a generation, the wants, needs and choices of those approaching retirement – if we can even call it that now – have transformed too.

In fact, a recent report1 claims that for some people, giving up work completely isn’t what they have in mind.

One in 10 Brits are planning to become ‘greypreneurs’ by starting their own business.

Who are the ‘greypreneurs’?

They are a new generation of entrepreneurial people in their 50s and beyond who are exploring new business ideas such as setting up a coffee shop, book-keeping, running a B&B or Air BnB, or even taking on a franchise business.

The research showed that Londoners tend to be most entrepreneurial-minded with 19% focused on starting their own business in retirement.

What’s behind this trend? Some ‘baby-boomers’ – born before 1964 – have reached their 50s and 60s with the life experience and financial clout to start up their own businesses or pursue the kind of job they perhaps always wanted.

It’s possible this has coincided with the arrival of pensions freedoms four years ago which handed control to people over when and how they choose to take their pension savings from the age of 55 (although this age may change in future).

And this has opened up new opportunities for how many people live – and work – later in life.

From age 55, if they’re in a modern flexible pension, they can take some or all of their savings as a lump sum, or set up a guaranteed income for life (an annuity), or leave their pension savings invested and take a flexible income while they build up that new business.

With some providers they could even opt for a mix of these – or leave their savings untouched until they’re ready or their new venture needs a cash injection.

Case study: Margaret Fraser – “I feel like I’m just getting started really.”

Former primary school teacher Margaret Fraser is one ‘greypreneur’ who has been able to follow her dreams, thanks to her retirement savings.

Margaret, who featured in one of Standard Life’s ads on Sky in the Spring, explains: “I was always quite interested in acting. It just didn’t seem possible that I would make a career out of it. Instead I became a primary school teacher.”

But the acting bug was always there from her school years and she got involved in local amateur dramatics when she could.

“Later in life, when my circumstances changed, I decided I could pursue it,” she says. “When I got the opportunity to go to drama school it was life changing. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without savings and it was just a wonderful experience.”

Since drama school Margaret has worked in a variety of roles in theatre, television, films and advertising, working with a company training learning-disabled actors, and even appearing on stage overseas.

“I feel like I’m just getting started really,” she explains.

Rising State Pension age plays a part too

There’s yet another likely reason for the increase in ‘greypreneurs’. As the State Pension age rises and with an overall increase in UK life expectancy, for many, there’s a need, or a wish, to keep earning for that bit longer.

The UK State Pension age used to be 60 for women and 65 for men but will increase from 65 to 66 for both by October 2020.

So while self-employment in general has been on the rise for a while, for many over 50s it’s becoming a solution to the challenges of working later in life.

According to the ONS, the number of self-employed increased from 3.3 million people (12% of the workforce) in 2001 to 4.8 million (15.1%) in 20172. And research shows that the over 50s will represent the majority of the self-employed workforce in the UK by 20243.

Spark something great

Whether or not you are pursuing a new career like Margaret, starting your own business, or want to be as sure as you can be about your income, our article Retirement re-invented: live it, love it – how will you fund it? highlights a few things to help you get your plans off the ground. 

How much could you have for your future?

See how much you could have in the future in your pension using our calculator. If you want, take the opportunity to potentially boost your pension by saving a bit more.

Get some advice to help you decide

To get an idea of what income you could have in retirement and how to take what you might need in retirement tax efficiently, it makes sense to speak to an adviser, and there’s usually a charge for this.

If you don’t have an adviser, try or 1825, for financial planning from Standard Life*.

You can also get free information and guidance from The Pensions Advisory Service.

Check your options for your pension savings

Discover what you can do with your pension pot at the Money Advice Service or the Standard Life website.

Find out about your State Pension

You can get a clearer picture of what you can expect from your State Pension and when on the Government’s website. It just takes a couple of minutes to find out.


Elle Tucker is a freelance journalist writing on behalf of Standard Life.

Your pension is an investment – its value can go down as well as up and may be worth less than was paid in. This article isn’t intended to be taken as financial advice.

Dipping into your pension will reduce its value and you could run out of money. Of course tax rules can change and what it means for you will depend on your individual circumstances.

*‘1825’ is the brand for Standard Life Aberdeen Group’s UK financial planning and advice business.

1 Pension Report, Retirement Reality, Aviva

2 Trends in self-employment in the UK, Office for National Statistics, February 2018

3 Over 50s to be majority of UK’s self-employed by 2024, Hitachi Capital, June 2018