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Work and Well-Being Among the Self-Employed at Older Ages

Self-employment increases with age. About one-third of all self-employed workers become self-employed at or after age 50, according to this AARP Public Policy Institute Issue Paper that explores patterns of self-employment at older ages, including:

  • The characteristics of older self-employed workers and the nature of their jobs
  • Expectations about job changes and retirement, and actual retirement experiences among older self-employed workers
  • Transitions in and out of self-employment at older ages
  • The wealth accumulation and portfolio diversification of older self-employed workers
  • The consequences of shifts to self-employment at older ages for retirement assets

The study compares a number of groups—

  • Age 50+ self-employed to age 50+ wage and salary workers
  • Self-employed before age 50 to self-employed at or after age 50
  • Self-employed with employees to self-employed without employees

and finds considerable differences between the groups. In particular, those self-employed before age 50 and those with employees most closely resemble each other, while those who became self-employed at or after age 50 are more similar to the self-employed without employees.

Self-employed workers were found to be, on average, much better prepared for retirement than are wage and salary workers—they are more likely than wage and salary workers to own all types of property and financial assets and to have much higher levels of all types of non-pension wealth. (100 pages)

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