Over 50s

Life begins at 50


It doesn’t matter if you’re 30 or 70 – your career can take a new and exciting turn at any age. Maybe you want to start your own business. Maybe you want to work less, and free up more time for hobbies and loved ones. Maybe you want to change job completely and do something you’ve never done before.

At RED, we see 50 in particular as a brilliant age for rethinking your working life. Many of our driving instructors are over-50s and enjoying all the benefits that come with being self-employed, including working fewer hours, a schedule that suits them and being their own boss. It’s a great time to explore new interests and bring some of your earlier ambitions to fruition, whether that involves moving into a new industry or launching your own business.

We believe that life really does begin at 50 – but we wanted to find out exactly what this means. Using survey data from Target Group Index, we investigated the attitudes and current situations of 11.9 million UK adults aged 50 to 65, finding out how they felt about work and family but also comparing their happiness levels and looking at how they spent their free time. For full details of our data sets, scroll to the bottom of the page.

The groups we studied within this age range were: mothers; part-time women; retired women; unemployed women; and divorced/widowed/separated women; fathers; part-time men; retired men; unemployed men; divorced/widowed/separated men.

From budding entrepreneurs to the biggest boozers, we learnt some pretty interesting facts about our over-50s.


Ladies of leisure

Above all, over-50s women don’t want work to interfere with their family and leisure time. Being able to see their loved ones and go on holiday is important – but right now, not all of them are striking the balance, with more than a quarter (29%) of full-timers worrying about work during their spare time.
We’ve also seen that most women value having responsibility and don’t want to be told what to do. So for the 87% of full-time women who agree with this statement, the implications could be life-changing: perhaps a self-employed career that allows them more flexibility and control might be more suitable. Other groups also indicate they’re not satisfied with work – 58% of part-time women only go to work for the money, implying they’re not in a career they’re truly passionate about.

At RED, we’ve found that having a flexible career has allowed our instructors to focus on things such as family and their social life, making their jobs more rewarding. Especially for the 15% of part-time and full-time women interested in starting their own business, the self-employed lifestyle could be the way forward.

“29% of full-time women worry about work during their spare time.”


When it comes to the issue of taking responsibility, clear differences are evident when comparing men with women. For example, unemployed men are 13% more likely to want responsibility than unemployed women. What’s more, 34% of unemployed men say they’d like to set up their own business in future, compared to 24% of unemployed women.

Similarly to women, the vast majority of self-employed (94%) and full-time men (89%) like having responsibility, but don’t like being told what to do. However, self-employed men express more of a ‘carpe diem’ attitude, with 85% agreeing you should seize opportunities in life compared to 77% of full-timers, 80% of part-timers and 82% of retirees.

Full-time people want the same sense of responsibility and control as the self-employed. “I want responsibility. I don’t want to be told what to do.”


Family comes first

At least, it does for the majority of our over-50s women. Across all the groups, 85% enjoy seeing their families, and only 6% say they would sacrifice this time to get ahead.

As for who’s got the most time free to spend having family meals at the weekend, once again the self-employed are winning. Not only are they 4% more able to dine with their loved ones than the full-time women, they’re even doing it more than retirees! They’re also less likely to worry about failing their children – 23% report this as a concern, compared to 30% of full-time women and 43% of unemployed women.

“16% of full-time men find it tricky to balance work with family.”

Our men are even less worried

Generally, working men are doing okay when it comes to juggling a career with their home life – particularly the part-timers and self-employed. Just 7% of part-time men say they find it tricky to balance work with family, compared to 16% of full-time men. What’s more, as with self-employed women, the self-employed men are able to dine with loved ones at the weekend more than any other group – 50% are enjoying family meals, compared to 44% of full-time men, 43% of part-timers and 26% of the unemployed.

However, given that 44% of unemployed men believe friends to be more important and 11% saying they would be willing to sacrifice family time to concentrate on work, maybe family time is not such a big deal for them. There’s a big difference here with unemployed women, where 73% prioritise family over work.

Unemployed women are more preoccupied with family than men. “I often worry about failing my children.”


The self-employed are the most content

How happy are the over-50s? Are they content with their current standard of living, or are they still trying to make things better for themselves? Once again, the self-employed are proving they’re getting it right, with 36% of self-employed women and 41% of men enjoying life the most and worrying the least about the future. They come above full-time men and women (33% and 38% respectively) and even the retired (31% of women and 37% of men).

Unemployed women are less happy – and less likely than all other over-50s, men and women, to say they enjoy life. Funnily enough, however, they’re not worried about the future – so perhaps this happiness isn’t related to work after all. We can see further similarities across the genders with unemployed men who, like women of their age, are 26% less likely to be happy than those in work. This shows that the happier men over 50 are, generally, still working.

“unemployed men and women are 26% less likely to be happy than those in work.”

A life of challenge, novelty and change

Every life stage brings a new set of changes and excitement, whether it’s welcoming new additions to the family, paying off your mortgage or switching to a completely new career. The self-employed in particular like to keep things interesting, with 42% women in this category and 45% of men agreeing they like to pursue a life of variety of change. This is compared to 37% of full-time women and 32% of full-time men, and 27% of part-time women and 35% of part-time men.

In terms of how they can up their happiness levels, taking more control over their careers or switching to more flexible hours so they can socialise and see family more could be the answer. For example, a career as a driving instructor, life coach or private tutor, which makes use of key life skills and can be easily worked around other commitments.

Self-employed people are more likely to enjoy life and not worry about the future. “I like to enjoy life and don’t worry about the future.”


Holiday in the sun

Going on holiday and spending time with friends and family is important to us all – not least for the over-50s. Among over-50s women, the self-employed are the biggest victims of wanderlust, with 73% saying they enjoy planning holidays compared to 61% of part-time and full-time women. Being active is another of their priorities, with 59% of self-employed committing to sport or exercise at least once a week – that’s 10% more than part-time women and 13% more than full-time and unemployed women.

As for attitudes towards diet, the self-employed and part-time are the most conscious about what they eat. Nearly half (49%) of both groups agree they really look after their health, most likely thanks to the freedom and flexibility on offer with their careers giving them more time to focus on themselves. Meanwhile, full-time and unemployed women looked after their health the least (41%).

“Self-employed women are 13% more able to exercise on a weekly basis than full-timers.”

Down the boozer

When it comes down to it, plenty of men over 50 like nothing more than a couple of pints with their mates. We’ve seen that part-time men are the most sociable, with 42% enjoying a night down the pub – but with 40% of self-employed and full-time men also agreeing, it seems hitting the boozer is a shared past time. Women, on the other hand, appear to have a different idea of fun – just 21% of part-time women and 17% of self-employed women like a night down the pub.

As for men’s lifestyle choices, while the unemployed show the biggest desire to be entrepreneurial, they aren’t so bothered about diet and exercise – only 34% do some sort of exercise or sport every week, and just 38% think they eat healthier now than they did before. Self-employed men are the most health and fitness conscious – 60% exercise every week, compared to less than half (48%) of full-time men, and 35% agree they look after their health.

The self-employed are more able to focus on their health, exercise and going on holiday. “I do some form of sport or exercise at least once a week.”

So, what have we learnt?

Family is, in general, a priority for over-50s – especially the women – while going on holiday and socialising down the pub are also high on their lists of things to do.

While the self-employed are the happiest group, the unemployed are the least content with life, showing that work is still a major contributor to happiness. This isn’t the only area where the self-employed come out on top – they’re also able to spend more time with family at the weekends, and are the healthiest, most opportunistic and most active.

If flexible hours and greater control over your schedule is something you too have always wanted, switching to a self-employed career or taking on casual work through a franchise such as RED could help you to realise your goal. Find out more here.



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