At some point in your life you have been approached with a business opportunity with a direct selling company or traditionally called MLM.
While the playing field varies from company to company, it basically promises the opportunity to ditch your 9-5 work schedule to be your own boss and make a lot of money, while making new friends in the process. It all sounds good on paper, however, there is endless debate as to whether or not these companies and programs are legitimate business opportunities. I believe the entire industry is poised for explosive growth and may be one of the most important solutions to America’s current retirement savings crisis. At first it may sound like a bold statement, but it’s not if you understand retirement as I do. The reality is that making a successful transition to retirement has more to do with psychology than money. Don’t get me wrong, money plays a role in retirement but it’s really up to you to give it the importance. Telling statistics like the AARP estimate that half of all baby boomers (76 million) are interested in starting a business, and see retirement as an opportunity in time and money to get started. We can clearly see a massive trend.
When it comes to the retirement savings crisis more and more people are coming to terms with the fact that they probably aren’t going to be able to save enough money to just sit back and slowly deplete their savings from age 62 to 100. With the average person estimated to have less than $50,000 in retirement savings there is an obvious need to find alternative ways to save. Going beyond just dollars and cents, boomers are getting tired of feeling guilty or bad about their past savings habits and are interested in moving toward possible solutions. Another growing reality that could benefit MLM and related businesses is the increasing number of baby boomers who are disenchanted with their current careers. They are worn out from letting the business routine consume their passions, and they don’t feel a connection between their work and personal lives outside the four office walls. They are shifting their focus from the accumulation of a giant nest egg to a desire to be part of something bigger and better to have a positive effect on others.
Direct selling and multilevel programs often offer training, support, and ample encouragement along the way. As retirees begin to realize that they need activities that keep them busy, relevant, healthy, and connected to others, the time, energy, and cost of participating in these types of ventures are very attractive to large segments of the population stuck in the inactive retirement rut. Just like any investment of time, money and energy, people have to be aware of where they are getting into and do their homework. Those are the main reasons why I started researching the topic by reaching out to everyday people involved in these types of ventures. These two people gave their opinions as to whether this can be a realistic source of retirement income.
I initially spoke with a retired friend who said he joined a direct sales health and beauty company as a way to meet new people. She remarried and moved to a new location, so she combines the practice of meeting new people with making extra money. After nearly a decade in business, she has built a small niche business with friends and family despite switching from one company to another competitor after three years. She admits that she does not attend all the local company meetings and goal setting sessions because she is not interested in being a producer. She simply likes to use the entrepreneurial activity to keep busy (especially in the winter) and use the extra money she makes to travel and spoil the grandkids. Having studied the psychology and behavior of boomers, this example represents a major shift in my thinking about the industry. I no longer perceive these types of opportunities as money making pyramid schemes. Instead, I now see it as a way to enhance many of the personal aspects of retirement that are rarely discussed, with the added benefit of supplementing other popular retirement income sources such as pensions and social security.
Daria M. Brzezinski Ph.D, a practicing psychologist and former marketing director of a multi-level marketing magazine, echoes these statements. “Many people don’t realize that multilevel marketing businesses are successful because they help people meet a number of important human needs, including feeling important, having connections, learning something new, and making a difference. I’ve heard people in network marketing say over and over again, ‘I’m doing this because I’m going to meet amazing people, make so many connections, and feel so good about myself. ‘” The point Dr. Brzezinski makes is well received and easy to see practiced by popular network marketing companies.
Many MLM and NM companies offer a three to five year plan to achieve freedom and wealth, yet many of the people running company meetings have been in the business for five to ten years and have yet to leave their full time job or land the easy situation. “As a result,” Dr. Brzezinski points out, “when other human needs are being met, members and consultants are not focused solely on the financial aspects.” Continuing my interviews, I challenged three others who are in the business of being simple, and proving to me that the process really works. What I found was good, consistent business advice applicable to any new business. Lorene Hochstetler, from Ohio, recommends keeping your current job while slowly making the transition to MLM. She has been able to replace her full-time income, but explains, “That didn’t happen overnight, and I still work every day. I’m very disciplined with my business and wake up every day knowing what I need to do to be successful at this. You have to treat it like a business and be willing to take advice from other people who have done it.”
Tracy Willard from California started her MLM career out of necessity. “Before I got involved in the business, I told my friends never let me join one of those things but when our family was hit by the mortgage crisis I had to do something different.” She started her business with the same intention that some other retirees may find themselves. “I started with the idea that I just needed to make my month easier. My company helped me understand what I needed to do in order to make an extra $500 per month.” He reiterated a common theme I heard throughout the interviews. “If you treat it like a hobby it won’t pay him like a business.” She also acknowledged that, despite her success, she doesn’t sit around eating bonbons every day waiting for residual checks to arrive in her mailbox. “That’s a common mistake,” she said. “I work hard at my business every day, even though it doesn’t always feel like work. Like other entrepreneurs who benefit from her passion, she says that “it’s rewarding because I found a product that has made a difference in how I look and feel.
Staci Cahill runs her MLM company in Washington in a way that many people can appreciate. She keeps her personal life separate from her business life, avoiding home parties, instead offering workshops that educate prospects about the products she offers. “I don’t want to be that person that others hide from because they thought I was going to ask them to set up a meeting. I like to keep my business life and personal life separate.” When I asked her if she was successful in her trade she pointed out a different MLM approach than many might expect. “Yes, I am very successful given what I wanted to get out of it. I’m a single mom who was working 50 hours a week outside the home. Now I’ve cut back to 20 hours, which is a major improvement for me and my family.” As a five-year MLM veteran, she attributes her success to the fact that she switched companies a few years ago after realizing that pots and pans don’t change people’s lives. “The products I offer now have changed my life and the lives of others, I can wake up and go to bed knowing that.”
Interviews and psychological connections lead me to the conclusion that MLM and NM companies, along with other small business opportunities, are important considerations for anyone entering the business world. retirement. In fact, I believe the concept of starting a retirement income business will become one of the most important trends affecting retirement in the 21st century. But it has to start with redefining entrepreneurship and framing it in a retirement lifestyle. That means helping people find ways to turn a passion, hobby, or personal desire into extra money in their pocket, stay relevant and connected, as well as stay mentally and physically healthy.
Something that multi-level marketing and network marketing companies are about to capitalize on. As a result, the industry may soon experience the largest growth in a lifetime, spurred by baby boomers looking to adjust their sentiments and retirement plans. Let me assure you, lack of money is nothing compared to being without family, friends, and good health.