Empowering aging workers: A small business owner’s advocacy for retirement security


As Sylvie Hutchings approached 50, her professional growth began to stall at her corporate job. Feeling like there were fewer opportunities as she got older, the former fraud analyst decided it was finally time to realize her lifelong dream of becoming a small business owner. She searched for a franchise she could purchase so she could focus on running the business rather than worrying about creating her own marketing and building name recognition. She came across a business she felt was a perfect fit and aligns with her passions: Seniors Helping Seniors, an in-home care provider that employs seniors, and has now been in business for nearly 10 years.

Sylvie immigrated to the United States from France at just 19 years old. As an immigrant, she considers it part of her American Dream to be a business owner. As a member of her Chicago community, she sees it as her personal mission to serve and provide employment opportunities for seniors. 

However, business ownership hasn’t always been easy. When the economy is bad, in-home care is not a priority for people even if they really need it. It was particularly difficult for Sylvie and her employees during the pandemic when people did not want others in their homes and many of her providers feared for their own health. However, it has all been worth it for Sylvie who is now able to enjoy the freedoms of entrepreneurship while giving back to her community. 

Helping seniors in her community is a great passion of Sylvie’s and being able to employ them is one of the main reasons she loves entrepreneurship. Her employees are people who either can’t afford to retire yet or who want to remain active despite being of retiring age. After experiencing some age discrimination in her own career, she can really relate to her employees who aren’t ready to exit the workforce. 

Sylvie advises, “If you want to go into business, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. You need to love what you do because it won’t be easy and won’t always be lucrative.”

Sylvie isn’t the only person thinking about the challenges of retirement. The Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program is a state-run retirement savings program that requires all businesses with five or more employees to either enroll or report an exemption (if they already offer a retirement plan). This program is designed to shrink the retirement savings gap to give more Illinoisians the freedom to do what they like with their retirement. It not only benefits Sylvie’s employees, but it also benefits small business owners like her who want to give their employees as many benefits as they can, but may not be able to afford it on their own. 

Sylvie explains, “Illinois Secure Choice is more than just a retirement savings option; it's a reflection of a business owner's care for her employees and a commitment to their long-term well-being.” She goes on to say, “Nearing the age of retirement can be really grim, but knowing you have financial security makes it less intimidating as you can start to turn your attention to your community and your passions.”

Learn more about Illinois Secure Choice and how we are advocating for programs like this across the country.  

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