HAMMER BARZEN
Ted S. Warren  /  AP
Home elder care will always be in demand. Chuck Barzen, left, receives help getting dressed from Karen Hammer at a home in West Seattle.
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Special to msnbc.com

Got the entrepreneurial itch?

Well, you’re not alone. In the coming decades expect increasing numbers of wage slaves to place their bets on self-employment and its potential for both personal fulfillment and profit.

Of course, just because everybody’s doing it doesn’t guarantee success. Any decision to go it alone needs to be informed. Markets never remain static and what’s hot today could be as cold as a collection agent’s heart a year or so from now.

There’s no ironclad way to pick the next big thing -- or to avoid buying into the small-business equivalent of the Edsel -- but there are ways to insulate yourself from truly unwise decisions. Mostly this involves paying attention to society’s big demographic shifts.

Ask the right questions and consult the right sources and you can learn who has the money and how they’re likely to spend it.  Then, think about how you can leverage your knowledge and talents to capture a slice of that market.

There’s no substitute for doing your own research, but to help you start the process here are 10 business ideas that figure to be hot for the foreseeable future. Most are representative of broad trends that will generate plenty of other good ideas, so be prepared to free associate.

1.   Home elder care I.  Thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, members of the so-called “greatest generation” are able to live independently, but frequently not without help. Businesses that provide personal services to the elderly -- grocery shopping, chauffeuring, physical therapy -- are good bets for the sole operator.

2.   Home elder care II.  Because of temporary or permanent illnesses and disabilities, part-time assistance may not be sufficient to allow the elderly to remain in their own homes. Sometimes round-the-clock skilled nursing care is required, and agencies that supply competent and honest help are and will be much in demand.

(It’s worth noting that businesses catering to the "greatest generation" will be well-positioned to serve their children, the baby boomers, who constitute the largest, wealthiest generation in U.S. history. Of course, before the boomers require living assistance, they’ll be spending plenty of loot as active retirees. Members of the generation’s leading cohort turn 59 in 2005 and their impending retirement represents a huge market opportunity.)

3.   Retirement real estate. The elderly like it hot, and boomers will be no exception.  Properties in temperate climates, particularly those within easy striking distance of the coast, have begun to go through the roof. (This would explain why in recent years West Palm Beach, Fla., emerged from urban decay to become the nation’s fastest appreciating single-family home market.)  Selling retirement real estate, or providing services to firms that do, figures to be a growth industry.

4.   Trust and investment services. Helping boomers manage the vast wealth they collectively possess will provide plenty of work for accountants, investment advisers, insurance agents, lawyers specializing in trusts and estates and everyone in between. Count on the government to keep the tax code so convoluted that professional advice is always needed.

5.   Personal improvement. Long obsessed with how they look and feel,boomers won’t hesitate to spend retirement dollars on regimens and treatments that let them cling to at least the illusion of youth. Entrepreneurs who effectively deliver such nostrums as Pilates and yoga, Botox and other beauty treatments and nutritional counseling will tap into a gold mine.

6.    Retirement recreation. One of the benefits of good health is the ability to remain active, and boomers will pursue vigorous activities in retirement as no generation before. Golf, fly fishing, hiking, bicycling are just a few of the pursuits on which retirees will drop lots of money. As with real estate, the watchword in this entrepreneurial market is location, location, location.

7.    Resort services. Active boomers and younger enthusiasts will fuel a development boom in the most scenic parts of the country. Overcrowding in the national parks and the rapid development of the intermountain West are two signs of this. With more residents comes the need for more services: restaurants, dry cleaners, copy centers -- name it.

8.    Outsourcing I. Not all of the jobs being outsourced by U.S. corporations are heading overseas. Plenty of the work is staying at home in the hands of independent contractors in the areas of accounting, law, human resources. An entrepreneur with in-demand expertise would do well to explore the corporate market.

9.    Outsourcing II. Not all outsourcing takes place beyond the corporate walls. Often the work is performed by temps supplied to companies by agencies. An agency with a particular “hook” -- in other words the ability to provide competent workers a demonstrated sought-after skill -- figure to do well in the current and future business environment.

10.   IT consulting.  During the 2000-2010 decade, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts, eight of the 10 fastest growing jobs will involve computer technology. Clearly, the world is becoming more wired and consultants who can help users adopt new hardware and software products and resolve problems will not have a difficult time finding work.

Philipp Harper is a freelance journalist living in south Georgia.

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