LAWRENCE — It started as a hobby for Richard Payeur.
But his knack for arranging authentic-looking silk flower arrangements and renting them out for funerals has turned him into an entrepreneur.
With the steady success Silk Floral Rentals has seen, Payeur, 56, is now hoping to retire from his day job in customer service in just six years.
"It makes life easier when you retire," said Payeur, a Lawrence resident. "I'm hoping I can retire at 62 and continue to make enough money to support my Social Security and pension, and live comfortably."
With more than 25 percent of the U.S. population considered baby boomers, it's no surprise that Americans over the age of 55 are forming businesses at the highest rate of any group.
Payeur is part of the growing trend of boomers becoming entrepreneurs as a way to retire earlier. It's not retirement in the traditional sense.
To a growing number of people, retirement means working as everything from consultants to bakers to wedding planners.
Boomers — born between 1946 and 1964 — are healthier, more educated and living longer. They want to stay productive, according to Andover's Boomer Venture coordinator Karen Payne-Taylor.
Many are also tasked with covering their own cost of health insurance in retirement or have not stashed away a large enough nest egg.
"Very few people plan on the traditional retirement. It's the new retirement," Payne-Taylor said. "Many people, with over a third of their life left, can't afford to retire."
Payne-Taylor's Boomer Venture is a series of classes available at the Andover Senior Center for the younger over-55 set, offering classes in everything from yoga to life coaching and financial management.
Many of the boomers she meets want to try their hand at being their own boss. A retiring educator wants to teach English as a second language; another woman who wants to start an errand and personal assistant business; and a third boomer has started teaching cooking as a side job.