It’s tax time again, time to take a cold hard look at what you make, what you owe and what you need to be doing to save for the future. The trouble is that retirement planning for far too many home-based and other small business, business opportunity or franchise owners in particular just isn’t a priority, especially when times are tough.
According to one of the most recent studies on this subject by The American College, the nation’s largest non-profit educational institution devoted to financial services, while the vast majority of small business owners are concerned about retirement, millions of them are wholly unprepared for it. Moreover, an alarming number of them are not even sure what they would even need in order to consider retirement as an option down the road.
“The lack of retirement planning by so many people is stunning, especially since business owners have no one else to rely on when it comes to putting retirement plans in place,” said Mary Quist-Newins, Director of the State Farm Center for Women and Financial Services at The American College, in a recent statement. “When you consider that the mean age of our respondents is just over 50 you have to wonder, ‘What are these individuals waiting for?’ Retirement will be upon them before they know it. Small business owners need to start preparing…now.”
So why haven’t more small business owners developed a concrete retirement plan? The reasons are many and varied. A number of them cite the recent economic downturn as the culprit in that survival has trumped anything that can be put off for another day. Some say that the business itself will provide for their needs over time, when they sell it or it starts to create residual income, but that can be a very risky strategy. Planning for the future is downright overwhelming and far too complicated for thousands more of them still, so much so that avoidance is far too easy. Lastly, many small business owners just can’t envision themselves idle, and they don’t ever want to be, so they assume their health will hold out such that they never have to stop working. Admirable for sure, but it’s just not realistic.
Even if it’s a distaste for the traditional retirement paradigm―idly lazing around spending your days doing everything you want or nothing at all―that’s holding a small business owner back from planning for the future, perhaps today’s new one will inspire. And it is this: Retirement today is not so much about working or not working, it’s about having options. It’s about achieving a level of security such that whether or not you work is your choice and not a necessity.
So if having options in the future appeals to you, when and how do you get started?
Regarding “when,” the answer is now, and you need to know that it’s never too late. As for “how,” it starts with the basics, and here they are:
• Accept the idea of retiring. We live, on average, longer than ever before. We must accept the fact that many of us will get to a point where working is not preferable or even possible, so we might as well get used to the idea and start planning for the inevitable.
• Take your head out of the sand! The vast majority of Americans are not saving nearly enough to sustain them in old age. Experts estimate that the average individual will need approximately 70% of his or her current annual income if he or she is not working and wants to maintain their current lifestyle. As is true in business, knowing the exact goal you are trying to reach is half the battle. So take stock of your own situation, crunch the numbers, get real and make a plan.
• Develop a plan. If you’re smart, you didn’t launch your own business without a plan, so why should you launch the rest of your life without one? Sit down and take the idea of planning for retirement every bit as seriously as you do making payroll or a deadline. Your whole future deserves nothing less.
• Educate yourself. There are all kinds of tax rules that are designed to benefit self-employed individuals and small business owners who may have a small number of employees. If you don’t know the ins and outs of an Individual 401K, SEP IRA, Simple IRA or a Defined Benefit Plan, you should. The reliable online resources available to you in learning about all of these options and more are many.
• Ask an expert. If you need one, do not hesitate to find a good financial planner who can educate you, get you on track and assure you that by taking the simplest of steps today one at a time you will have choices tomorrow.
• Keep up with new developments. Small business owners should be aware of pending legislation that may affect their ability to save for the future. Initiatives proposed just this past month in the U.S. Congress could have a very real positive impact on this issue. Designed specifically to encourage small business owners in their efforts to save for retirement, the new guidelines would allow them to pool their resources and assets together into multiple employer retirement plans. These plans would then be monitored and administered by experienced financial professionals. This approach would take much of the guesswork and complexity out of the planning process and automate it for self-employed business people and their employees in much the same way larger companies are able to do for theirs.
For more information on The American College study findings, go to “Small Business Owners Are Unprepared for Retirement” now.
To get started on your own retirement planning as a small business owner, the IRS’ Retirement Plans Navigator is a great place to start!