Preparing for retirement presents unique challenges to entrepreneurs.
Making lease or rent payments, covering overhead expenses, and turning a profit are permanently on the top of entrepreneurs’ to-do lists. As such, it can be difficult for people who have decided to forgo direct deposit to focus on planning for retirement. Studies show that 34 percent of entrepreneurs have no retirement savings at all. As the lines between personal and business accounts blur, entrepreneurs often have a hard time deciding between putting money back into the business and investing in their futures. As daunting as it can be, business owners can capitalize on other ways to save for retirement and build a financial foundation like traditional corporate employees.
- Separate your accounts.
As sole proprietors, entrepreneurs take on total responsibility for their business. When the company’s accounts are in the black, their personal accounts often mirror the trend. Unfortunately, the same is true for when money is slow to come in, making it difficult to find the funds to put away for retirement. The key to solidifying a financial plan that accounts for life after 65 is separating business and personal accounts. Be diligent about only using the business account for company expenses and utilizing a completely separate account for personal expenses.
- Make a habit of reimbursing yourself first.
Once your accounts are independent of each other, set up automatic payments for your retirement fund. Just as corporate employees have a select deferral rate each paycheck, entrepreneurs can have a default savings setting per month. Working with a financial advisor who knows your long-term goals can help set this rate for you, ensuring it’s enough to stay on track but also accounts for your business objectives.
- Decide which entrepreneurial retirement account is right for you.
Different types of accounts are available to business owners and are tailored to help in reaching their savings goals. Entrepreneurs with no employees often opt for an individual 401(k) plan, which allows for large contributions whenever the owner of the account wants to submit a deposit. A SIMPLE IRA is another option worth exploring for small companies with employees; the Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees allots for an expanding business and is cheaper for these types of firms. Business owners can continue investing after hiring employees, but they need to match their contributions by up to 3% of their salary. Finally, the Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan is popular among the entrepreneurial community because of its ease to open and the low fees it incurs.
- Protect your business.
As a business owner, the insurance plans that corporate companies provide their employees are usually unavailable to you. Make sure that insurance covers any property, trademarks, and other collateral that is under your name. Your company’s assets can be a large benefit for your retirement plan and must be protected as such. Many times, the business’ liquid assets can bolster the funds you need to retire when the time comes; however, banking on this type of funding should be used with caution.
Three other vital insurance policies every business owner should consider are: disability income insurance to help protect against loss of income in the event of a long term disability where you weren’t able to work; disability overhead expense insurance to protect your ability to pay qualified overhead business expenses if a disability or illness prevented you from working; and finally, key man life insurance which protects your business from losing a key employee and not having the funds to replace them.
- Map out a succession plan
Even though this point can be a long way off for some business owners, having a succession plan in place can make a serious difference in your retirement funds. As you modify your business plan, coordinate the adjustments to your transition plan as well. If the best exit strategy is selling the company, for instance, create a timeline of when to start identifying prospective buyers. Evaluating the amount of money that liquidating your business will generate can help map out your savings strategy for the rest of your working years. Partnering with a financial planner will help avoid some of the setbacks many business owners experience and make the process less complicated.
Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Milwaukee, WI (NM) (life and disability insurance, annuities, and life insurance with long-term care benefits) and its subsidiaries. Rachel Marie Thorngate is a financial advisor with NM.