Even if you don't plan to retire, you should still have a retirement plan.
A majority of older small-business owners have no formal retirement plan because they believe they will never stop working. But many will find that at some point, they are simply too old or too sick to work. And as superstorm Sandy showed, even healthy business owners with healthy businesses can find their livelihoods disrupted or destroyed overnight.
More than nine out of 10 businesses on Long Island meet the U.S. government's definition of being a small business. According to a new study from the U.S. Small Business Administration, older small-business owners think less frequently about retirement than wage earners, with many saying they will never retire. The SBA study found that small-business owners 50 and older are "significantly less likely" than wage earners to have a pension or work-related retirement plan.
A survey last year from the American College, a not-for-profit financial-services educational institution in Bryn Mawr, Pa., found a "stunning" lack of retirement planning among small-business owners with an average age of 50. Three-quarters of the small-business owners surveyed had no written retirement plan.
"If you live long enough, there's a virtual certainty you're going to hit a disability that's going to prevent you from working," says Ted
Kurlowicz, professor of estate planning at the American College. "They're fulfilling a prophecy that if they think they'll be working forever, they won't be planning for retirement."
Fortunately, there are ways older small-business owners can catch up. For sole proprietors with no employees, David Littell, co-director of the New York Life Center for Retirement Income at the American College, recommends looking into a solo 401(k). Those 50 and older who qualify for a solo 401(k) can contribute up to $55,500 a year. "That's an opportunity to save a lot in a short period of time," Littell says.
Another mistake some family business owners make is failing to name a successor or even broaching the subject with family members. This is often because the owner doesn't want to open up a family squabble by naming one child over the others. But if the owner dies, the business may fail because there's no one ready to step in. "Then they have a bunch of kids looking at an estate and saying, 'Were Mom and Dad just stupid here? Why didn't they bring us in on this?' " Kurlowicz says.