Thinking about an exit strategy may be the last item on your priority list as you work hard to successfully run your small business. But no matter how young you are or how new your business is, life moves fast. It’s never too early to think about retirement, because being old and broke is the last place you want to be in a few decades (or a few years) from now.
To prepare for retirement, the first item on your agenda should be to determine what you want to do with your business when it’s your turn to ride off into the sunset. Do you want to sell your business and use the proceeds to fund part of your retirement, or do you dream of passing along your business to your children or other close relatives?
Planning For Retirement
No matter what you plan to do with your business once you’re ready to retire, saving money for retirement throughout your career is still your best bet. To do this, you’ll need to ask yourself some important retirement lifestyle questions, including:
- What will your source of retirement income be?
- How much money will you need to retire?
- What age do you want to retire, and how much will you need to save each month to make it happen?
Online retirement calculators, such as this one from Bankrate, can be used for free online. If there is a place where you dream of spending your golden years, try to get an idea of what the cost of living is there. Also factor into the equation that as you get older, medical bills may pile up. If necessary, speak to a financial advisor about these factors. You can find a financial advisor online for free on various personal financial websites, such as SmartAsset.com.
If You’re Starting Late
If you’re a bit late in the game when it comes to saving for retirement, not to worry. According to a great article from the American Association of Retired People (AARP), there are steps you can take, such as refining your personal budget to eliminate any excesses; setting up automatic savings deposits; maxing out contributions to any individual retirement account (IRA) you may have, and working as long as you can. The fact is, even if you’re starting to save in your 40s or 50s, you can still save enough to retire.
Saving vs. Selling For Retirement
Selling your business to fund your retirement is an extremely risky proposition because small business owners tend to overestimate the value of their business and often mistakenly believe that selling it will bring in enough income to comfortably retire. Don’t count on it. A business is only worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it, and if you own a mom-and-pop shop with relatively low profit margins, chances are that selling your business will not pull in enough funds for you to retire.
The answer is to save early and often for retirement by setting up a retirement plan for yourself and your employees. Whether you have two or 20 employees, there is a retirement investment plan out there for your business.
You can open a simple IRA which allows employees to contribute money to the plan. Another option is a SEP IRA, in which only the owners can make contributions. You can also fund a solo 401(k), which covers a business owner with no employees, or a 401(k) plan for small businesses.
You may want to seek help from a financial advisor to choose your investment options. The advisor can help you build a diversified investment portfolio that will automatically adjust the financial risk of your portfolio accordingly as you get older, and keep your retirement assets safe and allow them to grow.
Most retirement investment vehicles – be it a 401(k) plan or an IRA – allow you to contribute pre-tax dollars and will not charge you capital gains taxes until you retire or if you take an early withdrawal from it. Even saving just $100 pre-tax dollars per paycheck can add up over the years, so start saving early.
Always Know How Much Your Business is Worth
If you plan to sell your business to fund at least part of your retirement, you should always have a rough idea of what your business is worth. Finding out is a bit of a complicated process, so you may want to work with your accountant or an M&A advisor that specializes in small- to medium-size businesses (SMBs).
- The first step is to determine your cash flow by calculating your assets and deducting your liabilities from them. Your assets include current and outstanding invoices, equipment and inventory. If you own the land that your business resides on, that’s an asset as well. Then, subtract any outstanding debt and expenses you have from that figure. This is your cash flow and will at least give you a good starting point in determining the value of your business.
- Second, determine how much gross annual earnings your business makes through sales. This is often referred to by large corporations as earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBIDTA). A company’s rough value is often calculated by a multiple of gross annual sales or cash flow.
- Third, consult with an M&A advisor or accountant on what multiples are used in your specific industry and location. For example, if you own a small tool manufacturing and supply shop in a wealthy location such as New York City, the average multiple of earnings that your business may sell for in the area could be five. Therefore, if your business’ gross annual sales are $500,000, it could sell for $2.5 million.
- Fourth, consider your client base. If you’re an accounting or law firm or an independent medical practice and have a base of long-time clients or patients, that should be a negotiating point when you go to sell your business. Typically, companies with long-time clients fetch higher multiples than smaller businesses such a retail store or restaurant.
Now that you have a rough idea of the value of your business, you should factor that into the amount you are saving and investing for retirement, especially if you are planning to sell your business to fund your retirement.
Passing Your Business to Your Heirs
If you’ve saved enough for retirement and want your child or another close relative to inherit your business, there are several logistical and financial considerations you need to examine:
- First, make sure your child is properly educated, trained and willing to run your business. It is probably best to introduce your child to the business as early as possible.
- Second, if you have more than one child and they all want to inherit a piece of your business, make sure you speak with your accountant and your kids about how they will divvy up your business and what tax consequences, if any, each of them will face once you decide to retire.
- Work with your accountant to avoid paying the gift tax. The gift tax taxes the transfer of property from one person to another. The property does include a business, and this tax applies while you are still alive (this is not to be confused with the inheritance tax, which is what your heirs will owe to the IRS on whatever property you leave to them after you are deceased).
- Keep in mind that there is a $15,000 annual exclusion from the gift tax in 2020 and 2021, and a $11.7 million lifetime exclusion. If the amount you are giving to your heirs stays below those amounts, you can avoid having to pay the gift tax altogether..
When it comes to planning your retirement, do not listen to the old Rolling Stones song, “Time is on my Side” (notice that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards haven’t retired yet!). Start saving early, because you do not want to be financially struggling in your golden years, and you certainly want your children to be fully prepared for the day when they take over your business. The earlier you start, the better off you will be.