When tax time rolls around each year, small business owners might start thinking about their overall financial situation, including how they should be saving for retirement. Navigating the alphabet soup of retirement plan names (401(k)s, 403(b)s, IRAs, Roths, SEPs, SIMPLEs, 457, etc.) can be overwhelming to the point where you decide to kick the retirement plan to next year’s to-do list.
Don’t do that!
Retirement planning doesn’t have to be that complicated. Essentially, these plans are all designed to do the exact same thing—grow money from contributions you make to fund future retirement living expenses. The money that you put into the plan is used to buy investments that will, hopefully, grow over time so that when you reach retirement age, your account value is significantly more than the total of your annual contributions. There are also some great tax benefits that help you save even more.
When you are contemplating making a contribution to your retirement savings, the first thing you need to do is figure out how much you can contribute. This number is sometimes tough to determine because it depends on many variables including your age, current savings, standard of living, and available cash flow. We suggest you set aside 20 percent of your income for retirement contributions and 35 percent for taxes (that’s another column).
If you are in the startup phase of a small business, it might be really hard for you to want to divert any cash away from the business that could be used to continue to grow the company. You need to develop short-term (0-3 years) and long-term (5-plus years) plans for your business. Once your business is established and growing (usually by 5 years), it should provide you with an income and also with the funds to add to your retirement savings. You can take the pressure off yourself for the first several years while you build it up. Alternatively, you may find yourself in a situation where you are looking for ways to decrease the tax impact of your success. A retirement plan is one solution for that scenario.
There are many free websites that can help you determine whether or not you are on track for your retirement. Unfortunately, sometimes these websites can give a false level of confidence as they don’t consider all the factors specific to your financial situation, such as goals, assets in retirement accounts versus brokerage accounts, other income sources, debt, expected level of spending, income taxes, etc. Just be aware that using general rules of thumb can be dangerous to your specific situation.
The best thing that you can do to gain an understanding of your retirement planning based on your financial goals is to meet with an expert who can give you tailored advice to your personal situation. Certified Financial Planners are professionals who can give you unbiased advice — and advice that is in your best interest — about all of your financial goals. Two great resources for finding CFPs in your area include the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards and the Financial Planning Association.