The business owner retirement dilemma
If you’re a business owner, you’re probably focused on day-to-day business tasks. You may not be thinking about retirement – even if it’s only a few years away. But don’t worry, you’re not alone.
According to the Canadian Federation of Independent BusinessOpens a new website in a new window, 76% of small business owners are planning to leave their business, but only 9% have a formal business succession plan in place.
Some working Canadians have company pensions or an employer-matching program to help with retirement. Generally, these are benefits a small business owner doesn’t have. It’s up to you to plan your future and decide how to pay for your retirement. Let’s go through some questions to think about when you start planning.
When would you like to retire?
This is a great place to start. Even if you decide on a rough idea of a retirement date, it gives you a goal to work towards. It makes you think about how long you want to keep working, what you want to do during retirement, and how much money you can save in the years you’re still working and earning money.
You’ll need to think about several factors and decide what date is best for you. These may include your physical and financial health, your family and any others you’ll share your retirement years with.
Ultimately, when you decide to retire is a personal choice but perhaps redefining “retirement age” is a good place to start.
Retirement looks different than it did even just a generation ago. As people are living longer, generally healthier lives, some tend to work longer and retire later during their twilight years. Or some may choose to officially retire but not completely stop working.
What retirement lifestyle do you want?
Your lifestyle plans will help decide how much money you’ll need to enjoy retirement. Think about how often you’d like to travel, whether you want to volunteer or spend time at home. Retirement doesn’t always mean leaving work altogether. It could mean taking on less responsibility, working part-time, or consulting while the person who replaced you learns the ropes.
Once you've sketched out what your version of retirement looks like, it's a good idea to draft a retirement budget.
How will you fund your retirement?
The good news is that there are several options to help you fund your retirement. Government programs available to almost all Canadians, such as the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security, help give you a basic level of income. And during your working years, the registered retirement savings plan and tax-free savings account give a tax-advantaged option for you to save for retirement.
Other options for business owners funding their retirement include the individual pension plan and retirement compensation arrangements.
Business owners may plan to fund their retirement by selling their business. However, this can be risky because there are lots of unknowns. It’s important to consider whether you’ll have a buyer ready when you want to sell. You should have your business’s fair market value evaluated before looking for buyers.
How you’ll fund your retirement involves a lot of big decisions. Talk to your advisor about how you can expand your retirement income.
What kind of future do you want for your business?
Every owner will walk away from their business eventually. Creating a succession plan is an important step on the road to a healthy retirement and protecting your legacy.
If you wonder how to retire from your own business, here are some scenarios to consider:
- Transfer or sell the business to a family member
- Sell the business to a partner or employee
- Sell to a third party
Even if you know who’s going to take over your business, you’ll need time – perhaps several years – to prepare them. They may need to gain specific skills and relationships, and learn every part of the business.
You shouldn’t be alone in answering these questions. Your advisor, accountant, and lawyer can all help you with things like estate planning, tax-efficient investments, and retirement savings plans.
Knowing you’re prepared for different scenarios can help you relax and focus on your business. Even if your exit plan is still far off, having a plan in place means you’re prepared for every outcome. That’s just good business sense.