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Many Small Business Owners Aren't Prepared for Retirement

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No pension, no retirement savings — and no solid plan for how they will fund the latter part of their life. That's the dire situation for many small-business owners.

About a third of small-business owners do not have a personal or business-sponsored retirement plan such as a 401(k), a SEP IRA or deferred annuity, according to a new survey from non-profit the American College. Nearly the same number haven't estimated how much money they need for retirement.

Many workers feel unprepared for their golden years. But a lack of retirement planning by small-business owners is stunning because they "have no one else to rely on," says Mary Quist-Newins, director of the State Farm Center for Women and Financial Services at the American College.

Unlike government or company employees, who are eligible for 401(k)s or similar plans, small-business owners are often solely responsible for their retirement planning, she says.

And that can be a difficult task for a business owner who is already taxed time-wise. Saving for retirement falls to the bottom of the to-do list. "They are just so living in the moment," she says. "They are just trying to keep this (business) going." Other reasons business owners aren't better prepared for retirement:

Just surviving takes priority over saving. Businesses that are in the start-up and early growth phase often reinvest money into the firm, and don't put it into retirement funds, says Gary Kushner, CEO of human resources consulting firm Kushner & Co. And many owners — even those of more mature businesses — severed retirement funding during the downturn.

"Certainly when you're worried about your business surviving, you're not worried about funding your retirement," says Michael Preisz, an adviser with the non-profit Institutional Retirement Income Council.

They think the business will provide for their needs. Some owners solely plan on continued revenue from the business or proceeds from selling the firm to sustain them later in life. And there are those who prefer to rely on their business' returns rather than unpredictable stock and bond funds. But if the firm goes south, "They are left with nothing," Preisz says.

Setting up a company savings account appears daunting. Many haven't set up an employer-sponsored plan since the paperwork can seem time consuming and complex, Kushner says.

They don't consider retirement. Many entrepreneurs "love what they are doing and don't see the point of retiring," so they don't plan for it, says Patricia Greene, the Paul T. Babson Chair in Entrepreneurial Studies at Babson College. "It's hard for many of them to think what life would be like without (running) the business."

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