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Jean Chatzky will be covering a variety of different topics in this space every month. Come back next Tuesday for Retirement Part 2: "Top Retirement Plan Strategies for Small Business Owners." Please leave your retirement questions as comments below and she will address several of the questions at the end of the month.
Recently the editors of Wowowow.com asked the site’s celebrity contributors this question: Do you plan to be working full-time when you are 70? Why? Why not?
“It would be great to retire so I could really speak my mind and boss everyone around. Oh, wait! That’s my job,” quipped Judith Martin, a.k.a. Miss Manners. But she was in the minority. Instead, most of the women on the Wowowow website shared Whoopi Goldberg's sentiments: “Yes, I'll be working past my 70s. That is what happens when you marry often but not well.”
And Candice Bergen: “Well, if Betty White can do it. I just say work at something to keep engaged, to retain a last wisp of memory, to give back and to just have fun.”
I concur. And so do many small business owners. Our businesses may not completely define us, but we don’t hold them at arms' length either. For that reason, many of us don’t really think we’ll retire. At least not anytime soon.
But planning not to retire – and not planning to retire – are two very different things. Even people who adhere to the first, must spend some time and energy on the second.
Here’s what you need to do.
Define, Then Attach Numbers To Your Goals
In English first, write down what it means to continue to work. Does it mean maintaining your current schedule? Taking more vacations? Coming in later and leaving earlier? Taking on more help? Or will you really be going part-time?
Each of those scenarios has a cost component and you need to understand what it is. You also need to have an idea of what it will cost you to live where you’re living now and in the future, says self-employment expert Paul Edwards, co-author of The Best Home Businesses for People 50+.
When will your mortgage be paid off? Will that allow you to work a little less, but continue to maintain your lifestyle?
If your desire is to put in fewer hours as you age, do you have enough savings to subsidize your current take-home? (If you don’t have a financial advisor, seeing one to help you work through these calculations is worth the investment. You can even find advisors willing to work by the hour at The Garrett Planning Network.)
Save Just In Case
About two-thirds of people say they’ll work in retirement, half of them because they want to, the other half because they need the money. Yet, a significant portion of them won’t be able to either because the work won’t be there or their health will go. Business owners may not have to worry about a lay-off, but the ups-and-downs of the business cycle bring similar concerns. Have you socked away enough in retirement savings just in case? The ballpark retirement estimator is a tool developed by the American Savings Education Council (who once explained they locked a group of actuaries in a room and wouldn’t let them out until they came up with a way for individuals to easily estimate their retirement needs).
You’ll find it at ChooseToSave.org.
Protect Against The Odds
Failing health, of course, is the other concern. You may want to work and simply not be able to. Ditto for your spouse. That’s what disability and long term care insurance policies are for. A long-term illness or disability can not only sap your personal wealth, it can take down your business coffers. So, while you’re still going strong, call a life insurance agent who specializes in selling these policies (you can find one at NAHU.org) and walk through some scenarios. They are not cheap – I warn you – but you can bring the costs down significantly by being willing to wait 90 days or longer before benefits kick in. Notes Edwards, “My wife’s mother has a long-term care policy. It has been of great value to us. If your business is doing well enough to fund it, it’s certainly something that makes a lot of sense.”
Jean Chatzky, award-winning journalist and best-selling author, is the financial editor for NBC's "Today," a contributing editor for More magazine, and a columnist for The New York Daily News. She is the author of six books, including her newest, Money 911: Your Most Pressing Money Questions Answered, Your Money Emergencies Solved. Check out Jean's blog at JeanChatzky.com. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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