How Is Retirement Planning Like Growing A Houseplant?Investing Retirement Funding Money Matters X² For Women
Originally written for ForbesWomen
About two months ago, I bought three tiny plants at my local nursery and put them in the same pot assuming they’d all grow evenly. What happened instead is that one plant took off and grew like gangbusters, and the two in front have grown at turtle speed. It looks…weird. The back one is all gangly and tall, while the front ones look okay but have hardly grown.
My plants growing all lopsided reminded me of a woman I talked with recently who’s finances were surprisingly similar. She was a law firm owner that had built a good-sized firm over her 20 years as a business owner, bringing in over $900,000 of revenue per year on average. She had just sold her firm for a little over $1,000,000 and was heading into retirement, but the proceeds from the law firm sale were her only retirement funds aside from Social Security.
She told me that she had loved her career but had never learned to truly put herself first. She put a lot of money back into the firm, bought a big house and nice cars for her family, paid for private school and college for her two kids, and all the while never thought she could afford to save money for retirement.
She grew her business and her lifestyle like the tall gangly plant in my pot…Allowing those pieces of her life to take all the “nutrients” (money) at the expense of growing her personal wealth. She regretted neglecting her own retirement savings and wondered what her retirement could have looked like if she had saved anything for herself, since she realized too late that her $1,000,000 of retirement assets and her Social Security benefits would not come close to providing the same lifestyle she had enjoyed during her career.
The frustrating part of this story is that it is so common for business owners to neglect retirement savings. According to SCORE and The U.S. Small Business Administration, 34% of entrepreneurs have no retirement savings plan at all, 37% cite “not enough profit” as their main reason for not saving for retirement, and 40% aren’t confident that they’ll be able to retire before age 65.
So, what does all this mean?
It means from a high level, a significant amount of business owners are either not saving enough or not saving at all for retirement; and at an individual level, the regret of not saving for yourself when you still have the ability to do so (and the time for those savings to compound) is very real and personal.
There are ways to increase your business profits, reduce your tax burden, save for retirement, and still enjoy your life all at the same time when you have the right team around you to create those solutions. Your business, personal wealth, and lifestyle can all grow together evenly, unlike my crazy plant!
What do those solutions look like? It depends!
It depends on your business, your employees, your budget, your goals…everyone is different and what’s right for a law firm owner with 12 employees and 10 years before retirement will be different from an executive coach with a virtual assistant and 25 years before retirement. If you don’t know where to start, talk to a wealth advisor who specializes in small business planning and a CPA to get a clear understanding of where your business and personal finances are at, and then build a plan and follow it!
Your plan doesn’t have to be perfect, and neither does the implementation. Getting started and committing to taking care of future you will generate the momentum you need to build a beautiful life both now and in retirement, whether that means consulting part time, traveling the world, starting an art studio, or teaching yoga (or all of the above!). When you plan for your future and act on that plan you give yourself freedom to make choices about what you can do later in life. And isn’t wanting freedom to make your own choices one of the reasons for starting a business in the first place?
Take the step that future-you needs current-you to take, and start saving so you can have freedom to make choices in your next stage of life too.