By Courtney Mersereau
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Business owners are some of my favorite clients, especially those in the craft brewing industry. They are determined, passionate and, most of all, collaborative. However, they are so willing to help others that the biggest issue I see is that they don’t take enough time to think about their own financial well-being. It’s common for business owners to have much of their personal assets tied up in the company, but many aren’t prepared for what happens when the business actually starts making money or, worse, when it doesn’t.
January is a great time for reflection, as well as looking forward. And since you don’t really want to go to the gym anyway, I’m challenging you to a different kind of fitness challenge: Ten questions to get you thinking about your current financial health. Pay attention to any immediate feelings of anxiety or stress that arise when thinking about the answers to these questions. That’s a sure sign you’re overdue for a checkup:
1. Are my personal assets diversified?
2. How much investment risk am I taking?
3. Do I have specific financial goals for 2015?
4. How much money will I need to retire?
5. What happens if I can’t work?
6. Interest rates are near zero. Am I managing my cash to my advantage?
7. Is my family protected while I’m growing my business?
8. What type of retirement plan is best for my business and how much does it cost?
9. Do I have a buy/sell agreement in place? How is it funded?
10. If I have an offer to sell my business, can the sale price provide me financial stability?
Let’s talk about the eighth question – whether you have the right retirement plan set up for your business. First things first: why do you need one? There are two primary motivations for setting up a retirement plan for your business. First, you may want to attract and retain the best talent by offering a great benefits package. You can easily differentiate your company from the competition by establishing a robust 401(k) plan for your business and possibly offering an employer match. The second reason is to reduce your own tax bill. You can defer a significant portion of your income into a retirement plan before you pay tax on that income, where it will grow tax-deferred and also create an asset separate from the equity in your business. Many business owners make the snap assumption that these plans are expensive to set up and administer. Thanks to technology and a more competitive and transparent marketplace, this is no longer the case. And doesn’t it make sense to spend a small amount up front to save yourself thousands in taxes?
Also, take the time to develop a thoughtful personal financial strategy that addresses the big picture and provides a context for setting your business goals. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the daily operations of your business. However, sustainable growth comes from thoughtful planning. With a sound personal and business financial plan, you’ll be able to keep the beer flowing as long as you’d like.
Courtney Mersereau is a financial advisor at Springwater Wealth Management where she offers fee-only comprehensive financial planning and investment management.