Small business owners are unprepared for retirement

Nearly two-thirds of small business owners fear outliving their retirement money and one-third plan to work into their 70s, according to a new study.

The retirement views of the nation’s small business owners are “radically shifting,” said a news release about the study conducted by the Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute. The Institute, part of Guardian Life Insurance Co., polled 1,433 small business owners who operate companies with two to 99 employees.

The impact of the recession and longer life expectancies have caused a majority of small business owners to shed “a traditional view of retirement, in which individuals stop working in their mid-60s for a life of leisure –- something fewer than 10 percent foresee themselves doing,” the news release said.

The study of small business owners found:

– Less than half — 45 percent — feel very or fairly well prepared for retirement

– 39 percent expect to go back and forth between periods of work and periods of leisure

– 14 percent plan to work part-time

– 14 percent think they will engage in volunteer work along with paid work

– 10 percent plan to work full-time

– 9 percent say they will fully retire and never work for pay.

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

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36 comments Add your comment

Big G

June 17th, 2011
7:15 am

I have been in business for 35 plus years. Started saving money as soon as I made a profit.
Invested this money in a balanced way/ Mutual funds/bonds/land/simple banks accounts.
I have taken time away from work to travel and enjoy life. Here is my problem. I love my work
and as I approach 60, I do not want to quit. I have the money to easily retire at any moment.
My wife says, sell the business and lets travel and enjoy the years we have left. I am afraid
that I will regret selling my family business. Please comment


June 17th, 2011
7:17 am

Retirement is for sissys. RURTDOND rules!


June 17th, 2011
7:30 am

If you are happy with the lifestyle you will be able to have from here on out, why wouldn’t you retire? Have fun now while you still have your mind and control of your bodily fluids…..time is not on our side!!

Staying the Course

June 17th, 2011
7:51 am

Well, why is there a race to get to “retirement”?

The positive way to look at this information is that:

Almost 50 percent of business owner feel that they have done well and can “ease out” of their business that they have nurtured for so long.

That 40% of owners can release day to day operations and allow other folks to get involved.

That only 14% will continue to stay active in their community.

and only 9 percent will dissappear form the face of the earth.


June 17th, 2011
7:51 am

I’m 79 and have been fully active in my firm for over 40 years. And like Big G, I love my work and to retire means I’ll be out of the loop and bored and underfoot at home. I too have put aside enough money for retirement, but I still want to be productive.


June 17th, 2011
8:32 am

And yet you hardly ever find a retired person that says “I wish I was still working”


June 17th, 2011
8:42 am

If you enjoy what you are doing don’t retire. Take more time off if you want to. Retirement does not and should not mean that you are not going to do anything. When people start doing nothing they start dying and losing their minds.


June 17th, 2011
8:43 am

I just checked my 401K this morning. My personal rate of return this year is 0.0%. I suppose I should look on the bright side and feel good that it’s not negative but then again, we still have 6 months to go.

Litte g

June 17th, 2011
8:48 am

I own my on business and don’t plan to retire anytime soon…my company is profitable and allows me to travel and do as I want to…my mother and my mother in law were both business owners and I will say that they both regret selling…my mother always enjoyed work and payed alot of taxes for her hard work for the sell…I say, if you enjoy working and it gets you out of bed everyday, don’t retire…I have seen many that retire and die…

Jim Bryan

June 17th, 2011
8:51 am

Small business owner for 21 years, loved my work made a lot of money, had big house, Mercedes, etc. Decided there was more to life than work so I sold everything, made some investments and now live in Thailand, play golf 3-4 times each week on great golf courses, have a wonderful Thai girlfriend, live in a high rise overlooking the ocean. We travel a lot and have not missed work one day. Don!t wait too long of give it up and start a new life. I am 73, in good health and can still hit a golf ball 270 yards. Retired 14 years.


June 17th, 2011
8:59 am

Both my parents are retired and they have both complained about being bored with their everyday life in retirement. My dad did find part time work, but my mom hasn’t been able to find anything though she would like to.

I think their situation would be different if they had a huge bank roll of spending money to make retirement more exciting, but they’ve got just an average amount of money. It really does make me think about how I may want to remain employed beyond the established retirement age so I can escape the boredom.

Ralph Blanchard

June 17th, 2011
9:09 am

If a small business is profitable and can prove it (via tax returns, for example) over a multi-year period, it is valuable. I purchased or started and then sold several small business and based on my experience an small business owner about half the total wealth created by a small business is created when it is sold. This goes to the seller who may also earn extra money by financing all or part of the sale. But the business has to look good both on paper and in person. Sloppy or indifferent management by the owner (common in small businesses) or absentee ownership reduces the value, sometimes to zero. If your business has been (and is being) well-managed by you over the years, it most likely has substantial value when sold, probably enough to fund a substantial part of your retirement. Try selling it and find out.

Patrick Malone

June 17th, 2011
9:12 am

Traditional retirement was based on seeing work as “work”. Most small business owners are engaged in a labor of love. So why stop doing something that you love just because you reach some arbitrary age?

David Green

June 17th, 2011
9:38 am

Big G perhaps now is the time to mentor someone you can trust to step into your shoes which will gradually allow you to let go and enjoy a part of your golden years traveling with your wife while still allowing to retain your family owned business and remaining active within its management.

I’m not a business owner myself but I have always planned on working until at least 70 and perhaps beyond as I prefer to stay productive as opposed to vegetating in a rocker on the front porch waiting to die.

Tyrone Biggums

June 17th, 2011
9:54 am

My in-laws are all small business owners. The issue is that they are not aware of retirement investing, since there is no 401k. All of them plan on living off the business income in retirement. There is no IRA or 401k to tap.


June 17th, 2011
9:58 am

I’m not understanding the boredom factor. Read, hang out with friends, exercise, volunteer, take advantage of free activities in their town when they come about, travel some (near or far), find a new hobby.

Isn’t retirement the time to do all of the things you don’t have time to do in a regular work day and have some enjoyment too?

President Barack Obama

June 17th, 2011
10:23 am

Have no fear…with my economic policies soon all businesses will be small…very small.

Anthony Weiner

June 17th, 2011
10:25 am

I’m thinking of starting a small business…now that I will have the time.


June 17th, 2011
10:26 am

My dearest friend and hero enjoyed dreaming about what he was going to do when he retired, like looking forward to a vacation, the run-up to that day, was the best part. Shortly after he retired he was diagnosed with cancer. Ever day after that, he never had a joyful day.

He got “robbed”, sort of. He elected to work several years after being eligible to retire because he wanted to have a few extra bucks in his pocket. Fear of running out of money, held him back from fulfilling his dreams. Don’t let this happen to you. Your grandchildren would love to spent quality time with you, hiking, swimming, just having fun. You don’t want them only having memories of visiting you in the hospital.


June 17th, 2011
10:36 am

I retired 7 years ago. Sold my publishing business and have been playing golf, mountain biking and I started smoking weed. I’m having a great time, and after 45 years of busting my hump, I wouldn’t dream of going back to work. In fact, I’m heading to the lake now to take the boat out. Cheers!


June 17th, 2011
10:39 am

Big G, do what makes you happy. If you truly enjoy working and would miss it, then don’t quit. You only get one life. Live it in a way that you will enjoy and in a way that gives you purpose. It sounds like you can travel and enjoy life while working, so why stop if you love it?


June 17th, 2011
12:18 pm

I don’t think the point is retirement vs. work, it’s having the option to do one or the other. The people I feel sorry for are the ones (like me and my spouse) who probably won’t have the choice to retire. We will need to continue to work up until the point where we just can’t. We felt we were on the right track re: saving for retirement, but two bad land deals have put us way behind where we should be at this point.


June 17th, 2011
12:22 pm

I have worked all my lifea and served my country. I have never been fortunate to make a good salary. I have planned my life as to live within my income. I will gladly retire. Whatever I do or however great I do it I get no recognition or pay raises. Why should I continue to work so CEO’s can get 200 million dollar bonuses. I will simpley retire, maybe have a garden, or just stroll around the neighborhood. The American dream for me was just to live out my life. I do get jeolous when I read how successful most of your by simply working hard like I have done. I hope my children have better luck with the American dream.

[...] Small business owners are unprepared for retirement – Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]


June 17th, 2011
2:14 pm

I had a small business for the last 21 years, and due to the recession, everything went upside down. Since I don’t have many payments and my
wife is working, we are moving ahead without much financial strains.
But, doing nothing is the most terrible feeling and totally depressing.
So, even at this senior age, I am planning to do some business which will make me busy, along with helping other people in any way possible.
Being idle is the worst experinece of life which can make anybody older
very fast due to the inactivity and the feeling of mental depression.


June 17th, 2011
2:16 pm

I turn 62 next month and have no intention to retire. I own multi businesses and enjoy what I do. Because I work I can spend summers in Europe and winter in the Caribbean. I can afford to drive the car I like and live in the house I enjoy. I have money for my grandchildren and a place to go when I get tired of them (and the rest of the family). Retirement means you only have one major event to look forward to. My father worked till his health forced him to retire at 84, so as long as you enjoy what you are doing you should do it.


June 17th, 2011
3:42 pm

Some interesting and thoughtful comments here.

I retired @ 59 and never regretted it for one minute. I saved and invested diligently over the years, so finances are no issue at all. It is wonderful beyond description to be able to do whatever I want every day. The best part is being able to sleep late – no more alarm clocks.


June 17th, 2011
3:44 pm

Hey everyone!

it is so refreshing to read these comments by older adults. Most of the blogs get replies from the younger generation who love to fuss, fight, act arrogant and haughty, put other people down for sharing opinions, you name it. Sense and sensibility, along with simple courtesy and respect, is rapidly vanishing from out society. You more mature people bring a good nostalgic feeling of decency. I love that. good luck to ALL of you in your retirement/old age, in whatever you choose to do!



Ready for second half of life

June 17th, 2011
4:18 pm

BIG G, Hire me. I am ready for a challenge, have great interpersonal skills and business accumen. Then, you travel when you want, work when you want and keep the business. Your business would be in good hands under your continued watchful eye. Life is short. Enjoy it.


June 17th, 2011
4:36 pm

The number one killer of old people? Retirement. All people whether young or retirement age need a purpose and reason to get out of bed everyday. If you own a successful business that brings you immense joy, don’t retire/sell out, count your blessings instead. Don’t measure your happiness by someone else’s standards. People may say your crazy for not selling your business, retiring and riding off into the sunset. But at the end of the day, those people probably aren’t “living the dream” like you are. I say if you love what you do keep on keeping on, because most people don’t love what they do.


June 17th, 2011
4:43 pm

I will never retire. This whole concept of retirement is retarded anyway. If you get tired of your job, go find something else. And you will never have enough money. It’s impossible. The only reason you should save money is for some specific purpose. A general purpose, like retirement, makes no sense.


June 18th, 2011
9:14 am



easy money

June 18th, 2011
10:19 pm

to get a lucrative, guaranteed retirement, get a fat government job with some obscene pension, allowing retirement in your 50s with 90% of your highest salary—all guaranteed by taxpayers for life!!! What a country!!!!

Old Geezer

June 19th, 2011
4:20 pm

@ Beebee. Looks like “the younger generation” have entered this blog too a few comments after yours…Things were pretty mellow until the kid with his/her slam on the “retarded” came on the scene, and then the enviers followed along.

Retired Young

June 19th, 2011
8:18 pm

Sold two companies at 38 and made a fortune. Been semi-retired for 10 years. There are boring times, but I live on a farm and do all maintenance etc…love working outside. Spend alot of time helping family and friends. Don’t regret selling out – value was at a peak. Only wish it ran until maybe now (48 years old)…kids almost out of house and plan on moving out west and opening an bed and breakfast. Never know where life will take you…


June 20th, 2011
8:17 am

I’m somewhere in the middle of the range I seem to see here. It looks a great deal as if retirement depends on how successful your business was and is, the economy going in the tank included. I’m 59 and will probably look for a partial buyout at some point, but that all depends on the economy coming back and my market sector continuing to do well. I too don’t think it’s a good idea to get totally out of business. Unless a business that I enjoy more comes along.