A Road Map To Retirement

 

At 62, I'm often reminded that I need to plan for my golden years. As I consider my options, I think about my grandfather, Oscar Meyer (no relation to the hot dog guy). Late in life he was deeply concerned that he might someday have to draw on a welfare program to sustain him. In his mind, that would be disgraceful. He was a hard-working farmer who had outlived the assets he had accumulated over the years and he didn’t have a retirement plan. My father is now 91 and living in a skilled-nursing facility. He does not have a retirement plan either and has outlived his resources. He now relies on Medicaid to pay for his care.

I have learned that regardless of how well we might plan, circumstances will ultimately dictate how we live out our final days. That said, I am a CPA and feel a responsibility to have a plan for my wife and family to provide for as smooth a retirement as possible. Many promotional professionals, especially those who own businesses, likely feel the same obligation.

Pew Research says that 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day, a trend that will continue for the next 15 years. Our industry is well represented in those statistics. A 2015 PPAI survey estimates that nearly nine percent of supplier personnel and 17 percent of distributor personnel are 65 years of age or older, and 54 percent of supplier personnel and 69 percent of distributor personnel are 50 or older. These numbers are certainly eye-opening.  

Since it’s not wise for anyone, especially business owners, to leave their future to chance, it’s a good idea to develop a road map for retirement. I won’t call it a plan because formal plans can be dry and difficult to draft. I suggest “road map” because my wise accounting professor once said that to get where we want to go, we must first determine where we are.  

Decide your goals for retirement. Many Baby Boomers today continue to work past the full retirement age of 66. Others want to withdraw from business entirely to spend more time with family and friends or do some volunteer work to give back to the community. Perhaps traveling is their passion. The important thing is to write down retirement goals, discuss them with family and then decide how to get there.

Determine what resources you will need to achieve your retirement goals. This sounds daunting, but all you need is a realistic estimate, not an exact calculation. 

Once you understand what resources you will need, you can compare your needs with your resources. You may be pleasantly surprised to discover that you have plenty of money to do what you want to do. Alternatively, you may need to either accumulate more resources or lower your retirement expectations.

Now you can confidently determine your timeline for retirement. The No. 1 fear for retirees is not knowing whether or not they can afford to retire. This road map will not eliminate all the variables, but will put you in charge of the elements you can control.

Your road map should be in writing, allowing you to refer to it and adjust it as desired and necessary.

Business owners have another important set of steps to implement in the execution of the roadmap—succession of the ownership in their business. Our firm has had the opportunity to successfully assist owners in this effort. My older brother, also a CPA, once told me that stock has no value until it is sold and the cash is in your possession. The same holds true for a business.

A business is not worth anything to the owner until he or she “cashes out.” Until then, economic, environmental and other forces will ultimately determine the worth of your business. Our firm has had several clients who owned thriving, valuable businesses but experienced unforeseen circumstances that drastically reduced the company’s value or eliminated its value entirely. While this extreme is certainly the exception, it is accurate to say that the majority of our clients do not sell their companies when they are worth the most. Fluctuations in a business’s value are much more tolerable when the owner is not approaching retirement age. Boomers don’t have that luxury.

Therefore, it’s recommended that owners who plan to sell their businesses rather than transitioning ownership to family members start the process sooner rather than later.  

The first step is to have a professional valuation performed. If your company is at least 10 years old, it’s important to understand the value. Ask these questions: What are the value drivers? What are the trends? What are the risks/threats? The valuation will provide a basis from which to build resources into your retirement road map.

Depending upon the results of the valuation, either take the steps identified in your professional valuation to make the company more valuable or build the business’s current value into your roadmap.

Make a plan to sell your company. You may decide to take immediate action or defer the sale for a number of years. Just remember, your business is not worth anything until the purchaser’s money is in your bank account. Also, a company is usually worth more at the time you plan to sell it, rather than when you need to sell it.

Decide if you want to remain active in the business. Once you sell your company, you certainly can choose to continue working, perhaps as a salesperson servicing your favorite accounts. Buyers almost always prefer to have the previous owner remain active. This also eliminates the sellers’ risk of ownership while allowing them to continue to do what they love.

As a Baby Boomer, it is comforting to know where I am today, where I want to go and what I need to get there. I have a road map. I will inevitably have a few detours here and there, but I am in control of what I can control.

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5 Steps To Retirement Planning

1. Where am I today? You need to know where you are to determine the starting point of your road map.

2. Where do I want to be? Decide what your retirement goals are, both qualitative (what you want to do) and quantitative (what resources you will need).

3. Can I get there? This is a reality check, but if taken early enough, you can alter your plans to achieve your goals.

4. How do I get there?  This is the step where you make decisions about the various stops on your road map—when and where.

5. Stay on track. There will be adjustments along the way, but the road map will help you stay the course.

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Jeffry Meyer, MAS, CPA, is CEO of Huntertown, Indiana-based Certified Marketing Consultants, Ltd., a PPAI business services member. He has been active in the promotional products industry for more than 35 years. He and his two partners serve companies exclusively in the promotional products industry with services including mergers and acquisitions, business valuations, strategic planning, business plans, marketing plans and general consulting.

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