Small business owners are our economy’s economic engine—entrepreneurs generate half of all private sector jobs, payroll and output. But when it comes to their own financial future, they can be so focused on investing in their business and employees that they may need a hand getting a retirement plan together. We chatted with a Traverse City financial planning pro for tips on retirement for small business owners.

Dennis Prout of Prout Financial Design and host of the weekly New Retirement show on 580 AM, says a common challenge is forgetting to diversify. Many business owners can be over-focused on the value of their businesses as an asset—but how do you convert an asset into income?

Focusing on growth can be a retirement planning positive, says Prout. “If the business is seeing significant growth, they’re going to put a lot of eggs in that basket, and if it’s successful they can earn returns much better than the stock market. The stock market can yield 10 to 11 percent annual returns, whereas 15 to 20 in their own business may not be a stretch at all.”

If entrepreneurs have excess cash flow that they need to put to work, he recommends looking at a few varieties of IRA. “A simple IRA has a cap of $13,000 to $16,000 annually, based on age. These are each available for business owners and their employees, too,” Prout says.

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When thinking about an overall plan, many entrepreneurs forget they have some overlooked advantages. “They have an asset that’s growing. It may be the equipment they own, the real estate they purchased, the inventory; those could well be retirement assets. We include business values when we run a plan for someone.”

Another edge they have: They’re not in a position that limits their capability of inventing and providing that service that’s not out there. “Obviously entrepreneurs are generally taking more risk, but the returns can be much greater for having done that,” Prout adds. “The return can be shown in terms of real dollars.”

But the very vision that makes them successful in their business can make them poor at keeping track of other things, like taxes. Prout says a willingness to hire out the skills they don’t have can make all the difference: “A good accountant is worth their weight in gold.”

Lastly, Prout says if there were one thing he’d advise entrepreneurs to do, it would be to invest in their own education and growth in order to gain new skills that give them a boost over the competition. “It’s like the old Ben Franklin saying: ‘The man who pours his purse into his head makes the very best investment.’”

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