Jeffrey Swett: What small business owners need to consider when they think about retirement

Having been in the wealth management business for 27 years with a focus on retirement planning, there’s one tendency that's clear. Those who have a successful retirement (successful being defined as happy and fulfilled) tend to be prepared with regard to how they will spend their time prior to selling their business.

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I have found that selling business owners understand that they need to enhance the attractiveness of their business for potential buyers -- recurring revenue, minimization of owner-provided value, and a diversified income stream are all fairly obvious characteristics of a desirable business.

Typically what is less obvious to selling business owners are the lifestyle and emotional adjustments that come with stepping away. Sometimes those can be just as challenging as starting and developing the business many years ago.

Here are some simple steps that could be helpful in transitioning into a successful retirement:

Have a written financial plan

Cash flow, taxes, charitable giving, inflation, estate planning and insurance should be reviewed.  Additionally, be sure to consider all stages of your financial life.

Define what you want

It’s important to spend adequate time on this because according to the Nov. 2018 UBS Investor Watch survey report, 41 percent of business owners preparing to sell have no idea what they want to do with their time.

What do you want from your exit? Define your personal goals to help shape the life you want to eventually pursue. Hobbies, travel, community service, charitable inclinations, teaching, relationships and other business ventures should all be considered.

Engage your family 

Only 25 percent of former business owners engaged their children about family wealth. Owners tend to involve their family only after the deal has closed. Instead, communicate your desires and expectations early- this creates a clearer picture, gives family members a chance to contribute, and allows them to feel included. Developing a family governance structure, formal or informal, can help align common values and your overall family mission.

Be aware of some common traps:

Overconfidence: Business owners typically do not lack self-confidence. This makes sense as many have overcome significant obstacles during their careers. Overconfidence, however, can cause entrepreneurs to believe they have all the answers when it comes to their investments and this can lead to excessive risk-taking.

Overoptimism: Many business owners are optimistic by nature, and this optimism cements their faith during difficult economic times. This optimism can be dangerous, however, if it proves to be excessive when evaluating investments.

Control Illusion: Owners are used to exercising control as a success factor in their business environment. As investors, however, control over the markets is not realistic. It may make sense to work with an experienced advisor to avoid making mistakes that can lead to long-term negative effects.

These action steps all take time, and should not be rushed.

In order to help ensure thoroughness and proper execution, it's critical, I believe, to begin these discussions, and relationships with advisors, far in advance of the consummation of a sale.

Jeffrey Swett is a Financial Advisor with UBS Financial Services Inc. a subsidiary of UBS AG. Member FINRA/SIPC in One Post Office Square, Boston, MA.

Information contained in this article is not a solicitation to purchase or sell investments. Any information presented is general in nature and not intended to provide individually tailored investment advice. The strategies and/or investments referenced may not be suitable for all investors as the appropriateness of a particular investment or strategy will depend on an investor's individual circumstances and objectives.  Investing involves risks and there is always the potential of losing money when you invest. The views expressed herein are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of UBS Financial Services Inc. In providing wealth management services to clients, we offer both investment advisory and brokerage services which are separate and distinct and differ in material ways. For information, including the different laws and contracts that govern, visit ubs.com/workingwithus.

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