SCORE

The question I asked in the title of this post might seem premature if you haven’t started a business yet. But it’s never too early to plan for retirement, even though a recent survey from Guardian life insurance reveals that few small business owners seem to be doing so.

One in three small business owners expect to wait until after age 70 to retire. An even larger number (four in 10) say they will never retire! Altogether, less than 10 percent expect to do the traditional “retirement” thing and stop working in their mid-60s.

These numbers didn’t really surprise me, because if there’s one thing I know about entrepreneurs, it’s that their businesses are their passion. I can’t imagine what I’d do if I retired, and I’m sure many of you feel the same.

What did surprise me about the survey’s findings was how many small business owners were writing off retirement for reasons other than love of their businesses. Just 45 percent of respondents said they feel very or fairly well prepared for retirement. Almost two-thirds are afraid they’ll outlive their savings.

These are scary figures. If you’re going to keep working because you love it, that’s great—but if you’re doing it because the alternative is poverty, that’s not so wonderful. In reporting the findings, Mark D. Wolf, Director of the Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute, says many entrepreneurs plan to keep working in their businesses full- or part-time after traditional retirement age to make up for the recession’s effects on their incomes and assets.

Failing to adequately save for retirement has long been a common error among small business owners. Unfortunately, the recession has exacerbated it. Whether you’re in the startup stage or in rapid expansion, it’s all too tempting to tell yourself that the money you’re putting back into the business is building your future.

That’s true to some extent, but it’s not the whole truth. Even if your company becomes highly successful, relying on it as your retirement fund is risky business. Even the most successful business may not survive until its founder is ready to retire. And if it does, it may not get the desired asking price. To put it in terms your grandmother would understand, by putting all your money into your business, you’re putting all your eggs in one basket.

That might be OK when you’re 22, but at some point, you do need to start putting money aside for retirement. That way, even if you want to work until you’re 95, you’ll be doing it because you want to—not because you have no choice.