As people open their own small businesses, they quickly learn that they should never mix their personal finances with those of the company. However, it is common for entrepreneurs to get so absorbed with the wellbeing of their ventures that they forget to attend to their own financial wellbeing.
Even the most successful small business owners can struggle when it comes to their own finances, so it is important to make them a priority. When these individuals pay insufficient attention to their personal finances, they put their business at risk by threatening their own wellbeing. However, when business owners pay close attention to their finances, they may actually get more astute in making entrepreneurial decisions and boost their success.
Some key personal finance tips for small business owners include:
1. Start saving for retirement early.
Too often, business owners invest all of their profits back in the business rather than contributing to some sort of retirement savings. Luckily, several options exist for helping small business owners save for retirement in a tax-advantaged manner, such as a SEP IRA, which can help people set aside money even if they have no employees.
Ultimately, many people find that they can actually save more for retirement in tax-advantaged accounts as a self-employed person than they could as an employee. Ideally, retirement savings should be diversified across a range of different investments, including stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and ETFs. Of course, for many people, the company remains that primary investment, but that does not mean there is no room for other options.
2. Attend to personal credit scores.
Small business owners understand the critical importance of good credit. Without good credit, most businesses would struggle to operate successfully. Entrepreneurs should never sacrifice their own credit for the sake of a company. Individuals need to ensure that they pay their bills on time, even if that means making only a minimum payment.
One of the issues that can become especially critical for entrepreneurs is the credit utilization ratio, which refers to the percentage of available credit limits that individuals actually use. People who keep this percentage below 30 will have a higher credit score and ultimately be more successful in getting personal loans, which can also be important for supporting a small business. When entrepreneurs have good personal credit, they can often vouch for a fledgling business that is still working to establish credit.
3. Create a robust emergency fund.
Financial planners generally recommend that people have between three and six months of living expenses after taxes saved in case of an emergency. Sometimes, business owners can get so distracted by other goals that they forget to create a fund or end up spending it down on expenses for which it was not intended.
Typically, small business owners should have a larger emergency fund than employees. That way, they can stay afloat in case of a business downturn or during seasonal fluctuations in everyday cash flow. Entrepreneurs always need a contingency for what they would do if they lose their biggest client, whether that means taking a pay cut or relying on an emergency fund. Also, these funds should be in an FDIC-insured cash bank account, not invested and exposed to risk.
4. Let a professional handle taxes.
One of the biggest pieces of advice that entrepreneurs should follow is that it is important to consult a tax accountant. In the United States, people can often file their business taxes and personal taxes in several different ways. Unfortunately, determining exactly what to do while also thinking about how to minimize expenses can get very complicated, and doing it oneself can increase risk.
By bringing a tax accountant or other professional in, individuals can figure out their exact obligations federally and by state and local jurisdictions. Professionals understand how to navigate the rules to reduce burden and make the most of current rules. Of course, all of this starts by keeping clear records of all business and personal expenses so that everything is sorted when tax season arrives. Sometimes, even distinguishing between personal and business expenses involves a bit of professional guidance.
5. Consider refinancing when appropriate.
Most small business owners remain hyperaware of the interest rates they pay in the various types of financing they have received for the company. Before accepting any loan, entrepreneurs crunch the numbers to make sure that the business can afford the resulting payments. People should bring the same diligence to their personal accounts.
For example, individuals who have an excessively high rate on a student loan, personal loan, or other product, they should look into refinancing options or at least focus on repaying the high-interest loans first. Before refinancing, it is important to look at the new rates and include any fees involved in the process in the new balance. Sometimes, the fees limit the feasibility of a refinance, but it is always worthwhile to seek out better deals that could save money down the line.