In a recent post Baby-Boomer Business Owners Are Still Not Planning, we talked about some of the reasons why business owners aren't planning for their eventual transitions and retirement, including the complicated emotional issues that emerge around finality, mortality – and a loss of one's sense of self and purpose. All of these have to do with a fear of the unknown. And, for some reason, many of us become paralyzed by a fear of planning for our future. We are overwhelmed by the enormity of both the possibilities and the unknowns. It's an all too common phenomenon.

Then, there is the big "R" – retirement. Many of us started working as teenagers, and throughout most of our working lives, we have had a romanticized notion about retirement. It's that finite point in time when we're finally free to do whatever we please – whether it's traveling, fishing, golfing, spending time with family – the possibilities seem endless. The problem is that as we get closer to that time, our fantasies of endless amounts of free time, quietness, or adventure become something shadowy, unknown, and even scary. Which is why so many of us put off thinking about it – and unfortunately, we put off planning for it.

Common Fears around Retirement

There are numerous surveys out there that provide insight into the most common fears baby-boomer business owners experience as they are approaching retirement age, including:

  • Loss of Power and Control
  • Running Out of Money
  • Declining Health and Mental Sharpness
  • Inability to Maintain Independence
  • Exorbitant Costs of Long-term Healthcare

These are all valid fears and with deliberate planning for the known variables, business owners can alleviate some of these fears and prepare for the future beyond their companies.

Rely on the Planning, Not the Plans

Like it or not, there will always be variables that will come into play. "Retirement is a bet on the future, and no one can anticipate all of the unknowns. The data is necessarily incomplete," explains Jonathan Look in a recent Next Avenue article "What I Did to Stop 'Awfulizing' Retirement." He explains: "I have found that many of the excuses, limitations and doubts I had put on myself were merely fictions created out of fear," meaning his fears weren't based in reality, but in his mind. And, the longer you put off planning, the more difficult and paralyzing it becomes.

Look quotes Dwight D. Eisenhower's famous adage, "Plans are worthless, but planning is everything." It's a bit of a mindbender, but succinctly illustrates that the process of planning is what's most important, not the actual plans. We've often said that planning for a business exit is a process, not an event. And, the act of planning helps you to visualize what you want and think through all of the potential variables that could come into play. It will also help make you more nimble when you need to address them. 

Exit planning can help ease your fears by solidifying your ideas about the future, examining your financial and emotional readiness, determining the readiness of your business, and identifying the best exit options for you and your business.

Developing a Roadmap; Providing Peace of Mind

No planning is ever completely fool proof. However, planning can help to provide some peace of mind in addition to giving you a roadmap and timeline to achieve your personal and financial goals. Look says: "Retirement is an opportunity to unapologetically try new things, reinvent yourself, expand your horizons, help others or even just bask in the glow of what you have accomplished. But it is no more predictable than life before retirement."

Life is anything but predictable. Your business exit and eventual retirement may be what you imagined all those years ago, or it may be something completely different. The point is, it's your future to envision and embrace, so why not start planning for it? Don't let the fear of the unknown hold you back from living life beyond your business. It's time to reap the rewards of all your years of hard work! 


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