Sitting around a kitchen table with the grieving family of a cousin who died suddenly at age 63, we try to make sense of disorganized piles of financial statements, bills and assorted pieces of paper. The family’s loss is compounded by the stress of financial uncertainty and the complex task of sorting out this confusing array of information.
My cousin was a business owner. Like most small business owners I know, his love was his family but his focus was his work. After decades of building it, his business was one of his largest assets. (For most business owners their business IS their largest asset.) And most small business owners have the added complexity of many of their assets belonging to the business.
Entrepreneurs focus their time and energy on what they know and do well. Rarely do these skills and interests include financial and estate planning. My cousin was no exception, leaving a legacy of excellent service and a diverse range of loyal customers who came to know him as a friend. His forte was his work, not thinking about what came next. Estate planning is one of those things we all know we should do but don’t often get to.
Whether you engage in a formal, strategic planning process for your business or grow your business through day to day decision-making, your success is dependent on some degree of planning. Personal financial planning requires a similar process of goal setting, risk assessment, decision-making and investing according to your objectives.
Fortunately, my cousin’s family is getting excellent help from a professional who is a Certified Financial Planner and Registered Investment Advisor. Like most people, they couldn’t navigate this complex aspect of our world without professional help.
Financial and estate planning is too complex and specific to individual circumstances to outline here. However, you can start by asking yourself as a business owner: Do you have a current will, advance directives, a financial plan for your family, a buy/sell agreement or other transition plan for your business in place?
Or here’s the short version: What position would your loved ones be in if you died today? Do they even know where to look to find the necessary information?
My cousin leaves a legacy of a life that is a true American success story. He brought his family to this country over 30 years ago with nothing, built a business and a community of friends that will be part of his legacy and ensure that his family will be provided for as a result of his hard work.
One of the other lessons of his life is that, as a business owner, remember to plan for your family as well as your business.