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Small-Business Owners Fear Golden Years May Be Only Brass

When it comes to retirement, the biggest fear of small-business owners is that they will outlive the money they need to retire, a new survey shows. For many of them, the conventional concept of retirement is out of the question.

The retirement views of the nation's small-business owners are radically shifting, with many seeing themselves working 20 years or longer past so-called retirement age— or never retiring at all, according to a new study by The Guardian Life Insurance Business Research Institute. Less than half of them (45 percent) feel very or even fairly prepared for retirement. And two-thirds of them fear they will eventually outlive their money.

Many expect to live well into their retirement years, the study showed, and one-third of owners expect to delay retirement until they are older than 70. Only 10 percent think they will have a traditional retirement and stop working in their mid-60s for a life of leisure.

The expectation of a distant timeline for retirement may help explain why a majority of small-business owners give succession planning short shrift. Just one-third of them have a succession plan in place and only 19 percent say they plan to create one in the next year.

When "retirement" eventually comes, 39 percent expect to go back and forth between periods of work and periods of leisure and 14 percent plan to work part time . Volunteerism will engage 6 percent of retiring small-business owners and 4 percent plan to start a new business.

"For many small business owners, the conventional concept of retirement is not realistic," said Mark Wolf, director of The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute. "They feel that keeping their business going and working in it full or part time are essential steps to provide a continuing income stream to supplement savings and investments diminished by the recession."