Client outcomes

Help business owner clients find success ahead of retirement

June 21, 2024
man in apron serving cake to customer

For much of the last five years, business owners have endured a whirlwind of economic upheaval. It started during the COVID pandemic, with its widespread business disruptions and labor shortages. More recently, business owners have had to contend with rising inflation and high interest rates, challenges that still present difficult operating conditions for business owners today.

So, it’s no surprise to hear business owners remain pessimistic about the state of the overall economy and concerned about their financial futures. As an example, the NFIB Small Business Optimism Index has been running below its historical average for over two years now. In the latest NFIB report, uncertainty among small business owners is at its highest level since November 2020.

The Nationwide Retirement Institute® recently conducted its own survey of small-and medium-sized business owners, focusing on those who are at or near the traditional retirement age (age 60-65). This is the stage when many business owners think about making the transition to retirement, whether it’s selling their business for maximum value or enacting a succession plan to keep their business running for the next generation.

Economic challenges impact retirement plans

The results of our survey revealed that economic concerns are having an impact on retirement and succession plans for many of these older business owners. About a third of retirement-age business owners in our survey (36%) said they’ve pushed back their planned retirement date in the past year.

What’s more worrying is the number of retirement-age business owners who feel unprepared for or disengaged from their retirement plans. Around one in five of these business owners believe they’re on the wrong track for retirement. A similar number say they’re not even thinking about retirement right now, even though they’re at the prime age when many people are ready to retire.

Between these personal financial challenges and the economic conditions affecting their businesses, many business owner clients could benefit from holistic guidance from a financial professional. Many advisors can relate to these challenges. If you run your own practice, you may share some of the same experiences or perspectives as the business owners we surveyed, including the challenges they face in planning for the future through different economic cycles.

In this article, I’d like to highlight ways you can start conversations with your business owner clients to address planning options for their business and personal financial needs.

Focus on their personal retirement readiness

Many business owners are worried they won’t have enough saved for the lifestyle they want during retirement, or they’ll have to reduce the amount they have saved because of current economic conditions.

Among the retirement-age business owners in our survey, 62% rate current conditions in the U.S. economy overall as fair or poor. They are more optimistic when considering current economic conditions for their business, with only 44% having a fair or poor outlook.

This moment makes the personal financial guidance you offer more valuable to your business owner clients as they look ahead to retirement. Take the opportunity to discuss or revisit the value of a holistic financial plan that incorporates income, Social Security, health care costs and other personal financial goals.


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Ask about succession planning

Long-time business owners have invested a lot of time, effort and money to build a successful business, but many aren’t thinking of the next step in their lives. There may be some correlation between business owners delaying their retirement plans and gaps in succession planning.

In our survey, about one-third of retirement-age business owners (35%) said they don’t have a succession plan but are looking to create one. Another 16% said they don’t have one in place and don’t have plans to develop one.

The lack of a succession plan could have a significant impact on the future of their business. Among owners who don’t currently have a succession plan in place, about some said their business will close and liquidate its assets if they should retire, pass away or become incapable of running it.

A strong succession plan can help boost confidence in the ability of your business owner clients to retire comfortably and achieve financial security. When a client is ready to move on from their business and enter retirement, a proper succession plan could benefit them financially through options such as a sale or other form of transition with the help of the right partner.

Offering financial guidance and solutions for succession planning can be an opportunity to deepen your relationships with business owner clients, connecting their business interests with their personal financial goals. Solutions such as life insurance may help solidify their succession plans and smooth the transition of their business.

Prepare for the unexpected in business and retirement

One way you can distinguish yourself as a financial professional and potentially add value for business owner clients is by helping them make strategic decisions for their business. You can do this by ensuring they have up-to-date and accurate information to make these decisions and helping them weigh the different risks and opportunities for their business.

Retirement-age business owners in particular value outside financial advice for their businesses. For example, almost half of those we surveyed expect interest rates to rise in the next six months. This outlook could impact a decision to borrow capital for a significant business investment. However, many economists expect interest rates to come down as inflation pressures recede and the Federal Reserve prepares to cut rates. These kind of insights from you can be valuable to a business owner client as they consider strategic investment decisions.

When you position yourself as a business strategy and risk management partner, you can help business owner clients consider solutions that offer financial protection, explore new avenues to access emergency capital, and even identify other partners to bring to the table who could contribute to a broader risk management strategy for their client.

Those who currently work with a financial professional for their business say they are most likely to talk to them about succession planning, inflation, access to capital, high interest rates, employee benefits, and economic uncertainty – all things that can pose risks to their business’ financial security.

By establishing yourself as a risk management partner, you can help business clients consider different risk scenarios and protection solutions for their business, avenues to access emergency capital, and identify other partners who can contribute to a comprehensive risk management strategy that covers their business and personal financial plans.

Nationwide offers solutions for businesses

By working with Nationwide for business solutions, you gain a partner who brings experience in specialized markets that serve the unique needs of businesses of all sizes including employer-sponsored retirement plan solutions, corporate-owned life insurance, pension risk transfer, security backed lending and specialty benefits for employees. Our corporate solutions are backed by the long-standing financial strength of a company clients know and trust.

With corporate solutions from Nationwide, you’re able to help business clients navigate economic twists and turns, whether it’s through benefits that can attract and retain employees, solutions that can ease the business transition and succession process, or assessing the personal and business risks they face when running their business.


  • Edelman Data & Intelligence conducted a national online opinion survey from May 1-15, 2024 among 400 small business owners and 400 medium business owners. As a member in good standing with The Insights Association as well as ESOMAR Edelman Data and Intelligence conducts all research in accordance with local, national, and international laws as well as in line with all Market Research Standards and Guidelines.

    This material is not a recommendation to buy or sell a financial product or to adopt an investment strategy. Investors should discuss their specific situation with their financial professional.

    Except where otherwise indicated, the views and opinions expressed are those of Nationwide as of the date noted, are subject to change at any time and may not come to pass.

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