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PERSONAL FINANCE

Managing Your Personal Finances As An Entrepreneur: 14 Tips from Leading Experts

As an entrepreneur, it's important that you have your personal finances in order because you never know what may happen with your business ventures.
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There's no doubt about it that being a successful entrepreneur requires a lot of expertise in a lot of different areas. Arguably one of the most important aspects to becoming a successful business owner is having your finances in order; after all, with no money, you've got no business. So, to help aspiring entrepreneurs take their next step towards building their empire, we've asked 16 expert entrepreneurs for their best piece of advice for managing your personal finances. Here's what they had to say:

1. Diversify!

"Diversify. Diversify. Diversify. I know that's canned advice you would hear from almost every other "financial expert," but it rings especially true for entrepreneurs. Here's something you might not want to admit to yourself: your entrepreneurial venture has a greater chance of failing than succeeding (gasp!). By diversifying and placing funds into another side business, alternate investments, or just setting aside cash, you will give yourself breathing room in the event that you have to call it quits or need to pivot to another business. In my own experience, I have been able to diversify into other ventures that operate independently of each other and that has led to constant growth and more exciting opportunities."--Jeff Rose, GoodFinancialCents.com

2. Plan For Inevitable Rainy Days (Or Months)

"Since many entrepreneurs have to deal with irregular income, it's important to budget your personal finances around that to make sure that you have savings that you can draw from in the leaner months. You need to know that you can cover the essentials like housing, utilities, insurance, and food. So add up those critical expenses and put aside enough to cover at least a couple months."--Tom Drake, Canadian Finance Blog

3. Plan For Your Future

"Don't forget, you should still be saving for your retirement. Even on a fluctuating income you should aim for a small bit of savings each month. A good starting point would be to open up a Roth IRA and contribute the max each year. If you want to do more, consider a SEP IRA or Solo 401K account, which will help you shelter a lot of your business income from taxes."--Philip Taylor "PT", Founder, FinCon, PT Money: Personal Finance

4. Separate Business Funds From Personal Funds

"When you're an entrepreneur starting your own business, it can be a good idea to keep your personal finances and business finances separate. Not only will it give your business more credibility and a sense of legitimacy, but in some cases it may also help reduce your personal liability were something negative to happen down the road. It will also help you to be organized when it comes to paying your taxes, managing your bills and other payments."--Peter Anderson, Bible Money Matters

"It's simple but vital: Keep business and personal accounts separate and document profit distributions to yourself. As a one-person business, I didn't set up separate accounts soon enough. The CEO of a 10 or 100 employee business wouldn't use corporate accounts as his own; why would somebody running a company of one or five?

Not only do separate accounts make tax-time easier, they're essential if you want to sell your business or you face litigation or bankruptcy. In the worst case, intermingling personal and business accounts may negate the protections offered by your business structure."--David Weliver, Publisher, MoneyUnder30.com

5. Keep Your Expenses Below Your Income

"Never forget that expenses rise to meet income. This is the gist of Parkinson's law. This is the reason that a couple months after most people get a raise, it feels just as tight financially as it did before the raise.

Without an intentional effort, houses, desks, kitchen sinks naturally get messy and cluttered. We have to take action ON PURPOSE to keep things clean and organized. The same ON PURPOSE effort needs to be made to keep our expenses BELOW our income."--Bob Lotich, ChristianPF.com

"Since you probably have a budget for your small business, make sure one is in place for your personal finances as well. It can be easy to let managing your own money fall through the cracks while trying to grow and expand your endeavor. Use a website like Mint (it's free) and enter in accurate amounts for your monthly bills. You'll probably need to estimate your income unless it is consistent. Then, work on reducing all monthly bills. Your ultimate goal is to get your spending under your estimated income. Once you have a surplus, use it to pay down your credit card debts, start or improve your emergency fund, or set it aside for your retirement."--Andrew Schrage, moneycrashers.com

6. Automate Your Bill Payments

"When you're spending every waking minute on building a business or releasing a product it's easy to overlook personal bill payments. Automated payment services that let you setup specific rules for each bill and alerts for exceptions allow you to put your bills on auto-pilot and focus on your business. If you use a credit card you can help avoid leaking money via fees and interest by setting up spending limit, payment due, and late payment alerts."--Ben Edwards, Money Smart Life

7. You Get What You Pay For

"Hire the best people, not the cheapest. If someone is willing to work for free, say no. You want someone devoted to the project, not someone who regards it as a passing hobby that they can tackle in-between episodes of Dancing with the Stars."-- Paula Pant, Founder, AffordAnything.com

8. Protect Your Most Valuable Asset

"Many entrepreneurs overlook their need for disability insurance even though their ability to earn an income is their most valuable asset. Stop thinking "it won't happen to me" and know that it could. (The Council for Disability Awareness has some great stats here). Ask yourself how your family would live without your income or what you would do for income if something happened to you. What are your options? Are you protected? (Note: Life insurance is also very important if there are other's dependent on your income)."--Mary Beth, www.workablewealth.com

9. Maximize Retirement Savings Options

"Those that are self-employed have significantly more options when it comes to retirement savings. Beyond traditional 401k and IRA plans, the self-employed should consider SEP IRAs, individual 401k plans, and even defined benefit plans. These alternatives enable entrepreneurs to save significantly more for retirement in tax-sheltered accounts. For example, a SEP IRA enables a self-employed individual to sock away up to $52,000 this year for retirement. With a defined benefit plan, some are able to save more than $100,000 a year in a tax-deferred account.

Some of these options can become quite complex. As a result, it's best for entrepreneurs to contact a tax or retirement specialist to understand which alternative is best for them."--Robert Berger, doughroller.net

10. Take Your Business On A Money Date

"Check in with your business budget often by establishing a money date ritual. Each week I take myself and my business out to lunch where I review my accounts, create reports, and update my financial goals. It makes doing mundane financial tasks like paying quarterly taxes, or putting together monthly reports, a lot more fun and less of a drag. I actually look forward to getting out of the office (and indulging in a sweet treat afterwards), where I list out positive business accomplishments that have occurred over the past week or so. A money date is the perfect opportunity to reflect on what you've accomplished, where your business is now, and where you're headed."--Carrie Smith, carefulcents.com

11. Seek Out Professional Tax Advice

"Spend some time and money on getting professional tax advice from someone who works with small businesses and entrepreneurs. There are many tax savings to be had if you know what to look for. On the flip side, you can get yourself into trouble very quickly if you don't know what you're doing. Critical areas to look out for include reporting income and expenses, home office deductions, hiring employees vs. contractors, and more. It's money well spent (and will often pay for itself!)."--Ryan Guina, Cash Money Life

12. Strive To Smooth Out Cash Flow

"Consider your personal finances like you would a business. A business has access to credit in order to smooth cash flow for various operations. As an entrepreneur, your income might be variable, so having some sort of mechanism in place to smooth cash flow in your personal finances makes sense. I have a low-interest personal line of credit connected to my checking account. If a client pays late, or if there are other problems, all of my automatic payments are made smoothly. Usually, when the money does come, I can then pay off the line of credit immediately--without ever paying interest. Smoothing out cash flow in your personal finances is just as important as smoothing it out in your business."--Miranda Marquit, www.MirandaMarquit.com

13. Keep Your Business Expenses In Line

"Don't go overboard with your expenses! There's this myth that expensing something magically moves the expense to a tax-free wonderland but the truth is you are still paying for the expense. With income coming in and a company credit card it's easy to let your profits slip away with small expenses. Run your venture lean and only spend on what you need for the business."--Glen Craig, Free From Broke

14. Negotiate Everything

"When it comes to business, make sure you negotiate everything. Contact your credit card processors, your suppliers...contact everyone and renegotiate your terms on a regular basis. Everyday, our business is constantly bombarded with new vendors offering their services at competitive rates. Make sure you strike a conversation and pit your existing vendors against the new ones and you can save tens of thousands of dollars a year."--Steve Chou, mywifequitherjob.com

There you have it--personal finance tips from the pros that will help you build the business of your dreams. Remember, as most of these experts explained, success is all about striking a balance with your finances. If you are cheap, you're not going to get quality results, but if you're too extravagant, you're likely to end up in the red and ultimately fail. Be smart, be frugal, and put money into things that will grow and you will be well on your way to success.

IMAGE: brookward/Flickr
Last updated: Aug 25, 2014

MURRAY NEWLANDS

Murray Newlands is a startup adviser, investor, and entrepreneur. He's written for many major publications, such as VentureBeat and Entrepreneur.




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