Entrepreneurs know that sometimes running a fledgling business can be a lot like managing personal finances. While business finances and personal finances should be kept separate, and there are definite differences between running your start up and your household, there are still some vital lessons to be learned from personal finance.
As you gear up for 2015, here are 5 tips from personal finance experts who are also entrepreneurs. These tips will help you get your business on the right track in the coming year:
"Entrepreneurs get so focused on the business that they often forget about protecting something more important, themselves," says Jeff Rose, an Iraq War veteran, an entrepreneur, and the author of Soldier of Finance.
He points out that, just as you buy insurance to protect yourself in the course of your personal finances, you should also make sure you are properly protected as an entrepreneur. "All entrepreneurs should carry various forms of insurance, including health, disability, life, and more to safeguard your most important asset--you," Rose says.
Without the right insurance protection, an unexpected setback, such as an injury or a natural disaster, can destroy your finances, and put an end to your entrepreneurial endeavors.
Contribute to Your Retirement
Entrepreneurs don't retire like other people. But that doesn't mean that they shouldn't be prepared for the future. "When you are an employee, you can often contribute to the company's 401k or other retirement account," points out Ryan Guina, another veteran and the entrepreneur behind Cash Money Life and other web properties. "Entrepreneurs have to take the extra step of creating their own retirement plan. But it's worth it."
Guina says that it doesn't have to be difficult to open a tax-advantaged retirement account as an entrepreneur. "The easiest way to start saving for retirement is to open a Roth IRA. You can do this at almost any brokerage firm or large bank," he suggests. "If your company and earnings are more established, you may find it worthwhile to open a small business retirement account, such as a Solo-401k, SEP-IRA, KEOUGH, or other retirement plan."
Pay Attention to Cash Flow
No matter what you're doing, cash flow matters. It's not always about what's coming in and going out. Your cash flow is also about timing. "When the money arrives is just as important as how much you have coming in," says Miranda Marquit, a personal finance expert and owner of a freelancing business.
"Pay attention to timing. It's not always fun to plan a budget, but it's especially important to have a plan as an entrepreneur," she continues. "You need to be able to keep things running smoothly, and understand when it's necessary to use stopgap measures, such as lines of credit."
Build a Cash Cushion
"Call it savings, an emergency fund, rainy-day fund, or anything else, but the bottom line is having a few months' living expenses in a liquid account is a good idea for entrepreneurs," says Bob Lotich, the owner of ChristianPF.com and a self-publishing entrepreneur.
This cash cushion can provide you with the cash you need to help you through the lean times in your business, as well as offer peace of mind. "If there isn't much extra cash flying around to fund the cushion, look for other ways to make money to get it filled up. Even if you never touch the savings, you will feel more peace knowing it is there."
There's something about peace of mind that helps entrepreneurs take more of the risks needed to get ahead. You know you can be as creative as you need to be if you've got that cash cushion as your backstop.
"While many entrepreneurs know they should put their hard earned money to work by investing, they need to realize it's not all about stocks," says Tom Drake, the owner of Personal Dividends and several other web properties. "You can reduce your risk with some portfolio diversification, so consider adding broad-market ETFs, bonds and annuities into the mix."
Drake also points out that you need to add diversity in your investments to protect yourself against the economic vagaries that can occur, no matter where you live. "You can further reduce your risk by investing outside of the U.S.," he says. "Look for index funds that cover Canada, Europe, and emerging markets so that you're investments are not directly correlated with the economy of one country."
That way, even when your business is struggling in a down economy, you have other resources to rely on.
Entrepreneurship is a great way to take control of your financial destiny in a world that is increasingly unstable. Keep some of the basic principles of personal finance in mind as you move into 2015, and you will be more likely to build lasting success.