According to a recent survey conducted by MetLife, more than 34 million adults age 50+ in the US want to start their own businesses and have outpaced younger people in doing so. "A desire to be your own boss at this stage of life and create a business thats meaningful has pushed more people over fifty to pursue the entrepreneurial path," says career expert Kerry Hannon. But she cautions, "Its not an easy road. Money is the biggest stumbling block. Most start-ups are underwritten with personal savings and many entrepreneurs don't pay themselves for a year or more to allow their businesses to gain traction."

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Ten years ago, Cody Limbaugh made the leap from personal trainer to business owner, starting a small gym in Portland, Ore. Ever since, his financial and emotional well-being have been tied to the performance of his business.

I get six sign-ups one week and feel on top of the world, says Limbaugh, affiliate owner of CrossFit Excellence. I pay the bills. I go to happy hour with friends. But the next week, the landlord raises the rent on me. Its demoralizing.

Sound familiar? I know many entrepreneurs who struggle to separate the value of their business from their own net worth (and self-worth). Its part of the entrepreneurial mindset. As business owners, your identity is wrapped up in your work,almost by definition. Thats a good thingnobody cares more about the business than you dobut when it comes to your money, this relationship isnt always sustainable or financially healthy.

To keep some semblance of sanity, the first thing to do is maintain the wall between your personal and company bank accounts. This allows you to stay calm when your business is in a rough patch, because at least youve got money in the bank.

Accordingly, dont overinvest in your business with your own dough. Thats what happened to Tammy Jata of Blueberry House Tutoring, based outside of Portland, Ore. She started the tutoring business in her home, and it was so successful that she spent $20,000 of her own money to lease and renovate a larger space in a nearby business park. Unfortunately, she lost more clients than she gained during the move. Now she wonders whether she should pump more of her personal savings into a sinking ship. (I hope she doesnt.)

Such dilemmas underscore why its vital for entrepreneurs to save for an uncertain future. When business is booming, smart owners save first. Theyll sock away 20 to 30 percent of their net income, working toward building up reserves that will get them through at least six months of personalnot businessexpenses for themselves and their families.

Its crucial to plan for all outcomes. Every business owner I know talks about the best-case scenario, but truly savvy entrepreneurs are those who prepare for the worst. Limbaugh says his biggest regret was not having a backup plan when he was starting out.

If I had a second job, I could still bring in a little cash even when times are tough at the gym, he says, admitting that at the beginning he refused to consider Plan B because it struck him as an expectation of failure. But he has since changed his attitude.

I think its more like a safety net, he says. If I had a backup plan, things wouldnt look so bleak right now. Indeed, working a side job or doing extracurricular contract work isnt an admission of failure; its a smart move to keep food on your familys table.

I realize that most entrepreneurs believe they need to live their business 24/7 in order to succeed, but thats not sustainable over the long run. Worse, it stops you from making objective and rational decisions that are in your best interestsnot just those of your company.



You know that warm feeling you get from doing something nice for someone else? Sarah Maisano didnt want it to go away. So she started her own nonprofit charitable organization.

As founder and president of Supporting Kids In Pain, or SKIP, which provides care bags for hospitalized children, Sarah feels that warmth all year.

In fact, if everything goes as planned, I hope to continue this as my full-time career, said Sarah, sitting in the kitchen of her parents home. She was joined by her mother Sharon and older sister Gina, who, along with Sarahs father Russ and siblings Anthony and Joe, help support Sarahs future goals. Right now, that is to provide SKIP care bags to one childrens hospital in all 50 states. Weve done five states so far, Sarah said, including Ohio, Texas, New York, Michigan and Tennessee.

Its a hefty goal for anyone, let alone a 15-year-old, but thats Sarah.

When her mother started volunteering at a retirement home to fill the void caused by her sisters death and the closing of a business she owned, Sarah went along. While her mother chaired a book club, Sarah helped with bingo and soon became the visitor many residents looked forward to seeing. They were funny, said Sarah, who became particularly fond of a feisty Italian lady who was intent on making Sarah street smart.

After volunteering with her mom, who has always tried to instill in her children the importance of charity and community involvement, Sarah decided to make her annual Christmas party with friends a fundraiser for kids. Everyone was invited to join in the holiday fun but to bring a gift that could be donated to St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital. It was the biggest childrens hospital I could think of and Im a kid so I thought of them, Sarah said.

The kids were a little unsure about it, but I know a lot of the parents liked the idea, said Gina, who has taken on the role of publicist and fashion consultant to help her little sister prepare for the interview requests she has received since starting her own charity. Many of the moms showed up with huge bags filled with gifts, added Sharon.

It was fun, Sarah said. The girls snacked on a feast of holiday appetizers prepared by Sarahs mom, decorated messenger tubes that held letters of encouragement written by each of the girls, and created a video of get-well wishes to post on YouTube.

Sarah hosted a second holiday party and shortly after that decided to do it year-round. Only instead of putting the donations in cardboard boxes, Sarah and her mother came up with the idea for the more personal care bags. That was easy, although the Maisano girls had to learn how to operate an industrial sewing machine. Its when Sarah started emailing companies and asking for donations that she learned her first lesson as a philanthropist. They want a 501(c)(3), Sarah said, of the paperwork required for the nonprofit status of a legal charity. So I applied for one.

Luckily, Sarah had the help of her mother, who followed up emails with phone calls, and a cousin with her MBA. She handled the paperwork and Sarah funded the $1,000 fee from her personal savings. Fifteen months later, as Sarah and her friends celebrated the last day of school, a mail truck arrived with the long-awaited announcement. SKIP Supporting Kids In Pain was an official nonprofit charitable organization. Sarahs charity now works with the Childrens Hospital of Michigan Foundation. They still do the annual gift parties for St. Judes and are making progress on Sarahs goal to impact the lives of sick children in every state. The SKIP team has also expanded to include Gia, 10, and Angelina Randazzo, 9, and Jaden Polak, 13. Our goal is to have children as our helpers, said Sarah, who attends Regina High School in Warren, which hosted a Jeans Day fundraiser in which students who are normally required to wear school uniforms paid a dollar each to don jeans for the day. Their efforts raised around $400 for SKIP. Sarahs former middle school, St. Lawrence in Utica, also held a fundraiser to help pay for the items that fill each care bag, including a toy, a prayer book and an angel pin. Continued...

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Health care costs in the US have skyrocketed over the past decade, and with it, medical-related debt. A study published in the American Journal of Medicine revealed that medical debt is the primary cause of personal bankruptcy. Among those who file for bankruptcy, three-quarters reported having some type of medical insurance.

75 million people in the US report problems paying their medical bills or are paying off medical debt, according to a study from The Commonwealth Fund. Bankrate found that one-in-four Americans say they owe more in medical debt than they have saved in an emergency fund, and more than 50 percent expressed concern that medical bills may one day overwhelm their finances.

At the same time, health savings accounts (HSAs), which help patients protect themselves from crushing medical bills, are on the rise.

HSA 101

A HSA is a tax-advantaged medical savings account available to people enrolled in high-deductible health plans (HDHP). They are like personal savings accounts, but the money is used to pay for health care expenses. Contributions to HSAs are 100 percent tax-deductible, tax-free, tax-deferred; and unused money isn't forfeited at the end of the year. The account owner, rather than an employer or health insurance company, retains complete control. Even if your employer contributes to the HSA, that money is still yours if you switch jobs.

As mentioned above, you need an HDHP policy to be eligible, and the deductible must be at least $1,250 for individual coverage or $2,500 for family coverage. HSA owners can make pretax contributions of up to $3,300 a year for individuals, and $6,550 for family coverage. People age 55 and older can save an extra $1,000 a year. The money can be spent on out-of-pocket medical expenses such as deductibles, copayments for medical care and prescriptions drugs, and bills not covered by insurance. Most HSAs offer multiple options for withdrawals.