As a veterinarian and possibly a business owner, you work long and hard to maximize revenue and manage costs. You wouldn't think of letting cash go unaccounted for or overpaying thousands of dollars for labor or inventory. Unfortunately, many business owners do leave a lot of money on the table without realizing it. How?

Your retirement plans may not have been updated and optimized for current law. Or, perhaps you don't have a retirement plan at all and you're missing opportunities for valuable tax advantages an economical employee benefit. 

On one level, this is understandable because retirement plan design is a complex field, and few business owners can afford the time to learn all of their options and nuances for optimizing a plan for their specific circumstances and goals. But it's also regrettable. 

If your retirement plan is leaving money on the table, it can create a drag on both your business and personal balance sheets. Eventually it may cost you the personal retirement security you hope for and deserve. You don't need to be a retirement plan expert to do something about it. But you do need a road map and guidance to get you where you need or want to be. There are small, manageable steps that will help lead you to the retirement plan that is best suited to you. 

Step 1
Understand why this is an ideal time to review your retirement plan options and explore additional opportunities available to you. 

  • Higher contributions and better tax benefits -- The maximum dollar amount that can be contributed on behalf of, or by, a participant to a defined contribution plan keeps increasing with inflation indexing. For 2015, this annual contribution limit has increased to $53,000 ($59,000 for participants age 50 and older who elect to take advantage of the "catch-up" election on salary deferrals). In defined benefit plans, owners now can set aside annual contributions sufficient to pay an annual retirement benefit of up to $210,000. 
  • Combination plan -- The Pension Protection Act of 2006 created a new type of hybrid pension plan that combines a traditional defined benefit plan with 401(k)-like features. Dubbed a "DB(k)," the plan allows high company contributions for some owners and highly compensated employees, especially those nearing retirement age. In addition, each plan participant can make elective deferrals up to the 401(k) limit, which is $18,000 for 2015. (An additional catch-up deferral of $6,000 is available to participants age 50 and up.)
  • Rise of the Roth -- Companies are permitted to offer the benefits of Roth accounts in their plans, making possible the ability to take future retirement withdrawals tax-free. By adopting a Designated Roth Account feature, you can personally convert money from the "traditional" side of your plan to the Roth side, whenever this aligns with your retirement goals. 
  • Cost-consciousness -- In 2012, the U.S. Department of Labor began requiring most retirement plan service providers to make compensation disclosures to plan fiduciaries, including the total operating expenses of plan investments, which has increased cost transparency and efficiency for small business retirement plans. 
  • More planning flexibility -- In 2014, the IRS issued regulations that make it easier to use guaranteed deferred income annuities in retirement plans, thereby shielding a portion of your plan balance from required minimum distributions after reaching age 70 1/2. In addition, the IRS clarified that qualified plans may include tax-advantage disability insurance to continue contributions for workers who become disabled. 
  • New myRA -- Starting in 2015, companies may offer (at no cost) a new payroll-deduction option in which each employee may contribute personal after-tax money to a new myRA account in which both principal and interest are guaranteed by the U.S. government. Each myRA account may grow as large as $15,000 and then be converted into a personal IRA (Traditional or Roth). 

Given these and other changes, how well is your plan meeting personal and company needs? How does it stack up against the plans offered by other companies in your market, including competitors? 

Step 2
Learn the broad categories of plan types and the features and contributions that distinguish one from another. These include SEP, SIMPLE, 401(k), Owners 401(k), Defined Benefit, Cash Balance, DB(k), and others. 

Step 3
If you are not up to date with the changes in the Retirement Plan field, it is important to seek specialized expertise and advice. Speaking with a financial professional now can help you avoid selecting an outdated, inefficient plan that may cost you more. Even if you have fallen behind in saving for retirement, the plan design can accelerate contributions and help you catch up. 

The final choice is yours to make. 

As the exclusive retirement plan provider for AAHA members, AXA has led many veterinarians and animal hospital owners through this process and has the knowledge and experience to be your guide. We will help you break complex financial issues into small, manageable steps. To schedule a phone consultation and pursue further discussion about your retirement plan options, please call 800-523-1125, department 2152 or visit  

This article is only a summary of the business planning strategies presented and is not intended to provide complete information about each strategy. As needed, please consult with a financial professional who can help you determine the strategy that best suits your needs. Guarantees are based on the claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company. Life insurance contains exclusions, limitations, and terms for keeping it in force. For costs and complete details, contact a financial professional.

Securities offered through AXA Advisors, LLC (NY, NY 212-314-4600), member FINRA, SIPC. Annuity and insurance products offered through AXA Network, LLC. AXA Network conducts business in CA as AXA Network Insurance Agency of California, LLC, in UT as AXA Network Insurance Agency of Utah, LLC, in PR as AXA Network of Puerto Rico, Inc.

Please be advised that this document is not intended as legal or tax advice. Accordingly, any tax information provided in this document is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer. The tax information was written to support the promotion or marketing of the transaction(s) or matter(s) addressed and you should seek advice based on your particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor. © 2015 AXA Advisors, LLC. All rights reserved. 1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104.  GE-103769(05/15)(Exp.05/17)

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