largemouth bass Oklahoma taxidermist Ken Bauman
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One of the problems I see about the profession of taxidermy is a lack of benefits for most individuals who make their living at the trade.  Unless you are working for a major company or you’re lucky enough to have an employer who provides such benefits, you’re basically on your own.  I don’t claim to be a “guru” in the financial field, but since the birth of my two sons, I have decided it might be a good idea to get interested in saving a little for the future.  My wife and I own a few stocks and mutual funds that are a supply of money we can get to if we need it.  We will have two college tuitions to pay for within 18 years.  I figure it is time to start socking away some cash.  We purchased a term life insurance policy, so that if my wife or I pass from this life, the other’s burden would be lightened and  a foundation to raise the boys would be there.

Another thought is retirement;  most employers offer some type of retirement plan.  It is definitely something you want to contribute to.  If your employer offers a 401(K) plan, this is an excellent opportunity to have a great retirement plan.  Your employer normally contributes a certain percentage along with your contribution.

My wife and I are both public school teachers.  We have our teacher retirement, plus I contribute money to a 403(B)7 plan through the school.  This is not quite the plan the 401(K) is, but it is really the only decent choice for teachers.  My contributions are tax-deferred until the money is removed, starting at age 59 1/2. 
I really wondered what my full-time taxidermy buddies were doing or considering for their retirement.  The most common answer is, “I guess I’ll work until the day I die.”  I can see continuing taxidermy into my retirement years, but I don’t want to mount three deer a day just so I can maintain my life-style.  I want to be able to enjoy my old age and live life the way I want. 

What is available for a self-employed taxidermist wishing to put money back for those silver years?  I thought it would be worth looking into for a few of my taxidermy friends.

A SEP-IRA seems to be the best choice for the majority of the taxidermists I am acquainted with.  This stands for Simplified Employee Pension Individual Retirement Account.  This type of IRA allows self-employed individuals to contribute 25% of their net wages up to $40,000 per year.  Your contributions are deducted from your taxable income, saving you big time on state and federal taxes.  As with most retirement accounts, your money grows tax deferred until withdrawal.  The money invested must remain in account until age 59 1/2, or penalties may be enforced.
Other types of retirement plans are also available to the self-employeed.  Check on SIMPLE IRA’s, and Keoghs.  One type of IRA that the part-time taxidermist (with a tax-deferred retirement plan already in place) might consider is a Roth IRA.  A Roth allows non-tax deductible contributions up to $3,000 per year.  You can make tax-free withdrawals of your earnings at age 59 1/2, once the money has been in place for a minimum of 5 years.  There are stipulations with each, and one should research the facts on retirement accounts  before investing. 
One great earning medium available to use with your IRA is Mutual Funds.  There are several different types of funds, each with certain benefits, but for the long-term investor, stock funds are the most attractive.  You can find funds that on average earn you more than 15% annually on your contributed money.  That may be slightly higher than you are used to at your bank, but understand, the risk is higher.  Basically, the stock market is more volatile.
Selecting a fund company may be tricky.  If you are self-motivated to read up on investments, I suggest doing so.  Choose a no-load fund with annual expenses below average (about 1.25%).  You can find them as low as 0.18% annually.  That is cheap.  I am in such a fund that has averaged 28.7% over the last five years.  Next time you go to your news stand, pick up a Money or Kiplingers magazine and call some of the toll free numbers and ask for a prospectus and information on retirement accounts.  
You may not be motivated to do the research or study about it enough to make a good decision.  Don’t be afraid to use a broker or financial advisor.  Each company or advisor will have a family of funds available, but be prepared to pay a load fee.  Some may be as much as 8.5% of your invested money.  You will still need to be aware of the fund family’s annual fees also.  This will take a little more of your investment at certain times of the year.   There is no way to avoid annual fees, but you can keep them to a minimum. These are fees that the fund family must have to operate.  Load fees are earnings for the broker or financial planner.  I am not negating the need of these services, just be prepared to pay for them out of your investments.
If you are nearing a retirement age there may be a better choice of funding besides stock mutual funds.  But if you are younger, this is a prime time for you to start socking back a few bills for a future day.
Hopefully, I have sparked an interest in searching for some type of retirement plan for yourself.  Like I said, I am by far no expert on the matter, but I have spent hours studying and researching investments.  Giving financial advice can be tough and non-guaranteed; so, research will be your best bet.  Remember, with the mutual funds, there are no guarantees of return or financial backings.  Despite the risk, five-year returns averaging excellent percentages may be worth it. 
Wouldn’t it be nice to work when you want and just do enough to keep busy and not change your way of living?  Who knows?  Someday, all those grandkids may need someone to spoil them completely rotten.  It would be nice if you had the time and money to do it. 
and when I retire...............
by Oklahoma taxidermist Kenneth Bauman
2004 OKTA Show: Best of Category - Master's Fish, Judge's Choice - Best of Show, Breakthrough Award, Highest Scoring Piece, and Master of Master's.
2004 National Champion Warm Water Fish
The largemouth bass mount to your leftt was done by Anadarko, Oklahoma taxidermist Ken Bauman, author of the above article.  To see more work done by this exceptionally talented individual, visit his web site.

Bauman's Taxidermy

Ken is an active member and supporter of the
Oklahoma Taxidermists Association.
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