The economy is taking a toll on business owners’ plans for retirement, according to a survey by Wells Fargo.

As a result of market volatility, many are planning on delaying retirement.

More than two-thirds, 69%, of business owners are now planning to delay retirement until they’re age 65 years or older, according to the Wells Fargo survey, which was released Tuesday. That’s a 17% drop from how business owners responded in December 2007. Correspondingly, those business owners planning to retire between age 60 and 65 fell 6% to 21%, and those wanting to retire before 60 fell from 21% to 11%.

Business owners’ main reason for delaying retirement (68%), predictably enough, is that they’re trying to regain ground lost in the downturn, although they worry that’s an impossible goal. Only 63% of business owners are sure they’ll have enough retirement assets to live on, down from 79% in 2007.

“We’re seeing business owners very focused on getting through this challenging climate,” says John Cole, business banking division manager for Wells Fargo’s operations in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. “They’re suffering impaired revenue and cash flow, and values have declined, so they’re concentrating on positioning their businesses for the inevitable economic recovery.”

With all this going on, it’s hardly surprising business owners are putting their retirement aspirations on the back burner, says Cole, who is confident market volatility won’t keep entrepreneurs down as long as many fear it will.

On the plus side, business owners love their jobs. Some 78% of respondents say if they retire they’d miss seeing their business thrive; 74% would miss their customers; and 67% love the challenge of building a business. Indeed, almost half of respondents (47%) say they plan to die in the saddle unless forced to retire early for health reasons.

However, many business owners relish retirement just as much as they love their businesses, Cole says. “They’re not mutually exclusive.”

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