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OUR RESPONDENTS FARED slightly better in earnings last year compared to 2022 and expect to earn a tad more this year. However, about 1 in 8 made a lot of adjustments to keep up with the cost of living. A plurality, around 2 in 5, will miss some things about signwork when they retire, and oh, their plans for that first day!

21. How much did you earn last year from being a sign-business professional (including salary and share of profit)?

Less than $50,000
12%
$50,000-$99,999
34%
$100,000-$249,999
39%
$250,000-$499,999
9%
$500,000-$999,999
4%
$1 million or more
2%

SUM MO’ MONEY. About 4% of the responses filtered up to $100K from less than $50K compared to 2023. However, only 1 in 50 again reports earning $1 million or more.

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22. How much do you expect to earn this year?

Less than $50,000
11%
$50,000-$99,999
29%
$100,000-$249,999
43%
$250,000-$499,999
10%
$500,000-$999,999
3%
$1 million or more
4%

3% INTEREST. Only 40% expect to make less than $100K next year, down 3% from 2023’s expectation, while the number expecting $100K itself precisely matches last year’s figure, suggesting 3% of respondents moving up in their earnings range.

23. What is your ultimate business goal?

To run a business that keeps my family fed and me engaged
29%
To build the family business for the next generation
26%
To reach $1 million in annual sales
3%
To reach $5 million or more in annual sales
13%
To build a regional or national brand
8%
Other (see below)
21%

MORE GOALS. Be more profitable, keep going, have fun, work less, find a successor, sell, retire, leave a legacy, get the heck out.

24. In what age range do you plan to retire?

Before I’m 35
0%
35-44
0%
45-54
3%
55-59
7%
60-64
17%
65-69
29%
70-75
20%
After 75
5%
Never
19%

NEVER SAY… The portion of owners and top managers reporting they never plan to retire has grown from 10% in 2022 to 16% in 2023 to 19% in 2024. At this rate, no one will be retiring by, what, 2050?

25. How well have your earnings kept up with the recent cost of living?

YOU’RE GONNA MAKE IT. Half of respondents have kept up fine or very well, while the other half have done only OK or not so well. It’s notable that while 57% of those faring not so well are prioritizing boosting profitability, only 4% are prioritizing survival.

26. What will you do on your first day of retirement?

  • Sleep in — till 7:00
  • Do chores
  • Fix things around the house
  • Work in my garden
  • Spend time with my family
  • Play golf
  • Go fishing or hunting
  • Take a trip or a cruise
  • Drink beer, get drunk
  • Look in the mirror and say, “Now what?”
  • Wish I were at work
  • Wonder what’s going on at work without me!
  • Call the shop to complain and see how they handle a ‘customer from hell’
  • Start a geriatric hardcore band
  • Probably be laid out in a funeral home

27. What is your exit strategy?

Go out of business/close the company
3%
Pass it/sell it to someone in the family
26%
Sell it on the market
33%
Sell the business to an employee
6%
Hire a professional manager but go hands-off
9%
Sell a portion and keep a stake as an income generator
6%
I have no exit plan
17%

WAIT, WHAT? Selling the business on the market increased the most compared to the previous two years, and a handful of those respondents never plan to retire, so they’ll be working for who they sold their business to?

28. What’s the current state of your retirement plan?

Dire
7%
It needs a modest boost
27%
On track
37%
I could retire today
15%
I don’t plan to retire
14%

WHICH IS IT? Compared to previous years, the number of respondents who both could retire today and don’t plan to retire ticked up a few percentage points.

29. How difficult will it be to retire, provided that day comes?

Not at all! I want out!
6%
Somewhat. I’ll miss some things
39%
Pretty tough. There’s a lot I like
29%
Very difficult. Hard to imagine
12%
I don’t plan to retire
14%

THAT DAY WILL COME. Among those reporting it will be very difficult to retire, an unsurprising 35% plan to retire at 70 or older. The overwhelming majority of them are currently aged 50-69.

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Introducing the Sign Industry Podcast

The Sign Industry Podcast is a platform for every sign person out there — from the old-timers who bent neon and hand-lettered boats to those venturing into new technologies — we want to get their stories out for everyone to hear. Come join us and listen to stories, learn tricks or techniques, and get insights of what’s to come. We are the world’s second oldest profession. The folks who started the world’s oldest profession needed a sign.

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