Self-employed cobbler walks difficult path to retirement

Known in Hoboken, N.J., as "King of the Heel," cobbler Giovanni Perrupato thought his reign would eventually end in retirement.

He started his shoe repair business, Giovanni D'Italia Shoe Repair, with his father in 1960 after emigrating from Italy.

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Giovanni Perrupato
Throughout the years of supporting his family, which includes four kids, and spending enough to live comfortably, it was difficult to save for retirement.

"I never had enough money to save. I always lived good though -- big spender, big tipper," the 68-year-old said.

A TD Ameritrade survey last year found that 40 percent of the self-employed are not saving regularly and 28 percent are not saving at all.

In addition to the challenges of unpredictable income and health care costs, financial experts say business owners face additional challenges trying plan for the future.

"When you are employed in a traditional format there is a 401(k), it's all established for you. You don't have to really think about it. You just sign up. For self-employed individuals, they actually have to establish a particular type of IRA that is right for their small business," said Lule Demmissie, managing director of retirement at TD Ameritrade.

Demmissie said the best thing for cash-strapped entrepreneurs to do is to start saving a little at a time.

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Lule Demmissie, Managing Director of Retirement at TD Ameritrade

"In essence by starting out small you are starting the steps to something bigger. By not starting at all, you really don't end up with anything at the end," Demmissie said.

Even if retirement was an option for Perrupato, he wouldn't necessarily give up the family business.

"My visualization was I retire, in the summer I go to Italy, come back in the winter work a little bit, then summer comes again, go back to Italy, back and forth."

His son, Patrick Bocco, can't see his father slowing down.

"He is here six days a week. He enjoys coming here and that's what is important," said Bocco.

When Perrupato isn't behind his counter putting his special touch into every shoe repair, he is still busy greeting customers with the beat of his front counter conga drum.

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Giovanni Perrupato

Though a conventional retirement probably isn't in the cards for Perrupato, he at least gets satisfaction from his work.

"That's where I picture myself [in his shop], being here until I can't be here no more," said Perrupato.


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