At some point in every entrepreneur’s life, they have dreamed of starting their own business. When that newly minted entrepreneur steps away from corporate employment and into the wild west of self-employment, they take on the full responsibility of their financial destiny. Gone are the days of contributing to a matching company 401k plan.
These small business owners are now responsible for setting up and contributing to their retirement plan. According to a recent TD Ameritrade survey, 7 in 10 self-employed people are not regularly saving (if at all) for retirement. I recently spoke with Heather Banks, a Certified Financial Advisor with First Bank Wealth Management in Asheville, NC. Heather shared with me her impressions of how retirement savings have shifted over the years. “For too many years, US citizens have been reliant on social security benefits to fund their retirement. Social security is simply not capable of fully funding a retirement with any realistic expectation of maintaining the lifestyle they grew accustomed to during their working years. It is vital that small business owners take advantage of the retirement benefit options available to them, and work with financial professionals (financial advisors, accountants, etc.) to determine which option is the most beneficial for them.”
There are several programs a self-employed person can use to help them achieve their retirement goals.
SEP IRA (Simplified Employee Pension plan) is a retirement plan that allows a self-employed or solo-entrepreneur person to make pre-tax donations. It is a plan that is similar to a traditional IRA. It does, however, allow you to have a much higher contribution level. This type of program is one of the easiest to open and maintain. Most banks and investment firms can help you open and maintain this type of account. With this plan, you can contribute as much as 25% of your net earnings from self-employment. The contribution limit for 2015 is $53,000. The deadline to open an account is April 15th following the tax year.
ROTH IRA is a retirement plan where the contributions you make are not deductible in the year that the contributions are made, however they grow tax-free and are not taxed when they are withdrawn. The maximum contribution in 2015 is $5,500 if you are under the age of 50 and $6,500 if you are over 50 years old. These amounts begin to phase out for high-income earners who make $116,000 (single/head of household) and $183,000 (married). The deadline to open an account is April 15th following the tax year.
SIMPLE IRA Plan (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees) is a deferral of the compensation plan. It is easy to open and maintain with banks and investment firms, but keep in mind that it has a lower contribution limit. This plan is good for businesses where the owners have other sources of income as it allows them to set aside a larger percentage of profit. You can put all of your net earnings from self-employment in the plan up to $12,500 in 2015 through salary reductions. If you are over the age of 50, you can increase your donations by $3,000. The employer can also contribute up to 3% of the employee’s contribution. This plan is best for self-employed people with fewer than 100 employees. The deadline to open an account is October 1.
The SOLO 401(k) Plan is easy to open and requires little maintenance. It is designed for companies without employees and, therefore, the program is only available to the owner and his/her spouse. This plan follows the same rules and requirements as any other 401(k) plan. You can make salary deferrals up to $18,000 in 2015 plus an additional $6,000 if you are over the age of 50. If you hire employees and they meet the plan eligibility requirements, you must include them in the plan, and their elective deferrals will be subject to nondiscrimination testing. The deadline to open the account is December 31. The program will be required to file an annual report with the IRS if it has $250,000 or more in assets at the end of the year.
For more information on each of these plans, I recommend you contact your local Certified Public Accountant and Certified Financial Planner. They will be able to help you choose which plan is best for you. I agree with Dave Ramsey, who said “I believe that through knowledge and discipline, financial peace is possible for all of us.”