Choosing to be self-employed requires taking a large step into the unknown. Instead of finding an employer who will pay you a regular salary every month, you are trusting yourself to make enough money to get by. While you have the opportunity to make lasting wealth, there is always the possibility that some months you will struggle to make ends meet.
It is this inherent uncertainty that leads many self-employed people to neglect retirement planning. It is always in the back of our minds, but we view it as something to sort out when our careers are more stable. Unfortunately, when it comes to retirement planning, you don’t have this time to spare.
The good news is that there are excellent retirement plans already available for self-employed people. A solo 401(k) is perhaps the most well-known option, but there are a number of alternatives that will suit different people in different careers.
To help you get started with retirement planning, here are some of the best retirement plans for self-employed people.
Most employers provide staff with a 401(k). This is a retirement plan through which deductions are taken from your salary before tax. This allows your retirement fund to grow significantly as the decades pass. When you withdraw your funds at the age of retirement, you pay tax on what you take out.
A solo 401(k) is the equivalent plan for self-employed people. The main principles are the same, with retirement contributions taken from your income before tax. A solo 401(k) is a popular plan for people who work entirely for themselves with no listed employees (other than a spouse).
Simplified Employee Pension (SEP)
A Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) is a popular retirement annuity for self-employed business owners who have one or more employees. While a solo (401)k works well for people working entirely independently, it is not an option for those who have staff. If you are a business owner with employees, you will be able to use a SEP to make contributions to your employees’ retirement plans while saving for yourself.
As a business owner, you can provide your employees with 401(k)s and other IRAs, but they are costly and complicated to set up. A SEP is true to its name and for this reason is commonly used by small business owners.
Making contributions before tax allows you the opportunity for your wealth to grow at a higher level. However, this does not necessarily suit everyone. Some people prefer to pay tax before making their retirement contributions and ultimately withdrawing their retirement savings tax free.
There are a number of reasons for this approach. One major reason is that one expects to be taxed in a much higher tax bracket by the time they retire. Instead of paying that high level of tax at that point, they pay a far smaller percentage in the meantime.
Roth IRAs are plans through which you pay tax before deductions. You can get a Roth equivalent for most retirement plans, including the solo 401(k) and SEP IRA.
Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE IRA Plan)
The Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE IRA Plan) is another common IRA for people who own business with employees. With a SIMPLE IRA plan, you make contributions that match your employees’ contributions, while also saving towards your own retirement. It is similar to a SEP in that it is far easier to set up than other retirement plans for employees. However, the contributions differ, with you committing to match staff contributions.
With a SIMPLE IRA plan, you cannot get a Roth alternative. As such, you will have to make contributions pre-tax and pay tax when you withdraw it at retirement age.
These are the most common retirement annuities used by self-employed people. While it is tempting to wait until you are more ‘established’ and earning more consistently to start saving for retirement, the earlier you start the more secure your future is. There is a lot of uncertainty when working for yourself, but you can minimize the uncertainty by committing to a standard retirement plan.
Get your retirement plan in order as soon as possible, especially if you have employees. The best way to run a business is with an eye to the future.
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