To close out Small Business Month, we explore retirement plan options tailored for small business owners. As a small business owner, you are entirely responsible for your own retirement planning. Choosing the right retirement plan can provide financial security for you and make the business more attractive to employees. This guide explores various retirement plan options suitable for small businesses, detailing their benefits, limitations, and considerations.

Types of Retirement Plans

1) IRA-Based Plans

SEP-IRA (Simplified Employee Pension Individual Retirement Account)

  • Benefits: SEP-IRAs are straightforward to set up and manage. They allow employers to make significant contributions for themselves and their employees. Contributions are tax-deductible, reducing the taxable income of the business.

  • Contribution Limits: Employers can contribute up to 25% of an employee's compensation or $69,000 (for 2024), whichever is less.

  • Suitability: Ideal for businesses with fluctuating profits, as contributions are flexible.

(Read Our Comprehensive SEP-IRA Overview)

SIMPLE IRA (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees)

  • Benefits: SIMPLE IRAs are easy to administer and have lower startup and operating costs compared to traditional 401(k) plans. Employers are required to contribute either a matching contribution up to 3% of the employee’s compensation or a 2% non-elective contribution for all eligible employees.

  • Contribution Limits: Employees can contribute up to $17,000 (for 2024), with an additional catch-up contribution of $3,500 for those aged 50 and over.

  • Suitability: Suitable for businesses with 100 or fewer employees, providing a cost-effective way to offer retirement benefits.

(Read Our Comprehensive SIMPLE IRA Overview)

2) Defined Contribution Plans

Solo 401(k)

  • Benefits: Solo 401(k) plans are designed for self-employed individuals or business owners with no employees (other than a spouse). They offer high contribution limits, combining employee salary deferrals and employer profit-sharing contributions.

  • Contribution Limits: The total contribution limit for 2024 is $69,000, or $76,500 for those aged 50 and over.

  • Suitability: Best for self-employed individuals seeking to maximize retirement savings.

(Read Our Comprehensive Solo 401(k) Overview)

Traditional 401(k)

  • Benefits: Traditional 401(k) plans allow both employees and employers to contribute, with potential for higher contribution limits than SIMPLE IRAs. Employers can also offer a matching contribution, incentivizing employee participation.

  • Contribution Limits: Employees can defer up to $23,000 (for 2024), with a catch-up contribution of $7,500 for those aged 50 and over. The total contribution limit, including employer contributions, is $69,000 or $76,500 for those aged 50 and over.

  • Suitability: Suitable for small businesses that want to offer competitive retirement benefits and retain employees.

3) Defined Benefit Plans

Cash Balance Plans

  • Benefits: These plans are a type of defined benefit plan that acts more like a defined contribution plan. They provide specific retirement benefits based on a formula that includes factors such as salary and years of service. Contributions are made by the employer and are tax-deductible.

  • Contribution Limits: Contributions are determined actuarially, and the limits can be significantly higher than other plans, often reaching $100,000 or more annually.

  • Suitability: Ideal for high-income business owners who want to save large amounts for retirement and can commit to making substantial annual contributions.

Additional Considerations When Choosing the Right Plan

  • Administrative Responsibilities: Plans like the 401(k) require more administration and compliance with IRS regulations compared to SEP-IRAs and SIMPLE IRAs.

  • Employee Eligibility: Each plan has specific eligibility requirements and rules regarding employee participation.

  • Cost: Setting up and maintaining retirement plans can involve costs that vary widely depending on the plan's complexity and the number of participants.


Many small business owners express a desire to keep working, even if they don't plan to retire fully. However, setting up a retirement plan for your small business is still a smart move. It provides you with options, and having options allows you to feel more satisfied with whichever path you ultimately decide to take.

Choosing the right retirement plan is essential for securing the financial future of both small business owners and their employees. Each plan offers distinct advantages and considerations. Small business owners should consult with financial advisors to select a plan that aligns with their financial goals and business needs.

- Article posted on 5/30/24 -



The information herein is general and educational in nature and is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax or legal advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified tax or legal advisor. 

This information is intended to be educational and is not tailored to the investment needs of any specific investor.

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