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  • Writer's picturePeter Mu, CFP® ChFC®

Retirement Plans for Self-Employed People



401k plans used to be complex and costly and mostly implemented by more mature companies. You can now help your self employed clients save big on taxes at a very low administrative cost.


The problem with SEP IRA is that it only allows contribution about 18.6% of net earnings from self-employment and to max out the contribution you’ll have to net a lot of income.


A 401k plan has two components.


Make annual salary deferrals up to $22,500 in 2023 ($20,500 in 2022, $19,500 in 2021 and in 2020; $19,000 in 2019), plus an additional $7,500 in 2023 ($6,500 in 2022, in 2021 and in 2020 and $6,000 in 2015 - 2019) if you're 50 or older. This contribution can be 100% of their income.


Contribute up to an additional 18.6% of your net earnings from self-employment.

Total contributions of the two is $66,000, $73,500 for people 50 or older, for 2023 ($61,000 for 2022; $58,000 for 2021; $57,000 for 2020 and $56,000 for 2019)

Spouses working in the same business and filing together can both participate in the plan. Regular and Roth version available.

With a 401k a client can make a massive tax-deferred contribution while maintaining a low taxable income. Win-win!


The ideal candidates for a 401k plan are

  1. Self-employed persons or spouses working in the same business.

  2. New business with high but unpredictable income.

  3. Want a low-cost plan with flexibility and no funding obligations.

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References: https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/retirement-plans-for-self-employed-people


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