American Business Women’s Day is celebrated on September 22. And there is indeed cause for celebration, because, in recent decades, the number of women business owners has risen sharply, to the point where nearly 40 percent of all businesses are now women-owned, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. If you are one of these owners, or thinking about becoming one, you’ll always have a lot to think about when running your business, but there’s also an area you can’t ignore—your retirement.
Specifically, you need to consider establishing your own retirement plan.
Most plans available to you are fairly easy to establish and maintain, and are not terribly costly to administer. Here are some popular options:
- Owner-only 401(k): This plan, also known as an individual or solo 401(k), is available to self-employed individuals and business owners with no full-time employees other than themselves or a spouse. For 2018, you can put in up to 25 percent of your annual income as an “employer” contribution, and you can defer up to $18,500 (or $24,500 if you’re 50 or older). The sum of your employer contribution and your salary deferrals cannot exceed $55,000, or $61,000 if you’re 50 or older. You can make elective contributions on a pre- or post-tax (Roth) basis. Pre-tax contributions reduce your taxable income for the current year. Roth contributions don’t offer any immediate tax benefit, but any qualified withdrawals will be 100% tax-free.
- SEP IRA: If you have just a few employees or are self-employed with no employees, you may want to consider a SEP IRA. You’ll fund the plan with tax-deductible contributions, and you must cover all eligible employees. As an employer, you can contribute the lesser of 25% of your compensation (if you’re also an employee of your own business) or $55,000.
- Solo defined benefit plan: Pension plans, also known as defined benefit plans, are less common than in previous years, but you can still set one up for yourself if you’re self-employed or own your own business. This plan has high contribution limits, which are determined by an actuarial calculation, and your contributions are typically tax-deductible.
- SIMPLE IRA: A SIMPLE IRA, as its name suggests, is easy to set up and maintain, and it can be a good plan if your business has fewer than 10 employees. However, while a SIMPLE IRA may be advantageous for your employees, it’s less generous to you, as far as allowable contributions go, than an owner-only 401(k), a SEP IRA or a defined benefit plan. For 2018, your annual contributions are generally limited to $12,500, or $15,500 if you’re 50 or older by the end of the year. You can also make a matching contribution of up to 3% of your compensation. As an employer, your contributions are fully deductible as a business expense up to certain limits; as an employee, your pretax contributions reduce the amount of your taxable income for the same tax year.
Before opening any of these plans, you’ll want to consult with your tax advisor on the tax issues and a financial professional on the investment aspects. But don’t wait too long. You will need to work hard to keep your business thriving—so choose a retirement plan that works just as hard for you.