• Retirement and Annuity Advisor Jennifer Lang

Retirement Planning Options for Small Business Owners

Updated: Nov 8, 2020

As a small business owner or an entrepreneur, you are used to taking the lead. But there is one frontier you may still need to master… the future of your retirement. That is a matter of doing what you can to ensure all your hard work leads to your ideal retirement lifestyle.

While a 401(k) plan is the dominant retirement bedrock for employed Americans, small business owners are in a different boat. You are your own employer.

So whether you have zero or 100 employees, you must make the choice to act toward building a strong financial future for yourself. Depending on the workplace benefits of your organization, you may also impact those aiding you in your entrepreneurial dream.

And Social Security benefits can help, but only to a point. A motivating factor for building up retirement savings is the fact that, as an entrepreneur, you bring home a certain level of income. Portfolio holdings, personal assets, and savings most likely will play into your needs as a high-income household, as Social Security can only go so far.

Not only that, chances are you make more than the income limit placed by Social Security. For 2019, the maximum amount of taxable earnings is $132,900, up from $128,400 in 2018.

And what is another focal point for small business owners? An over reliance on their business as their retirement safety net. But time and again, historical data has shown this to be true: It’s risky to put all of your eggs – namely, your retirement and financial comfort – into one basket.

Reinvesting Rather Than Planning for Retirement? Don’t have an established retirement plan? You aren’t alone. In a recent survey by online business community Manta, 34% of entrepreneurs said they don’t have a retirement plan. Not making enough profit to save for retirement and funneling money back into the business were the most common reasons why that they cited.

Those findings reflect what surveyors have uncovered in other studies. In another survey by New York Life, small business owners said they strongly rely on their businesses for their future retirement outlooks. More than 40% reported that their companies “would be their retirement plans.” While an improved economy might suggest more opportunities for entrepreneurs to sock money away for their golden years, the reverse is actually true. In a 2013 study by TD Ameritrade, only 28% of small business owners weren't contributing to any savings plan.

Why Aren't Small Business Owners Saving for Retirement? What could be behind this rise in retirement unreadiness? For many small business owners, simply the time investment. It’s a never-ending rush to start a business and keep it running.

With many business and life priorities competing for attention, entrepreneurs often focus on the activities that move the needle forward for their companies. And what could be some other factors? Current business structures, net-worth that is tied up in business equity, and the inherent complexities of planning for successful people's affairs are among the potential detractors.

Entrepreneurs Have Options The good news is that entrepreneurs and small business owners do have retirement saving options. Some of these choices have advantages not seen in traditional employer-sponsored 401(k) plans. What’s more, adding a plan to your business can benefit you in more ways than just building your retirement nest egg. If you have employees, creating a retirement plan allows you to start them down the path of improving their financial futures. Not only that, it can also help boost your competitiveness when trying to attract and retain talented employees.

There may be potential tax benefits for offering a plan, including the potential to deduct employer contributions as a business expense. You might also be eligible for a tax credit of up to $500 for certain expenses incurred while starting and maintaining your very first plan (for each of the first three years). What’s Your Plan? If you run your own enterprise, primary retirement saving solutions (beyond the time-honored 401(k) plan) for you to consider include:

*SEP IRA (Simplified Employee Pension Plan)

*SIMPLE IRA (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees)

*Self-employed 401(k) plan (sometimes called a Solo 401(k) plan)

According to experts, choosing the best plan for you depends on what you want the plan to help you achieve, whether it’s ease of administration, level of contributions, or the ability to include employees. Here is a brief rundown on features and characteristics for each plan. Basics of Different Retirement Plan Options An SEP IRA is designed for the self-employed and small-business owner who wants to make tax-deductible (business expense) contributions for employees, regardless of the number of employees.

An SIMPLE IRA is ideal for businesses with fewer than 100 employees. This IRA is funded by both tax-deductible contributions you make as well as pre-tax contributions made by employers. It shares these characteristics with a traditional 401(k) plan. A Self-Employed 401(k) plan allows the self-employed to build up a tax-deferred retirement balance by offering the most generous contribution limits of any of these plans. Yet it is only intended for business owners with no employees other than a spouse (and with no plans to add employees).

The business formats eligible for all three of these plans include sole proprietor, a partnership, a corporation, or an S corporation. The only caveat is that, in the case of the Self-Employed 401(k) plan, there can be no “common law” employees (those with no ownership interest in the business). Spouses are an exemption from this. The Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act of 2018 While little has changed on the self-employed and SBO retirement savings frontier in recent years, an exciting new development came from President Trump in the form of an executive order on retirement saving. The EO coincided with pending legislation called the Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act of 2018.

One of the intentions of the Act, if passed by Congress, would be to make it easier for small businesses to offer employees 401(k) plans, according to The Wall Street Journal. Another would be to encourage small businesses to join forces to offer 401(k) plans to their workers.

“These plans like other plans have large overhead and department costs. Large employers can enjoy economies of scale by spreading those costs among larger groups of workers. Small businesses don’t have the luxury of doing that,” the Journal quotes an expert as saying.

The Act would make it easier and less expensive for employers to create a multiple employer plan, according to an article from Kiplinger. It could also encourage employers to include annuities in 401(k) plans by giving the employers protection if employees sue them for any reason, including unhappiness with any associated fees. What’s Your Retirement Strategy? If you are gearing up to retire, it’s time to consider the whole picture. Does your retirement plan hinge on the successful sale of your business?

That could be a mistake, experts say in an article by the National Federation of Independent Business. Instead of a windfall for retirement income, profits could fall short if a business weren’t sold at the right price or the right time. This isn’t to downplay the importance of creating, and implementing, a succession plan that focuses on maximizing the valuation of your business. Far from it.