Breaking Down Retirement Plan Options for Small Businesses

There are incredible benefits to offering a retirement savings plan, with the main one being, it pays for itself while paying you.

learn more about Chad Parks

By Chad Parks


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Though small businesses employ millions of Americans, large companies still dominate their smaller counterparts when it comes to offering retirement benefits.

The options available to small businesses often contain hidden fees, offer unsuitable investment options and are onerous to navigate, which is why it's unsurprising that small businesses are statistically the least likely to offer a plan. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 72 percent of workers at small companies with less than 100 employees have no workplace retirement savings plan.

Even more so, I have found business owners buy into common misconceptions. Excuses I've heard over the years include that plans are too costly, too complicated, a match is required, there are limited benefits and, "I'm not paying employees enough to take advantage."

Related: The 10 Best U.S. Cities for Retirement

Each of these reasons is absolutely untrue. In fact, there are incredible benefits to offering a retirement savings plan. The main one being, it pays for itself while paying you.

There is an immediate tax credit to your company upon establishment of a qualified plan: a $500 tax credit for the first three years of a plan's existence. It's designed to offset the already low costs of running the plan.

There are also long-term tax benefits. You and your employees are sending money to the IRS with every paycheck but can legally redirect that money toward your own retirement.

For example, for every $100 you save, you can save around $25 in taxes (assumes for simplicity a tax bracket of 25 percent) that would otherwise go to the IRS. By not participating in a plan, you and your employees are sending your money to the government unnecessarily. The IRS is on your side and pays you to save.

Once I advise people on the benefits, their next question is, "Which one is right for me and my business?" The options can be overwhelming, but there is a plan for you:

For businesses with employees:


It's one of the most popular and easiest ways for employees to automatically save for their retirement. A plan can be set up in less than a week, and can be as little as $40 per month after factoring in the tax benefits.

Contribution limits: $18,000 for participants under 50; $24,000 for participants 50 and older (re-directed tax dollars of up to $4,500 and $6,000 respectively).

Related: Tony Robbins: How Tax-Savvy Is Your Retirement

Payroll deduction individual retirement account (IRA)

This is a 401(k) on training wheels. There is not as much government oversight,and contributions can come out of a paycheck. Companies have no responsibility other than making sure the money transfers. When employees get used to it and want to save more than allowed, you can graduate to a 401(k) plan for greater savings.

Contribution limits: $5,500 for participants under 50; $6,500 for participants 50 and older (re-directed tax dollars of up to $1,375 or $1,625).


The first word is an acronym – not an adjective. It's not simple! Think of it as a lite 401(k) in which a company match is required, but has lower savings limits and less friendly features. If you are considering a SIMPLE, or Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees , you're likely better off enrolling in a 401(k) with a Safe Harbor option.

Contribution limits for salary deferral: $12,500 and $15,500 if over 50 years of age, with matching required and a maximum deferral limit of $53,000.

Profit sharing plan

Technically, the foundation for a 401(k) is a profit sharing plan. 401(k) is the section of the tax code that says in addition to profit sharing, you can put salary deferral into the retirement plan. Most companies create this, allow the deferral to happen but don't offer profit sharing. Profit sharing is good for small and family-owned business so you can stash a bunch of money into profit sharing plans on top of salary deferral. It's an add-on that allows you to save even more.

Related: 7 Calculations to Consider to Retire Comfortably

Contribution limits: Up to $53,000 per person and $59,000 if over 50.

For Businesses with no employees:

Single 401(k)

This is a 401(k) plan designed for self-employed workers and contractors to access the full benefits of a 401(k), including loan provisions.

Contribution limits: Up to $53,000 per person and $59,000 if over 50.


For business owners or their employees who aren't interested in, or don't have access to a company sponsored plan, the bare minimum you should do is set up contributory IRA. Take money every pay period from your bank account and transfer it into an IRA. You can set up automatic transfers on your paydays so you never miss the money, and you can choose traditional or Roth.

Contribution limits: $5,500 per year, and $6,500 for participants over 50.Earnings limits may apply.

Opening a retirement plan can sound complicated. Start by checking out information on the web and finding trusted forums (e.g. Bogleheads). Then look at your personal situation, decide what you're trying to accomplish and match the plan to that situation.

All plans are designed to save for the future but not every plan option will be a perfect fit.

Related: Retiring at 27: Ambitious, Lazy or Crazy?

Chad Parks

CEO and Founder of Ubiquity Retirement + Savings,

New York City-based Chad Parks is CEO and Founder of Ubiquity Retirement + Savings, a flat-fee, web-based retirement plan provider headquartered in San Francisco that works exclusively with small businesses nationwide. He is also Executive Producer of Broken Eggs, a documentary about the looming retirement crisis in America.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

This 61-Year-Old Grandma Who Made $35,000 in the Medical Field Now Earns 7 Figures in Retirement
A 'Quiet Promotion' Will Cost You a Lot — Use This Expert's 4-Step Strategy to Avoid It
3 Red Flags on Your LinkedIn Profile That Scare Clients Away
'Everyone Is Freaking Out.' What's Going On With Silicon Valley Bank? Federal Government Takes Control.

How to Detect a Liar in Seconds Using Nonverbal Communication

There are many ways to understand if someone is not honest with you. The following signs do not even require words and are all nonverbal queues.

Celebrity Entrepreneurs

'I Dreaded Falling in Love.' Rupert Murdoch Is Getting Hitched for the Fifth Time.

The 92-year-old media tycoon announces he will wed former San Francisco police chaplain Ann Lesley Smith.


How Great Entrepreneurs Find Ways to Win During Economic Downturns

Recessions are an opportunity to recalibrate and make great strides in your business while others are unprepared to brave the challenges. Here's how great entrepreneurs can set themselves up for success despite economic uncertainty.

Business Ideas

55 Small Business Ideas To Start Right Now

To start one of these home-based businesses, you don't need a lot of funding -- just energy, passion and the drive to succeed.

Starting a Business

Selling Your Business? Do These 6 Things Right Now.

If you want the maximum price you need to make these moves before you do anything else.

Business News

'Invest In That Future Now Before It's Too Late': Bill Gates Calls For Global Pandemic Response Team In Op-Ed

In the same month that the World Health Organization called the coronavirus a pandemic three years ago, billionaire Bill Gates reiterated his call for a "fire department for pandemics."