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Quarterly: Oct 17

Putting Your Self-Employment Income Away for Retirement

If you are self-employed or own a small business you have the potential to put up to $61,000 per year towards your retirement by setting up a solo 401(k) ($67,500 per year if you are over 50).  Of that $61,000 you can put $20,500 into a Roth 401(k) where all of your distributions will be tax-free at retirement.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has created a unique opportunity to maximize your retirement cash-flow by utilizing our current low tax rates to save in an individual Roth 401(k) account where your funds will never be taxed again. 

Before we get into the gritty details of the solo 401(k), be aware that the rules governing these accounts are a bit complex. If you are interested in setting up a solo 401(k) please reach out to us and we will help you determine if you qualify for one and how much you can contribute on an annual basis.


To qualify for a solo 401(k) you need to operate either a sole-proprietorship or an incorporated business and have no full-time employees other than your spouse. A full-time employee refers to any employee over 21 years of age who works 1,000 hours or more annually. You can utilize the solo 401(k) if you have part-time employees or independent contractors.

One advantage of the solo 401(k) over a traditional 401(k) is that as the business owner you are considered both the employer and the employee. This allows you to make employer contributions to your account on top of your traditional deferrals or Roth contributions. The employer contributions cannot be made to a Roth account. They must be made to the traditional 401(k), so they will be tax-deferred when they are made and taxable when you withdraw them in retirement.

Contribution Limits

Employee Contribution Limits: As the employee of your business you can contribute up to $20,500 ($27,000 if you are over 50) or 100% of your “earned income,” whichever is less. If you are a sole-proprietorship or a single-member LLC your “earned income” is the net profit of your business after deducting your business expenses. If your business is a C-Corp or S-Corp your “earned income” would be the amount of your W2 wages.

Employer Contribution Limits: As the employer you can also contribute an additional 25% of your adjusted earned income. If you are a sole-proprietorship or a single-member LLC the formula to calculate your allowed employer contributions is a bit more complicated but works out to roughly 18.5% of your net profits. If your business is a C-Corp or S-Corp your allowed employer contributions are 25% of your W2 wages.


Combined Annual Limits: For 2022 the combined limit on employee and employer contributions is $61,000 ($67,500 if you are over age 50). This means if you contribute the full $20,500 as an employee the most you can contribute as the employer for 2022 is $40,500 regardless of how much earned income you have.  



With the potential to put away up to $67,500 per year towards your retirement, the solo 401(k) is a powerful tool to help you prepare for your future. While 401(k) plans have historically been very costly to set up and maintain, increased popularity has significantly reduced the administration costs in recent years. If you are interested in setting up a solo 401(k) for your business, we would be happy to direct you on how to get started.

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