Business

Small business owners can start their own 401(k) or SEP IRA


Steve
 |  USA TODAY

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I don’t envy my corporate friends … much. Personally, I never fit in that world.

For starters, bosses and I never got along very well. Maybe I’m jaded, or maybe it’s because my first boss (in high school) made me work for free for my first week; “training” he called it. When he tried to make it two weeks, I quit.

Or maybe it’s because one of my first bosses after college once threatened to put his cigarette out in my forehead. Even though it was a different era than today’s more woke time, that still struck me as wrong.

Or maybe it’s because my very last boss once gave an assignment that should have taken a month yet demanded that I turn it around in three days. When I delivered a not-surprisingly, unfinished, crappy product three days later, she shrugged and said, “I was just testing you.”

It also didn’t help that I was really a pretty bad employee, what with not liking to take direction and all. But whatever the case, like many entrepreneurs, the corporate world and I were never a very good fit.

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That said, to quote the great and mighty Wizard of Oz, my corporate pals have got one thing we self-employed haven’t got:

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A funded retirement plan.

Every time I hear one of them tell me about their big, fat 401(k) that their company helps fund, I have a twinge of jealousy.

Luckily, it doesn’t last long.

A 2017 survey by Manta, an online community for small businesses, said that roughly 33% of all small business owners do not have a retirement plan. Why?

  • 37% said they don’t make enough
  • 21% said they used up their retirement to start or run the businesses
  • 18% said they planned to fund their retirement by selling the business

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Saving for retirement, even if you are self-employed, is actually very doable. It’s a two-step process.

Step 1: Set aside a set amount every month

Do you pay your rent every month? Of course you do. And what about your taxes, do you pay your quartiles regularly? Yes again. And your insurance, payroll, and phone bill?

Yes, yes and yes.

That’s the point. If you have enough to pay everyone else, you have enough to pay one more bill.

You.

In the great book “The Richest Man in Babylon” author George S. Clason tells the fable of two Babylonians friends. Bansir, no matter how hard he worked, always seemed to be broke. But his childhood friend Arkad had grown rich over the years.

Bansir asked his friend for his secret.

What he did, Arkad said, was to pay himself first. Before he paid his bills, before he paid rent or bought food, he put away 10% of his income for himself. He said, “I found the road to wealth, when I decided that a part of all I earned was mine to keep.”

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So the first step to funding your retirement when self-employed is simply to pay yourself 10% first.

Step 2. Invest your savings

No, you don’t have “Big Brother,” err, I mean big business, helping to fund your retirement but that’s OK. There are plenty of investment vehicles designed just for you.

SEP IRA: A Simplified Employee Pension Plan, or SEP IRA, is easy to set up. SEP IRAs allow higher contribution levels than regular IRAs; in 2021, you are eligible to contribute up to $58,000 a year.

Solo 401(k) Plan: This solo 401(k) works just like a 401(k) that you would have if you worked for “The Man,” except that, as both the employee and the employer, you can potentially contribute more than you could if you were just an employee.  

So there you have it. Sock away 10% in your 401(k) or your SEP IRA and you too can become the richest man in Babylon — and not even have to worry about any nasty forehead cigarette scars!

Steve Strauss is an attorney, speaker and the author of 17 books, including “The Small Business Bible.” You can learn more about Steve at MrAllBiz.com, get more tips at his site TheSelfEmployed and connect with him on Twitter @SteveStrauss and on Facebook at TheSelfEmployed.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.





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