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5 Reasons to have a Qualified Retirement Plan – Even If You are a Sole Proprietor

You are a successful business owner. You put a lot of hard work into building your business, and you are finally reaping the benefits. However, there may come a time when you’ll want to step back and triumphantly wash your hands of the business. How do you intend to plan for your financial needs in retirement? 

Many business owners plan on using the sale of their business to fund their retirement. However, they usually don’t take into consideration the additional costs associated with the sale of a business. Expenses such as tax liabilities and brokers’ fees can eat away at the funds you planned on using in your retirement.

Having a qualified retirement plan through your business can help you provide for your retirement.  In addition, it can potentially save you thousands in tax liabilities and benefit both your business and the people who work for it—even if you’re the only one. 

Are these plans the right choice for your business? Before answering this question and looking at potential options, let’s define what it means to have a qualified retirement plan. 

What is a Qualified Employee Retirement Plan?

A qualified retirement plan is one that meets the criteria set forth in section 410(a) of the US federal tax code and the guidelines established by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). These guidelines were established in the 1970s in order to secure workers’ retirement income.

Many companies offer non-qualified plans as part of their total benefits package in the form of deferred compensation or executive bonuses, but these programs have their drawbacks. Contributions to these plans are taxed before they are deposited, reducing the overall amount you have to save.

In contrast, contributions to a qualified retirement plan may be tax-deductible by the employer.  In addition, the contributions are not taxable to the employee when made and grow tax-free until withdrawal, when they are taxed to the employee.  In order to be a qualified retirement plan, a plan must comply with the rules set forth in section 401(a) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Any company can qualify to offer some type of qualified retirement plan. The most common of these plans for single-employee businesses are defined-contribution plans, generally because business owners assume this is their best option. 

Under a defined contribution plan, an employer makes a certain contribution for its employees, and the retirement benefit depends upon the performance of the plan’s investments. The employees are not guaranteed a specific benefit. The most well-known type of defined-contribution plan is the 401(k) plan, which allows employees to make pre-tax contributions to the plan. Often an employer will match a portion of the employees’ contributions.

Despite the popularity of defined contribution plans, they’re not always the best option for single owner businesses—especially for those with no other employees, a high income, and a desire to save a lot on an ongoing basis. For this kind of business, a defined benefit plan could be the best option.

Before we discuss the five main reasons why you should have a qualified retirement plan, you need to understand the types of plans that are available to you.

What Is a Defined Benefit Plan?

A defined benefit plan is a qualified retirement plan that defines the benefit to be paid to an employee after retirement.  The employer is then required to make contributions to the plan in an amount sufficient to fund the employee’s retirement benefit. Contributions may vary from year to year.  This is different than a defined contribution plan where the annual contribution is determined by formula, but the amount of the benefit may vary depending upon investment performance.

There are limits to how much an employer can contribute to a defined benefit plan.  These limits are determined based on the ages of the employer’s employees, expected investment returns, and the overall benefit to be paid by the plan at retirement. However, a defined benefit plan has higher contribution limits than a defined contribution plan. A defined benefit plan is ideal for small businesses with few employees looking to maximize their annual contributions and retirement benefits.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s explore the five reasons you need a qualified retirement plan.

Reason #1: Tax Advantage

One of the main benefits of offering a qualified retirement plan is the potential tax savings. For many business owners, the idea that they’re obligated to make annual contributions to a qualified retirement plan is a turn-off. It’s a major commitment of funds. 

However, many contributions to qualified retirement plans are tax-deductible. Whatever contribution you make annually to a qualified plan can possibly be written off, reducing your business’s overall tax burden. This is one reason that plans like 401(k) plans are popular, but it also goes for defined benefit retirement plans like pensions. 

In addition, an employee does not pay income taxes on the contribution until distribution of his benefit after retirement. This means that you, as a business owner, can take advantage of two tax savings, while managing to save sufficient funds for a comfortable retirement.

Reason #2: Attract Top Talent

If you’re looking to hire some help with your business, offering a retirement plan for employees will attract high-quality talent to your organization and give them an extra incentive to stick around.

Larger companies that don’t offer qualified retirement plans appear lackluster to potential workers because most major companies do, in fact, offer some kind of plan. On the other hand, for small businesses, a tremendous opportunity exists to elevate themselves above the competition by offering something that many smaller firms don’t.

No matter the size of your business or firm, offering retirement solutions and pension plans can make sure you have only the best talent working for you.

Reason #3: Your Employees Need It

As an employer, you already do a tremendous service to the economy by providing needed goods and services and creating jobs. You can add to that service even further by helping to solve the retirement issue many people face—just give them a concrete solution to the issue.

According to a report by the Center for Financial Services Innovation, 42% of Americans aren’t saving anything at all for retirement. If more employers offered qualified, tax-deductible plans, it’s safe to assume that more people would save for retirement.

Reason #4: You Need It

As a business owner, you need retirement savings just as much as your employees do. When you offer a qualified retirement plan through your business, you can enroll as well. The retirement crisis is not just happening among workers. Somewhere around half of all small business owners only save 10% of their income for retirement. One out of four doesn’t save anything at all.

Without an established retirement plan in place, business owners are generally faced with one option: sell the business to fund retirement. This tactic comes with a lot of uncertainties, including the possibility of a lower-than-expected asking price, or having tax burdens eat into your nest egg. Without a plan, you will be under-prepared at a point when there won’t be much time to act otherwise.

Reason #5: You Can Save a Lot

While qualified retirement plans may seem pricey to set up and maintain, they come with the benefit of high limits to contributions. Individual business owners making more than $80,000 a year can save a good portion of those funds in a defined-benefit plan, making these plans ideal for high-income business owners who are nearing retirement.

You can even start saving money by just setting up a plan. For the first three years, businesses get a $500 tax credit in exchange for initiating a plan. 

For business owners, setting up a qualified retirement plan is a crucial step in preparing for a comfortable retirement. Without one, you may not have the resources available to provide for yourself if the unexpected happens. 

Now that you know why you need a qualified retirement plan, it’s time to take the next step. Contact an RMC professional today to determine the best way to set yourself up for the future.