The Basics of a Solo 401(k)

When it comes to planning for retirement, it’s crucial to explore the different retirement plans available to achieve your financial goals. One increasingly popular option for self-employed individuals or small business owners is the Solo 401(k). In this article, we will provide an overview of what a Solo 401(k) is, who is eligible for it, and how it differs from other retirement plans like traditional 401(k)s and IRAs.

1. Understanding the Solo 401(k)

A Solo 401(k), also known as an Individual 401(k) or a Self-Employed 401(k), is a retirement plan designed for self-employed individuals who have no full-time employees other than themselves, their spouse, or partner. This plan allows business owners to save for retirement while also enjoying tax advantages.

2. Eligibility for a Solo 401(k)

To be eligible for a Solo 401(k), you must meet certain criteria. Firstly, you must be self-employed or own a small business without any full-time employees, except for yourself, your spouse, or business partner. Full-time employees are those who work more than 1,000 hours per year. Sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs), and corporations can establish Solo 401(k)s. Secondly, you must have earned income related to your self-employment activities.

3. Contributions and Benefits of a Solo 401(k)

One of the main advantages of a Solo 401(k) is the ability to contribute to the plan as both the employer and employee. As an employee, you can contribute up to $19,500 (as of 2022), or $26,000 if you are age 50 or older, in pre-tax or Roth contributions. As the employer, you can also contribute up to 25% of your net self-employment income, or 20% if you are operating your business as a sole proprietorship or single-member LLC. This combination allows you to make larger contributions compared to traditional 401(k)s or IRAs.

4. Solo 401(k) vs. Traditional 401(k)

While both Solo 401(k)s and traditional 401(k)s share similarities, there are a few key differences. The most significant difference lies in the number of employees. Traditional 401(k)s are typically offered by businesses with multiple employees, while Solo 401(k)s cater specifically to self-employed individuals or small business owners with no full-time employees. This distinction affects the contribution limits and administrative responsibilities.

5. Solo 401(k) vs. IRAs

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) are another common retirement savings vehicle, but they differ from Solo 401(k)s in several ways. Firstly, Solo 401(k)s generally offer higher contribution limits compared to IRAs. As mentioned earlier, the Solo 401(k) allows both employer and employee contributions, enabling individuals to save more for retirement. IRAs, on the other hand, have much lower contribution limits. Secondly, Solo 401(k)s offer the possibility of taking out a loan, while IRAs do not permit this feature. Additionally, Solo 401(k)s have no income limitations for Roth contributions, making them an attractive option for high-income earners.

6. Flexibility and Investment Options

When it comes to investment options, a Solo 401(k) offers a wide range of flexibility, similar to a traditional 401(k). You have the ability to invest in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and even alternative investments like real estate or private equity. This flexibility allows you to customize your portfolio to suit your risk tolerance and investment preferences.


The Solo 401(k) is a retirement plan option specifically designed for self-employed individuals or small business owners with no full-time employees, other than themselves, their spouse, or partner. With its higher contribution limits, the ability to make both employer and employee contributions, and a wide range of investment options, the Solo 401(k) offers an attractive retirement savings option. However, it’s essential to consult with a CPA or tax professional to determine if a Solo 401(k) is the right fit for your individual circumstances and retirement goals.

Got Questions? Let Us Help!

At Account On Us, we are certified public accountants and have served the South Bay area for over 26 years. We also offer services in Plano, Texas. Previously known as Teshima & Co., We offer accounting, tax, consulting, and QuickBooks services. We are full-service accountants specializing in retirement planning, tax preparation, consulting, and so much more. For our complete list of services, call us or visit our website today!
Translate ยป