If you are a business owner, you should know that a one-person 401(k) plan can provide you with a valuable source of retirement savings. Given the right circumstances, these plans allow you the flexibility of making sizable contributions on behalf of a business owner and offer you a vehicle through which you can continue making contributions to boost your retirement savings in the years to follow.

For 2018, a business owner can make an elective deferral contribution of up to $18,500 (and an additional $6,000 catch-up contribution if he or she is age 50 or older at year end) plus an employer contribution of up to 20% of self-employment (SE) income unreduced by the elective deferral or 25% of compensation.

The total contributions (elective deferrals of up to $18,500, plus the employer contribution) cannot exceed the lesser of (1) 100% of the participant’s SE income or compensation or (2) $55,000 for 2018. Catch-up contributions to 401(k) plans of up to $6,000 in 2018 are not included in the annual additions limit.

This example shows just how it works. Kurt, age 63, is the sole owner and employee of Alpha Solutions, a sole proprietorship. In 2018, Kurt earns $145,000 (net of the SE tax deduction) and chooses to maximize contributions to a retirement account. He believes the business will probably continue to be profitable, but would like the flexibility of determining the amount he contributes each year. His expectation is that he will continue to be able to successfully operate his business alone without having to hire any additional employees.

The following table reflects the maximum amount that Kurt can contribute to a one-person 401(k) plan for 2018:


Employer contribution ($152,500 × 20%)      $30,500

Elective 401(k) deferrals                                        18,500

Contributions subject to annual limit                 49,000

Catch-up contribution                                             6,000

Total contributions for 2018                               $55,000


As an additional benefit, a business owner can borrow from his or her 401(k) plan if the plan document permits. The maximum loan amount is 50% of the account balance or $50,000, whichever is less.

When the business employs someone other than just the owner, 401(k) contributions may be required for the other employees, in which case the plan would become a standard 401(k) plan with all the resulting complications. However, the plan can exclude from coverage any employee who is under age 21 and any employee who has not worked for at least 1,000 hours during any 12-month period.

Also, if the business’s only other employees are the owner’s spouse and/or children, a 401(k) plan covering those individuals may be even more attractive than a one-person 401(k) plan, especially for owners hitting the $55,000 contribution limit.

If you think you may be eligible to employ a one-person 401(k) plan and are interested in establishing one so you can start building your retirement nest egg, contact your Untracht Early representative with questions.

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