Most people have heard of traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs. Both are vehicles for saving money for your retirement, separated only by their tax treatment. There are two other types of individual retirement accounts, though, that aren’t as common: the SIMPLE IRA and the SEP-IRA. When comparing SIMPLE IRA vs. SEP-IRA, there are both similarities and key differences to keep in mind. Knowing what each of them offers can help you decide which is right for you, or which to offer your employees if you’re a small business owner. A financial advisor can help you create a financial plan to reach your retirement goals.
What Is a SIMPLE IRA?
SIMPLE IRA stands for Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees Individual Retirement Account. A SIMPLE IRA functions fairly similarly to a traditional IRA, but it has a higher contribution limit.
Anyone – often someone without access to a workplace savings plan like a 401(k) – can set up a traditional IRA. A small business owner or a business’ sole proprietor can set up SIMPLE IRA, both for themselves and for their employees. Any employee who has earned at least $5,000 in compensation from the company during any two years before the current year and who expects to make at least that much in the current calendar year, is eligible to participate in the plan.
Eligible employees can choose to make elective deferrals. This works just like a 401(k) plan, where employees defer a certain amount of their pre-tax income into the plan. The employer can also make contributions to employee accounts, either by matching employee contributions or as a non-elective contribution. In a non-elective contribution, the employer makes the decision to put money in the employee’s account regardless of whether the employee participated in the plan that year.
Unlike some other types of retirement plans, you cannot opt out of participating in a SIMPLE IRA if you are eligible. You can choose not to put money in your account, but you must receive non-elective company contributions, if for some reason you’re opposed to getting free money.
What Is a SEP-IRA?
The “SEP” part of SEP-IRA stands for “simplified employee pension.” While how simple it seems probably depends on your level of confidence with financial matters, a SEP-IRA does seek to streamline the tax-deferred savings process for the self-employed and small business owners. It also helps provide savings vehicles to employees of small businesses.
Unlike other workplace retirement plans, any employee enrolled in a SEP-IRA does not make contributions themselves. Instead, the employer makes contributions for them directly. For 2021, the employer can contribute up to 25% of an employee’s salary or $58,000, whichever is less. For 2022, the employer can contribute up to 25% of an employee’s salary or $61,000, whichever is less.
Employers choose when to make contributions, and they don’t have to do it each year. All employees and the owner of the business must receive contributions at the same percentage of salary.
SIMPLE IRAs vs. SEP-IRAs
If you are the sole proprietor of a small business, you can choose between using a SIMPLE IRA or a SEP-IRA for yourself and your employees. The two types of plans have many similarities, but there are differences to consider as well.
A SIMPLE IRA allows both the employee and the small business owner or sole proprietor to make contributions. A SEP-IRA, meanwhile, only allows business owners to make contributions for both themselves and their employees. The contribution limits of a SIMPLE IRA vs. SEP-IRA are different too. The SEP-IRA limit in 2021 is up to 25% of an employee’s salary or up to $58,000, whichever is less. For 2022 the limit is 25% of an employee’s salary or up to $61,000, whichever is less. The SIMPLE IRA contribution limit is $13,500 for 2021, with a catch-up contribution limit of $3,000. Workers over 50 can contribute up to $16,500. For 2022 the limit rises to $14,000 and $17,000 for those over 50.
Generally, a SEP-IRA is good for businesses with less than 100 employees because it allows employers to adjust contributions based on cash flow. SIMPLE IRAs can be used by businesses of any size.
The chart below highlights some of the differences between the two retirement plans.
|Comparison of Plans for 2021|
|Contributor||Employees and/or employer||Employer|
|Contribution limit||$13,500; catch-up limit of $3,000||25% of an employee’s salary or up to $58,000, whichever is less|
|Best for||Any size business||Businesses with less than 100 employees|
If you own a small business and want to help both yourself and your employees save for retirement, you may have to consider the question of SIMPLE IRA vs. SEP-IRA. Both plans help with retirement savings, but there are some key differences. These mostly pertain to how the accounts are funded. Each type of IRA also has different limits for how much money one person can deposit into their account in a given year.
- If all of this seems like a lot to you, don’t sweat it. A financial advisor can help you understand retirement and all of its moving parts. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors in your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- If you want to set up and plan your retirement goals, SmartAsset’s retirement calculator can help you figure out how much you will need to save to retire comfortably.
- It’s important to have some sort of a plan for dealing with emergencies in retirement. You never know when an emergency could derail your retirement, whether it’s a medical incident or a child moving back home.
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