If you’re a woman who owns a business, you’ve got plenty of company. In fact, women own more than 10 million U.S. companies, and women-owned businesses account for about 40 percent of all privately held firms in the United States, according to the Center for Women’s Business Research.
Clearly, the good news is that women like you are entering the small-business arena at a rapid pace. The not-so-good news is that you may be facing a retirement savings gap in comparison to male business owners.
To get a sense of this gap, consider these statistics:
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, 19.4 percent of male business owners have 401(k) or similar plans, compared with just 15.5 percent of women owners.
The percentage of female business owners with individual retirement accounts (IRAs) is about the same as that of male business owners, but the men have more money in their accounts. The average woman’s IRA balance is about $51,000, compared with $91,000 for men, according to a recent report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Although these figures change constantly with the ebbs and flow of the market, the difference between the genders remains significant.
One way to help close this savings gap, of course, is to set up a retirement plan for your business. But for many women business owners (and male owners, too), the perceived cost of setting up and running a retirement plan has been an obstacle.
However, the retirement-plan market has opened up considerably for small-business owners in the past several years, so you might be surprised at the ease and inexpensiveness of administering a quality plan that can help you build resources for your own retirement and help you attract and retain good employees.
With the help of a financial professional, you can consider some of the myriad of plans that may be available to you:
• Owner-only 401(k) — This plan, which also is known as an individual 401(k), is available to self-employed individuals and business owners with no full-time employees other than themselves or a spouse. You even may be able to choose a Roth option for your 401(k), which allows you to make after-tax contributions that can grow tax-free.
• SEP IRA — If you have just a few employees or are self-employed with no employees, you may want to consider a SEP IRA. You’ll fund the plan with tax-deductible contributions, and you must cover all eligible employees.
• Solo defined benefit plan — Pension plans, also known as defined benefit plans, are still around — and you can set one up for yourself if you are self-employed or own your own business.
This plan has high contribution limits, which are determined by an actuarial calculation, and as is the case with other retirement plans, your contributions typically are tax-deductible.
• SIMPLE IRA — A SIMPLE IRA, as its name suggests, is easy to set up and maintain, and it can be a good plan if your business has fewer than 10 employees. Still, while a SIMPLE IRA may be advantageous for your employees, it’s less generous to you, as far as allowable contributions, than an owner-only 401(k), a SEP IRA or a defined benefit plan.
As a business owner, you spend a lot of time thinking about what needs to be done today, but you don’t want to forget about tomorrow, so consider putting a retirement plan to work for you soon.
Cardella is a financial advisor for Edward Jones, which provided this column.