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Breaking Down Retirement Plan Options for Small Businesses



Chad Parks is Founder, President, and CEO of Ubiquity Retirement + Savings, formerly The Online 401(k), has helped savers contribute over $1.4 billion towards their retirement since 1999. As one of the first flat-fee-for-service small business plan providers in the nation, Ubiquity delivers peace-of-mind with zero hidden-fees in the fine print. The company is headquartered in San Francisco with satellite offices from coast-to-coast. Read More...

Parks started out as a broker in the financial services industry by growing a portfolio of individual clients at San Francisco’s Piper Jaffray. Driven by a desire to better serve his clients while anticipating the phasing out of the traditional broker model, Parks left Piper Jaffray in 1997 to obtain his CFP designation and start his own fee-for-service, independent financial planning practice, Retirement & Education Group, Inc.

In his financial planning practice, Parks came across many small business owners looking for cost-effective and quality retirement plans. Finding the small business market highly neglected and underserved, Parks saw the opportunity and took it by launching The Online 401(k). Today, Ubiquity serves more than 7,000 small business customers in 50 states, providing solutions both directly and through partners, such as Zenefits, Charles Schwab & Co. and Morningstar, as well as payroll companies, financial planners and CPAs.

Parks has been quoted in many financial services as well as national publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fox Business, Yahoo! Finance, USA Today, CNN Money, Bloomberg Wealth Manager, Business Week, Entrepreneur and Plan Sponsor for his considerable work performed in the space of small business retirement as well as his foray into documentaries with his independently produced Broken Eggs Film, released in 2014.

With his extensive work in Washington DC in getting legislation passed in order to stop the practice of hiding fees in the fine print, Parks has become the go-to expert on public policy as it relates to 401(k), as well as the looming retirement crisis in America, and what we can do to fix it.


July 17, 2015 at 9:56 pm
Institutional Retirement Plans, Press


Though small businesses employ millions of Americans, large companies still dominate their smaller counterparts when it comes to offering retirement benefits.

The options available to small businesses often contain hidden fees, offer unsuitable investment options and are onerous to navigate, which is why it’s unsurprising that small businesses are statistically the least likely to offer a plan. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 72 percent of workers at small companies with less than 100 employees have no workplace retirement savings plan.

Even more so, I have found business owners buy into common misconceptions. Excuses I’ve heard over the years include that plans are too costly, too complicated, a match is required, there are limited benefits and, “I’m not paying employees enough to take advantage.”

Each of these reasons is absolutely untrue. In fact, there are incredible benefits to offering a retirement savings plan. The main one being, it pays for itself while paying you.

There is an immediate tax credit to your company upon establishment of a qualified plan: a $500 tax credit for the first three years of a plan’s existence. It’s designed to offset the already low costs of running the plan.

There are also long-term tax benefits. You and your employees are sending money to the IRS with every paycheck but can legally redirect that money toward your own retirement.

For example, for every $100 you save, you can save around $25 in taxes (assumes for simplicity a tax bracket of 25 percent) that would otherwise go to the IRS. By not participating in a plan, you and your employees are sending your money to the government unnecessarily. The IRS is on your side and pays you to save.

Once I advise people on the benefits, their next question is, “Which one is right for me and my business?” The options can be overwhelming, but there is a plan for you:

For businesses with employees:


It’s one of the most popular and easiest ways for employees to automatically save for their retirement. A plan can be set up in less than a week, and can be as little as $40 per month after factoring in the tax benefits.

Contribution limits: $18,000 for participants under 50; $24,000 for participants 50 and older (re-directed tax dollars of up to $4,500 and $6,000 respectively).

Payroll deduction individual retirement account (IRA)

This is a 401(k) on training wheels. There is not as much government oversight,and contributions can come out of a paycheck. Companies have no responsibility other than making sure the money transfers. When employees get used to it and want to save more than allowed, you can graduate to a 401(k) plan for greater savings.

Contribution limits: $5,500 for participants under 50; $6,500 for participants 50 and older (re-directed tax dollars of up to $1,375 or $1,625).


The first word is an acronym – not an adjective. It’s not simple! Think of it as a lite 401(k) in which a company match is required, but has lower savings limits and less friendly features. If you are considering a SIMPLE, or Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees , you’re likely better off enrolling in a 401(k) with a Safe Harbor option.

Contribution limits for salary deferral: $12,500 and $15,500 if over 50 years of age, with matching required and a maximum deferral limit of $53,000.

Profit sharing plan

Technically, the foundation for a 401(k) is a profit sharing plan. 401(k) is the section of the tax code that says in addition to profit sharing, you can put salary deferral into the retirement plan. Most companies create this, allow the deferral to happen but don’t offer profit sharing. Profit sharing is good for small and family-owned business so you can stash a bunch of money into profit sharing plans on top of salary deferral. It’s an add-on that allows you to save even more.

Contribution limits: Up to $53,000 per person and $59,000 if over 50.

For Businesses with no employees:

Single 401(k)

This is a 401(k) plan designed for self-employed workers and contractors to access the full benefits of a 401(k), including loan provisions.

Contribution limits: Up to $53,000 per person and $59,000 if over 50.


For business owners or their employees who aren’t interested in, or don’t have access to a company sponsored plan, the bare minimum you should do is set up contributory IRA. Take money every pay period from your bank account and transfer it into an IRA. You can set up automatic transfers on your paydays so you never miss the money, and you can choose traditional or Roth.

Contribution limits: $5,500 per year, and $6,500 for participants over 50.Earnings limits may apply.

Opening a retirement plan can sound complicated. Start by checking out information on the web and finding trusted forums (e.g.  Bogleheads). Then look at your personal situation, decide what you’re trying to accomplish and match the plan to that situation.

All plans are designed to save for the future but not every plan option will be a perfect fit.


This article first appeared in Entrepreneur