Is a SIMPLE 401(k) Plan Right For Me?

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What Is a SIMPLE 401(k) Plan & How Do You Utilize It?

The Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees 401(k), or SIMPLE 401(k), is a simplified version of a traditional 401(k). SIMPLE plans were created so that small businesses could have a cost-efficient way to offer a retirement account to their employees.

Unlike many other workplace retirement plans, SIMPLE 401(k) plans do not require annual nondiscrimination tests to ensure that a plan is in line with IRS rules. This type of testing can be prohibitively expensive for small employers, preventing them from using other types of 401(k)s.

A SIMPLE 401(k) retirement plan is available to businesses with 100 or fewer employees including sole proprietorships, partnerships, and corporations. For small business owners or self-employed individuals, understanding how SIMPLE plans work can help decide whether it makes sense to set one up.

For employees whose employer already offers a SIMPLE 401(k), getting to know the ins and outs of the plan can help to understand the role they play in saving for retirement.

How Does a SIMPLE 401(k) Work?

A SIMPLE 401(k) functions much like a regular 401(k). Employees contribute pre-tax money directly from their paycheck and invest that money in a handful of options offered by the plan administrator.

In 2024, the SIMPLE 401(k) limits are as follows: The maximum for employee elective deferrals is $16,000 ($15,500 in 2023); employees 50 and older could make an additional “catch-up” contribution of $3,500 to boost their savings as they neared retirement.

One significant difference between traditional 401(k) plans and SIMPLE 401(k) plans is that while employer contributions are optional with a 401(k) plan, under a SIMPLE 401(k) plan they are mandatory and clearly defined. Employers must make either a matching contribution of up to 3% of each employee’s pay or make a nonelective contribution (independent of any employee contributions) of 2% of each eligible employee’s pay. The contribution must be the same for all plan participants: For example, an employer couldn’t offer himself a 3% match while offering his employees a 2% nonelective contribution.

There are other limits on how much an employer can contribute. The maximum compensation that could be used to figure out employer contributions and benefits is $345,000 for 2024 ($330,000 for 2023). So if an employer offered a 2% nonelective contribution and an employee made $355,000 a year, the maximum contribution the employer could make would be 2% of $345,000, or $6,900.

As with a regular 401(k), contributions to a SIMPLE plan grow tax-deferred — meaning an employee contributes pre-tax dollars to their plan, and doesn’t pay income tax on that money until they withdraw funds upon retirement. Typically, the tax-deferred growth means that there is more money subject to compounding interest, the returns investments earn on their returns.

Withdrawals made during retirement are subject to income tax.

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Who Is Eligible for a SIMPLE 401(k)?

To be eligible for a SIMPLE 401(k), employers must have 100 or fewer employees. They cannot already offer these employees another retirement plan, and must offer the plan to all employees 21 years and older.

Employers must also file Form 5500 every year if they establish a plan.

For employees to be eligible, they must have received at least $5,000 in compensation from their employer in the previous calendar year. Employers cannot require that employees complete more than one year of service to qualify for the SIMPLE plan.

A SIMPLE IRA is also one of a number of retirement options for the self-employed.

What Are the Pros of a SIMPLE 401(k) Plan?

SIMPLE 401(k)s offer a number of benefits that make them attractive to employers and employees.

  • Simplified rules: While large companies may have the money and staff to devote to nondiscrimination testing, smaller companies may not have the same resources. SIMPLE 401(k)s do not have these compliance rules, making them more accessible for small employers. What’s more, the straightforward benefit formula is easy for employers to administer.
  •  “Free money”: Employees are guaranteed employer contributions to their retirement account, whether via 3% matching contributions or 2% nonelective contributions.
  • Fully-vested contributions: All contributions — those made by employees and their employers — are fully vested immediately. Employees who qualify for distributions can take money out whenever they need it. While this can be good news for employees, for employers it removes the option to incentivize workers to stay in their job longer by having their contributions vest several years into their tenure with the company.
  • Loans and hardship withdrawals: While withdrawals made before age 59 ½ are subject to tax and a possible 10% early withdrawal penalty, employees can take out loans against their SIMPLE 401(k) just as they can with a traditional 401(k). These options add flexibility for individuals who need money in an emergency. It’s important to note that 401(k) loans come with strict rules for paying them back. Failing to follow these rules may result in penalties.

What Are the Cons of a SIMPLE 401(k) Plan?

While there are plenty of positives that come from offering or contributing to a SIMPLE 401(k), there are also some important downsides.

  • Plan limitations: Employers cannot offer employees covered by a SIMPLE 401(k) another retirement plan.
  • Lower contribution limits: For 2024, a traditional 401(k) plan allows for $23,000 annual maximum 401(k) contributions from employees, with an additional $7,500 catch-up contribution for those 50 and older. These contribution limits are considerably higher than SIMPLE plan limits, which in 2024 are $16,000 with an additional “catch-up” contribution of $3,500 for employees over age 50. This means an employee could potentially contribute an additional $7,000 in elective deferrals and $4,000 in catch-up contributions with a traditional 401(k) rather than a SIMPLE 401(k).
  • Limited size: SIMPLE Plans are only available to employers with fewer than 100 employees. That means if a business grows beyond that point, they have a two-year grace period to switch from their SIMPLE plan to another option.

SIMPLE 401(k) vs SIMPLE IRA

Generally speaking, when comparing SIMPLE IRAs and SIMPLE 401(k)s, the rules are similar:

  • They’re only available to businesses with 100 or fewer employees.
  • Employers must either offer a 3% matching contribution or a 2% nonelective contribution.
  • Employers can only make contributions on up to $345,000 in employee compensation in 2024.
  • Employee contribution limits to SIMPLE IRAs are the same as their 401(k) counterparts.
  • Employer and employee contributions are fully vested immediately.

There are a few differences worth mentioning:

  • Whereas all employer contributions are subject to the cap for SIMPLE 401(k)s, only nonelective contributions are subject to the $345,000 compensation cap for SIMPLE IRAs. (This makes it possible that employees making more than $345,000 annually may receive higher matching contributions from a SIMPLE IRA than they would from a SIMPLE 401(k).)
  • If employers make matching contributions of 3%, they may elect to limit their contribution to no less than 1% for two out of every five years.
  • SIMPLE IRAs do not allow employees to take out loans from their account for any reason.
  • There are no minimum age requirements for SIMPLE IRA contributions.

The Takeaway

SIMPLE 401(k) plans can be especially attractive for self-employed individuals or small business owners, as they have many of the same benefits of a traditional 401(k) plan — including tax-deferred contributions and loan options — but without the administrative compliance costs that come with a regular 401(k) plan.

SIMPLE 401(k) plans can be especially attractive for self-employed individuals or small business owners.

Some of the requirements and rules associated with a SIMPLE 401(k) plan might be unattractive to some employers, however, including the fact that the IRS prohibits employers from offering other types of retirement plans to employees who are covered by a SIMPLE 401(k).

There are many answers to the question of which retirement savings plan is right for you or your business. Beyond traditional 401(k) and SIMPLE (401)k plans, there are traditional, Roth, SIMPLE and SEP IRAs, among other options.

This article originally appeared on SoFi.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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7 Signs You’re Not Managing Your Checking Account Correctly

7 Signs You’re Not Managing Your Checking Account Correctly

Managing a checking account can be a simple process, thanks to all the tools at your disposal today. You can set alerts to let you know if your balance is dipping too low and use your financial institution’s app to see where your funds are flowing, among other conveniences. Doing so can set you up to avoid fees and charges while maximizing rewards and interest you may earn.

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Knowing how to manage a checking account effectively will help you with many aspects of your financial life such as meeting your savings goals and protecting your money. If you don’t know where your money goes, how effective will you be when it comes to creating a budget or assessing whether you can take that last-minute weekend getaway with a friend?

Plus, having good account-management skills will protect you against fraud. For instance, let’s say someone stole your debit card and used it to make purchases. You’d want to detect that ASAP before a bad situation got any worse. If you report any losses within two business days, you’re only on the hook for a maximum of $50 according to Federal laws.

Otherwise, you could lose up to $500 if you report it after two business days but within 60. If you don’t notice the fraudulent charges until after the 60 business-day limit, you’re on the hook for all fraudulent transactions unfortunately.

To recap, good checking account management will help you:

  •  Keep tabs on your bank account balance and activity
  •  Allow you to better fund savings goals
  •  Avoid fraudulent activity and potential money loss.

Now, here are the seven steps that answer the question, “How do you manage a checking account?”

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Keeping track of your account balance gives you a clearer picture of where you stand financially. Doing so can help you with tasks such as planning for occasional and unexpected expenses, paying off your student loans on time, as well as simply sticking to your budget.

Plus, monitoring your account can help you avoid overdraft fees by preventing your balance from dipping into negative territory. It’s easy to make an online payment or swipe that debit card and forget about it, so figuring out how often to check your balance is a wise idea. (A couple times a week works well for many people.)

You can log into your account online or through the bank’s mobile app, but other ways to check your balance include:

  • Receiving automated text alerts
  • Speaking to a teller at a branch
  • Calling your bank’s customer service hotline
  • Requesting your checking account balance at an ATM.

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Here’s another idea for how to manage your checking account: If your bank offers a mobile app, it can be a smart idea to download it. Yes, mobile banking is very secure most of the time. By adopting mobile banking, you can easily keep an eye on your checking account. What’s more, you can conduct an array of transactions with just a few clicks, such as paying bills, depositing checks, setting up automated alerts, and transferring money between accounts.

Depending on the mobile app’s features, you may be able to link your debit and credit cards to your account, which makes it easier to purchase and pay for things. There may be other features such as a budgeting section, money management tools, insights into your credit score, and even access to discounts at your favorite retailer.

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Many checking accounts charge monthly maintenance fees, but you may be able to have them waived if you can meet certain requirements. Most commonly, you can skip the monthly fees if you set up direct deposits or maintain a certain account balance.

Perhaps you want to drill down on one kind of fee in particular: those overdraft fees. Those charges can really add up, and if they are left unpaid, they can harm your credit score. Take a bit of time to understand how your bank handles overdraft fees — will it waive it if your account is in good standing, will it charge you a fee and process the payment, or will it reject the transaction totally and assess you a fee?

Plenty of banks also offer options such as overdraft protection. Typically, this means if you’re at risk of having a negative bank balance, they will transfer the overdrawn amount from a linked savings account to your checking account automatically, without any charges. Still, you’ll probably want to set an alert so you’re notified when your checking account reaches a certain balance or hits zero. That way, you can quickly remedy the situation.

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Automation can make your life so much easier. Letting technology assist you with your banking can help you keep on top of tasks such as depositing your paycheck, paying bills, or meeting savings goals.

  •  In terms of how to manage a bank account, direct deposit is a great way for your employer to deposit paychecks automatically. In some cases, banks will even give you early paycheck access.
  • Your bank may have automatic bill payment or transfer tools as well. Consider using these for recurring payments to be made automatically, such as ones for subscription services, auto loans, or your mortgage payments. Doing so can prevent missed payments and may be able to help build your credit score.
  • Also, automatically transferring a certain amount each month into a separate account can help you reach your short- and long-term savings goals.

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Sure, having a nice big cushion of cash in your checking account can make you feel flush. However, keeping excess cash in your checking account could mean you’re losing out on the opportunity to get more out of your funds. Specifically, that money could be earning you more money. As you balance your bank account, you may find there are better ways to make your money work for you.

For instance, there are plenty of ways to earn interest even if you want your cash to remain more liquid. For instance, high-yield savings accounts linked to your checking account can earn you a bit of extra cash while still being very accessible.

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To remain competitive, many banks are starting to offer additional perks with their checking account such as:

  • Identity theft protection and assistance.
  • Discounts at shopping and dining retailers.
  • Extended warranties on purchases.
  • Buyer’s protection.
  • Health savings cards.
  • Cash back on qualifying debit card purchases.

When shopping around for a checking account, consider your financial habits. If you shop frequently at certain retailers, it may be worth taking advantage of an account that offers discounts. Or if you use the ATM frequently, looking for a checking account that reimburses you for third-party ATM fees may be a smart choice.

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Do you have multiple checking accounts? It’s not uncommon for people to have, say, their main checking account, one that they opened to get some reward or perk, and the one that their parents opened with them in high school. If you can relate, you might benefit from simplifying your finances and consolidating all of them into one main checking account.

That way, all you have to do is log into a single checking account and monitor your finances. Why overwhelm yourself with many accounts to check on and keep track of?

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Managing your checking account is an important path to staying on top of your finances. It will help you keep on your budget, avoid unnecessary fees, and reach your financial goals. Plus, with all the tech tools and alerts available today and the rewards being offered, it can be faster and more profitable than ever.

This article originally appeared on SoFi.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.


SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility.


 The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY.


Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.


Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at sofi.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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