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Maximizing Your Solo 401(k) Contributions: What You Need to Know


Content provided for general information. Talk to your advisor to learn about recent updates or other rules that may apply to your situation.

When it comes to saving for retirement, the Solo 401(k) is an attractive option for self-employed individuals and small business owners. This retirement account allows you to set aside a significant portion of your income for your golden years while benefiting from tax advantages. One of the most common questions surrounding the Solo 401(k) is, "How much of my net income can I contribute, and can I contribute 100%?" Let's explore the answers to these questions in detail.

Understanding the Solo 401(k)

Before delving into contribution limits, it's essential to grasp the basics of a Solo 401(k). A Solo 401(k) is a retirement savings plan designed for self-employed individuals, sole proprietors, and business owners without any employees, other than a spouse. This type of retirement account, also known as an Individual 401(k) or a One-Participant 401(k), offers many benefits, including high contribution limits and the potential for substantial tax savings.

Contribution Limits for a Solo 401(k)

The contribution limits for a Solo 401(k) consist of two main components: the employee contribution and the employer contribution. The employee contribution is a percentage of your net income, while the employer contribution is a fixed percentage based on your self-employment income. Let's break down each of these components to understand how they work:

  1. Employee Contribution: As of my last knowledge update in 2022, you can contribute up to 100% of your net income to your Solo 401(k). However, there are annual limits imposed by the IRS. For the tax year 2022, you can contribute up to $19,500 as an employee, or $26,000 if you're age 50 or older, thanks to catch-up contributions. These limits apply regardless of your net income. In other words, you can't contribute more than these set amounts, even if they exceed 100% of your net income.
  2. Employer Contribution: On top of the employee contribution, you can also make an employer contribution to your Solo 401(k). This employer contribution is typically calculated as a percentage of your self-employment income, with certain restrictions. The total annual contribution, including both the employee and employer contributions, cannot exceed $58,000 (or $64,500 for those aged 50 or older) for tax year 2022.

The 100% Myth

The idea of contributing 100% of your net income to your Solo 401(k) is a common misconception. While it's theoretically possible, the IRS imposes limits on the total amount you can contribute to ensure that retirement savings remain in line with their guidelines. These limits are designed to prevent excessive contributions that could lead to tax avoidance.

Remember, contributing 100% of your net income might not be practical or wise in many cases. Doing so could leave you with insufficient funds for other financial priorities and personal expenses. It's important to strike a balance between saving for retirement and meeting your immediate financial needs.

Consult a Tax Professional or Advisor

Determining the optimal contribution strategy for your Solo 401(k) can be a complex task, as it depends on your unique financial situation and goals. For this reason, it's crucial to consult a tax professional or financial advisor. They can help you understand the contribution limits, assess your income, and create a customized retirement savings plan that aligns with your objectives while ensuring compliance with IRS regulations.


The Solo 401(k) offers a powerful means of saving for retirement for self-employed individuals and small business owners. While it's tempting to think about contributing 100% of your net income, there are IRS-imposed limits in place to ensure the fairness and integrity of the tax system. Understanding these limits and working with a tax professional or advisor is crucial to make the most of your Solo 401(k) while complying with the law and securing your financial future. By striking the right balance, you can maximize your retirement savings without sacrificing your present financial well-being.