Here’s the truth about 5 common myths about 401(k) plans some small business owners believe. (Photo: Shutterstock)

For the past several years, health care has understandably been the focus of the benefits conversation, but recent circumstances – rising student loan debt and longer life expectancy among them – have brought retirement savings back to the forefront for employers, employees, HR leaders, and benefits providers alike.

As retirement readiness becomes a growing concern for today’s workforce, retirement plans, including 401(k)s, are an increasingly important offering when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent.

Yet, due to several common misperceptions around retirement benefit offerings, many small businesses do not offer 401(k) plans to their employees or themselves.

A recent survey of 250 small business owners by Paychex, Inc., revealed that 53 percent of small business owners do not offer any type of retirement savings program.

Here’s the truth about five common myths that can pollute the idea of 401(k) plans in the minds of small business owners:

Myth #1: Offering a 401(k) plan is too expensive, especially if matching is involved.

Fact #1: According to the same survey, 59 percent of small business owners who don’t offer a retirement plan don’t think they can afford it.

The truth is, the tax benefits from retirement plans help offset the cost and matching is not required with a 401(k) plan as it is with a SIMPLE IRA.

Tax incentives for new plans can be as high as $500 a year for three years ($1,500 total), and business owners can deduct 401(k) expenses and contributions, such as matching, profit sharing, or administrative fees on business taxes. Plus, matching helps maximize the employer’s personal contributions.


Myth #2: My company is too small to offer a 401(k) plan.

Fact #2: Retirement plans exist for all business sizes, including sole proprietorships – in fact, the majority of the 77,000 retirement plans that Paychex manages belong to small businesses. Business owners can start small with a plan that can grow with their business.

Myth #3: Employees aren’t interested in or can’t afford a 401(k) plan.

Fact #3: Retirement offerings are a no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have in today’s recruitment and retention environment.

According to the survey referenced above, 56 percent of small business owners offer a retirement plan for the purpose of attracting and retaining top talent. With the magic of compounding interest, it doesn’t take much to get started.

Say an employee spends $1.64 per day on a small cup of coffee, amounting to $18,000 over 30 years. That same $1.64 per day in 401(k) contributions can amount to $60,644 over 30 years (assuming an investment return of seven percent).


Myth #4: An IRA is enough.

Fact #4: A 401(k) plan has many advantages compared to a SIMPLE IRA. The maximum annual salary deferral is higher for 401(k) plans than that of a SIMPLE IRA and the 401(k) plan catch-up contribution over the age of 50 is double that of a SIMPLE IRA. 401(k) plans also feature profit sharing, loan availabilities, and Roth option opportunities that SIMPLE IRAs do not.

Myth #5: If“My business is my nest egg” or “I don’t plan to retire” then I don’t need a 401(k).

Fact #5: You can’t predict the future, but you can plan for it. Expecting the best and planning for the worst is the safest option, as the economy, consumer demand, health, and family needs can change at any time.

How can you reassure your small business clients that 401(k)s are not as costly and complicated to set up, choose, and maintain as they may seem?

Remind them that they are not alone in their benefits management. Partnering with a reputable provider can ease the administrative burden of retirement offerings and provide investment help as needed.

Benefits providers help with plan design and onboarding, and integrated solutions providers can ease administration further through the integration of payroll and retirement systems.

Fostering a true understanding of all benefit options among your small business clients is key to ensuring they make informed retirement plan choices for themselves and their employees.


Paul Davidson is director of product management at Paychex.