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Retirement Planning Information

Small Business Retirement Savings Glossary of Terms


A contribution is an amount an employer pays into a plan for all those participating in the plan, or an amount an employee pays into a plan for his or her benefit.

Defined Benefit

A Defined Benefit Plan is designed to provide each participant with a fixed income at retirement.


401(k) Plans are defined contribution plans funded primarily by the pre-tax contributions of employees. These plans, named for the section of the Internal Revenue Code that establishes this type of pension plan, allow employees to save part of their salaries and defer paying taxes until they receive the money. Employers can match the contributions, which are also tax deferred.

Individual Retirement Account (IRA)

IRAs are special retirement savings arrangements that permit individuals to save up to $2,000 of pre-tax income every year, and defer taxation on that money until they withdraw it.


Keogh Plans were created to provide a tax-sheltered retirement option for self-employed taxpayers.

Money Purchase Plan

A Money Purchase Plan is a plan where employer's contributions are set when the plan is established (i.e. usually a fixed percentage of compensation). Contributions do not depend on whether the employer has profits.

Profit Sharing

Profit Sharing Plans depend on contributions from employers, who agree to share a percentage of profits with employees. These plans may permit contributions from eligible employees as well.

Savings Incentive Match Plans for Employees of Small Employers (SIMPLE)

SIMPLE allows employers with no more than 100 employees to sponsor a retirement plan. Employees who are expected to receive at least $5,000 (and who did so in previous 2 years) are eligible to contribute through a deduction from their paychecks. They can receive an employer matching contribution of up to 3 percent of their pay. Employers may reduce that amount if business conditions vary from year to year. SIMPLE plans require few administrative burdens since the bank or financial institution receiving the funds does most of the paperwork.


An individual in business for himself or herself is self-employed. Sole proprietors and partners are self-employed. Self-employment can include part-time work.

Simplified Employee Pension (SEP)

A SEP allows deductible contributions without getting involved in more complex retirement plans. Under this type of retirement plan, an employer makes contributions on behalf of its employees to an individual retirement arrangement called a SEP-IRA.


An individual becomes vested in a retirement plan when he or she has the years of service required to receive a pension. Vesting means an individual has the right to collect a pension at a specific age, even if he or she does not stay with the company or organization for their entire working career.