I will say, if you are self-employed, or a freelancer or a small business owner (with zero employees other than your spouse), you should consider a solo 401k retirement plan. I have been reading and writing about the plan quite often, happy by the advantages it has over its counterparts. In this guide, I will walk you through the steps of  how to setup a solo 401k retirement account. 

If you want to learn the basics of solo 401k, like what is a solo 401k plan, its eligibility, contribution limits and more please refer to this guide here.

So let us jump straight to the steps needed to setup a solo 401k retirement account.

How to setup a solo 401k retirement account

Step 1: Understand the Basics of Solo 401(k)

Before diving into the setup process, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of what a Solo 401(k) entails

This retirement account offers unique benefits, including higher contribution limits compared to other retirement plans. 

As a participant, you can contribute as both the employer and the employee, potentially allowing you to save more for your retirement.

Read here solo 401k retirement plan for self-employed and small businesses

Read here for best solo 401k providers in 2023

Read here for solo 401k vs SEP IRA retirement plans for self-employed and small businesses

Step 2: Verify Your Eligibility

Of course you need to check your eligibility to open a solo 401k account. 

You must be self-employed or a small business owner with no full-time employees other than your spouse. 

You can have part-time employees, so long as no one employee exceeds a 1,000 hours of service per year threshold. 

It is always advisable to consult a tax professional or financial advisor, in case you have any doubts.

Read here for solo 401k plan eligibility

Step 3: Get you EIN

Now that you want to open a solo 401k account and you are also eligible for it, you will need to get your Employer Identification Number (EIN).

You can simply apply online here from the IRS for your EIN.

Step 4: Select a Solo 401(k) Provider

The next step is to choose a solo 401k provider-a financial institution which offers the solo 401k retirement option.

You should choose a plan that is best suited to your needs. I mean, based on the below criteria, choose the best solo 401k provider, which addresses all your needs.

  1. Fees charged (annual, monthly and setup)
  2. Loan availability
  3. Roth option availability
  4. Investment options available
  5. Rollovers allowed or not?
  6. Security and insurance of the funds
  7. Customer support
  8. Ease of usage
  9. Mobile applications available or not

Popular providers include Fidelity, Charles Schwab, Vanguard, My Solo 401k Financial and others. Opt for a provider that aligns with your financial goals and preferences.

Step 5: Decide Between Traditional and Roth Solo 401(k)

When setting up a Solo 401(k) with the financial institution of your choice, you’ll need to choose between a Traditional Solo 401(k) and a Roth Solo 401(k).

The main difference lies in how contributions and withdrawals are taxed. Traditional contributions are tax-deferred, meaning you’ll pay taxes upon withdrawal in retirement, while Roth contributions are made with after-tax dollars, offering tax-free withdrawals during retirement.

Consider your current and future tax situation when making this decision.

Step 6: Complete the Necessary Paperwork

Once you’ve selected a provider and determined the type of Solo 401(k) that suits you best, it’s time to complete the required paperwork.

The provider will have specific forms for you to fill out, including the account application, beneficiary designation, and any other relevant documents.

Ensure providing accurate information and review the paperwork thoroughly before submission.

Read here for How to open a Fidelity Solo 401k account

Step 6: Establish the Solo 401(k) Account

After submitting the paperwork, the provider will establish your Solo 401(k) account. You’ll receive an account number and access to an online portal where you can manage your account, make contributions, and monitor your investments.

Step 7: Make Contributions

One of the significant advantages of a Solo 401(k) is the ability to make both employer and employee contributions.

As the employer, you can contribute up to 25% of your net self-employment income (or 20% of your net self-employment income if you’re a sole proprietor).

Additionally, you can make employee contributions up to the annual limit, which is $22,500 (as of 2023) or $30,,000 if you’re 50 or older.

Read here for solo 401k contribution limits

Step 8: Choose Your Investments

With your Solo 401(k) account established and contributions underway, it’s time to decide where to invest your funds.

Most financial institutions like Fideity, Vanguard and Charles Schwab offer a range of investment options, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Diversification is key to managing risk, so consider spreading your investments across different asset classes that align with your risk tolerance and retirement goals. 

You can also try self-directed solo 401k providers like My Solo 401k and Rocket Dollar, which allow you invest in other alternative assets like real estate, cryptocurrencies, and precious metals.

Step 9: Stay Informed and Monitor Your Account

Setting up a Solo 401(k) is not a one-time task; it requires ongoing management and monitoring. Regularly review your account statements, investment performance, and contribution amounts.

Life circumstances and financial goals can change, so staying informed will help you make necessary adjustments to your retirement strategy.

Step 10: Seek Professional Guidance

While this guide provides a comprehensive overview of setting up a Solo 401(k) account, it’s important to acknowledge that retirement planning can be complex.

Seeking guidance from a financial advisor or tax professional can provide you with personalized advice tailored to your specific situation.

They can help you optimize your retirement savings strategy, navigate tax implications, and ensure you’re on track to achieve your retirement goals.


A Solo 401(k) account offers a powerful tool for self-employed individuals and small business owners to secure their financial future. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can confidently set up and manage your Solo 401(k), taking control of your retirement planning and working towards a more financially independent future. Remember, each person’s financial situation is unique, so consider consulting professionals to ensure your retirement strategy aligns with your goals.

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