If you’re self-employed, does that mean you have to forgo the many benefits of a retirement plan? Absolutely not! While you may not have an employer matching your every contribution, you can still structure your retirement in an intelligent, tax-friendly way.

Here are a couple different ways you can save for retirement, along with a few tips.

=> The Solo 401(k) Plan / Solo Roth 401(k) Plan

The Solo 401(k) plan is designed specifically for self-employed individuals with no employees. You alone can use the Solo 401(k), hence the name.

The way it works is pretty much the same as a normal 401(k) plan. You put money into the account without being taxed, which gives whatever fund you’ve invested in more money to invest and earn compound interest on.

Upon retirement age, you withdraw the money and get taxed then. The taxes are deferred, allowing you to make more money through your investments.

The Solo Roth 401(k) plan works like a Solo 401(k) plan, except that the money is taxed when you put the money in rather than when you take the money out. You also aren’t taxed on a yearly basis on your investment earnings.

Why would you want to do this? Primarily because you believe you’ll be in a higher tax bracket when you withdraw your money. If you believe that your tax bracket will be much higher in the future, it may make more sense to pay taxes now rather than later.

=> The SEP IRA Option

The SEP IRA is another great choice for self-employed individuals because of its ease of use and flexibility.

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The SEP IRA has no annual minimum contribution. That means that even if you put in $30,000 last year, this year you’re not obligated to invest any money.

This is especially important in the often tumultuous terrain of running a small business. The SEP IRA gives you the flexibility to invest as much or as little as you want, with a ceiling of $49,000 a year or 20% of your income.

Finally, SEP IRAs tend to be easy to get into with few legal or bureaucratic issues.

=> A Few Tips on Saving for Retirement

Make sure you talk with at least four different advisors before you decide who should handle your investments. When you’re talking with advisors, make sure you look at their historical returns over the past 10, 20 and 30 years if available. A lot of money managers can sound extremely intelligent, even if they don’t have the returns to back it up.

Calculate how much money you believe you’ll need upon retirement before you start saving. Make sure to factor in Social Security income as well. Once you have this number, it becomes much easier to calculate how much you need to save for retirement.

Diversify your investments among small cap, mid cap and large cap stocks, as well as bonds. Also be sure to invest in either foreign companies or companies that have a large percentage of income from foreign sources.

If you only invest in US companies, you’re effectively placing a bet on the US economy – which may or may not pan out when it’s time to retire, as we’ve seen with the recent recession.

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We’ve just covered a couple of the most effective retirement vehicles, along with a few tips for planning for retirement. Explore your investment vehicles with an advisor, talk to several people before making a decision and diversify your investments. Even as a self-employed person, you can plan for a very nice retirement package.