Keogh vs IRA: Understanding the Best Retirement Plan for You

In the Keogh vs IRA debate, key differences impact where and how you’ll save for retirement. This comparison sheds light specifically on contribution limits, eligibility, and tax benefits for self-employed individuals deliberating between these two retirement vehicles. Get ready to clarify your options with a direct contrast that steers clear of complexities and prepares you to select the plan best suited to your financial scenario.

Key Takeaways

Keogh and IRA: Decoding the Retirement Plan Dilemma

Keogh and IRA retirement plans comparison

The Keogh plan, named after its congressional sponsor, Representative Eugene Keogh, is a retirement savings plan tailored for self-employed individuals and small business owners such as sole proprietors, partnerships, or limited liability companies (LLCs). High-income earners often find the Keogh plan appealing due to its higher contribution limits relative to other retirement savings options. Moreover, it offers tax benefits and retirement benefits based on one’s earnings history.

Differently, an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is a tax-favored account open to anyone earning an income. It can be initiated by employees and offers different contribution limits for tax-deferred savings. The primary disparity lies in the fact that a Keogh plan is tailored for self-employed individuals and unincorporated businesses, featuring elevated contribution limits, whereas an IRA can be initiated by a broader range of individuals. However, it’s worth noting that Keogh plans come with their share of complexities, including a heightened administrative burden and intricate IRS requirements, particularly for defined benefit plan options.

Unveiling the Keogh Plan

Types of Keogh plans

Keogh plans, established under the tax retirement act of 1962, are retirement savings options tailored for self-employed individuals and small business owners. The advantages of a Keogh Plan encompass increased tax-deductible contributions and the capacity to offer retirement benefits to employees. However, they entail certain responsibilities like mandatory annual filings and are associated with significant paperwork and upkeep costs.

When considering types of Keogh plans, you will find options such as profit sharing plans and money purchase plans, each with unique contribution limits and benefits.

Defined Benefit Keogh Plans

Defined-benefit Keogh plans, also known as defined benefit plans, are structured to specify the annual retirement benefits, usually determined by the individual’s salary and length of employment. This structure is similar to a traditional pension plan where the plan provides increased tax deductions for the sponsoring company and a secure retirement income for its employees. A defined benefit Keogh plan allows for a higher retirement contribution compared to other retirement savings options, making it a lucrative choice for high earning individuals.

Despite their appeal, contributions to a defined benefit Keogh plan involve specific conditions. They are usually required to be made in quarterly installments and are subject to a minimum funding standard. In 2023, the maximum annual benefit for defined benefit Keogh plans is set at $265,000. This amount increases to $275,000 in 2024, or 100% of your compensation, whichever is lower. Determining the maximum deduction and contribution necessitates the expertise of a financial professional for accurate calculation.

Defined Contribution Keogh Plans

The second category of Keogh plans is the defined contribution plans, which include the defined contribution plan and are further divided into profit-sharing plans and money purchase pension plans. In a profit-sharing plan, employers have the flexibility to determine their contributions without the necessity of demonstrating a profit. On the other hand, money purchase plans mandate employers to contribute a set percentage of income annually, offering less flexibility but more predictability.

The maximum allowable deduction for defined contribution Keogh plans in the year 2023 is:

Money purchase plans have a limit set at 25% of annual compensation or $66,000, whichever amount is lower. This adherence guarantees contributions comply with regulatory standards. It’s worth noting that both the employer and the employee typically make substantial contributions in a defined contribution Keogh plan, allowing employees to accumulate a significant retirement savings and secure their financial well-being in their later years through a money purchase plan.

Individual Retirement Account (IRA) Basics

Roth IRA investment options

An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is a financial vehicle designed for individuals with earned income to save for the future. IRAs offer tax advantages and serve as a long-term savings account, offering a wide range of investment options. There are different types of IRAs, including Traditional IRA and Roth IRA, each with its unique tax benefits and withdrawal rules.

A Traditional IRA enables individuals to:

On the other hand, a Roth IRA requires taxes to be paid on contributions at the present time, and offers tax-free withdrawals during retirement. This distinction allows individuals to choose an IRA based on their current income level, expected post-retirement income level, and their individual tax planning strategy.

Comparing Keogh Plans to IRAs

Tax implications of Keogh plans and IRAs

With a firm grasp of the fundamental characteristics of both Keogh plans and IRAs, let’s delve into a side-by-side comparison. This comparison is pivotal, unveiling differences in tax impacts, eligibility and contribution limits.

Contributions to a Keogh plan are made on a pre-tax basis, and withdrawals during retirement are subject to income tax. On the flip side, IRAs offer tax-free growth or withdrawals, depending on the type. Further, Keogh plans offer significantly higher contribution limits in comparison to IRAs. However, they are more restrictive in terms of eligibility, being particularly designed for self-employed individuals and unincorporated businesses.

Tax Implications and Benefits

When it comes to tax benefits, Keogh plans and IRAs are distinct in their offerings. Contributions made to Keogh plans typically qualify for tax deductions, subject to a specific percentage of annual income and absolute limits in U.S. dollar terms. As of 2023, a business can contribute up to $66,000 to a Keogh plan. Individuals can contribute up to 25% of their net earnings from self-employment with the deductible portion of self-employment tax being reduced from plan compensation, in accordance with the Tax Relief Reconciliation Act.

On the other hand, the potential tax advantages of contributing to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) encompass tax deductions, tax-deferred or tax-free growth on earnings, and the capability to exempt taxes on interest or other gains. This tax advantage makes IRAs a viable option for individuals looking for flexibility in their retirement savings strategy.

Eligibility and Contribution Limits

Eligibility criteria and contribution limits are two pivotal factors to consider while choosing between a Keogh plan and an IRA. The eligibility for Keogh plans is more limited, as they are designed for the self-employed, including sole proprietors and independent contractors. Small businesses structured as sole proprietorships, partnerships, or LLCs are also eligible to establish Keogh plans. Additionally, certain plans may be accessible to employees who are at least 21 years old and work a minimum of 1,000 hours annually.

On the other hand, individuals with earned income have the eligibility to establish and make contributions to an IRA. This encompasses individuals who are concurrently enrolled in a 401(k) plan facilitated by their employer. The primary constraint pertains to the total allowable contribution, which is significantly lower than that for Keogh plans.

The Impact of Business Structure on Retirement Planning

Impact of business structure on retirement planning

When it comes to retirement planning, the structure of your business can significantly influence the retirement plans at your disposal. It can affect your eligibility for specific retirement plans and the associated tax advantages. Therefore, understanding the various retirement plan choices and aligning them with your business structure and retirement objectives is imperative.

Keogh plans, for instance, are applicable for utilization by sole proprietorships, partnerships, and limited liability companies (LLCs). Conversely, SEP IRAs are a suitable option for various business structures, such as small businesses, sole proprietorships, corporations, and LLCs. It’s worth noting that the type of retirement plan you choose can have far-reaching implications for your future financial security.

Strategic Retirement Contributions for Self-Employed Professionals

If you’re a self-employed professional, you need to strategically consider your retirement contributions, weighing the benefits and drawbacks of different retirement plans. Some options to consider are:

By comparing these options, you can make an informed decision about where to invest your retirement savings.

Of course, it’s not just about the contribution limits. You also need to consider factors such as the administrative requirements, tax implications, and investment options offered by different retirement plans. For instance, while Keogh plans offer higher contribution limits, they also come with greater administrative complexity and costs. On the other hand, IRAs may offer more investment flexibility and lower administrative costs, but they have lower contribution limits.

Navigating the Complexities of Keogh Plans

Despite their high contribution limits and tax advantages, Keogh plans can be complex, requiring professional assistance for administration and compliance. If you’re seeking simplicity in your retirement planning, Keogh plans might not be the best fit for you.

The specific administrative responsibilities associated with Keogh plans include the mandatory annual filing of Form 5500 with the IRS and heightened administrative obligations in comparison to other retirement savings plans. Keogh plans are characterized by increased administrative burdens and higher maintenance costs compared to Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) or 401(k) plans, typically involving elevated expenses and more administrative paperwork.

IRA Investment Options and Flexibility

IRAs, on the other hand, offer a wide array of investment options, such as individual stocks, bonds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and fixed-income options. For low-risk options, there are high-yield savings accounts, money market funds, and short-term certificates of deposit. On the other hand, for those looking for potentially higher returns, there are higher risk investments like mutual funds, stocks, and ETFs. This range of options allows you to tailor your retirement savings strategy to your risk tolerance and financial goals.

To ensure your IRA investments are aligned with your financial goals and risk tolerance, you can:

Securing Retirement Income: Plan Sponsors and Financial Institutions

Choosing the right plan sponsor and financial institution is crucial for securing retirement income. Plan sponsors fulfill their responsibilities in managing retirement income by facilitating communication with the plan provider, providing systematic withdrawal options, and actively working to minimize plan costs. They oversee the administration of SIMPLE IRA plans, facilitate contributions from both employees and employers, manage workforce changes, and verify the accuracy of payroll contributions.

Financial institutions also play a crucial role in ensuring retirement income security by providing options such as Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) for individuals to supplement their retirement savings. When selecting a plan sponsor for a Keogh plan or IRA, it is essential to consider the plan’s benefits, the requirement for professional guidance, transparency regarding administrative fees, and the plan sponsor’s capability to revise and adjust the plan document in accordance with legal modifications.


Stepping back, we see that both Keogh plans and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) offer unique advantages and drawbacks. Keogh plans, with their higher contribution limits and tax advantages, are particularly beneficial for high-income, self-employed professionals and small business owners. However, they come with added administrative complexities and costs. On the other hand, IRAs offer tax-free growth or withdrawals, along with more investment flexibility, but have lower contribution limits. Therefore, the choice between a Keogh plan and an IRA depends largely on your individual circumstances, including your income, business structure, and retirement goals. As you plan for a secure and prosperous retirement, remember that the best plan is the one that aligns with your financial needs, risk tolerance, and future aspirations.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between IRA and Keogh plan?

The main difference between a Keogh plan and an IRA is the contribution limit, with Keogh plans allowing significantly more contributions than IRAs. This makes Keogh plans more suitable for self-employed individuals or unincorporated businesses.

What is the difference between Keogh and SEP IRA?

The main difference between a Keogh plan and a SEP IRA is the employee eligibility criteria. With a Keogh plan, employees must complete at least one year of service, whereas with a SEP IRA, employees need to have worked for you during three of the past five years.

What is the advantage of a Keogh plan?

The advantage of a Keogh plan is the ability to make tax-deferred contributions, meaning the money contributed is not taxed until retirement. Additionally, it has higher contribution limits, making it a popular option for high-income business owners.

Do Keogh plans still exist?

Yes, Keogh plans still exist today, but individual 401(k)s and SEP IRAs have become more popular choices for retirement plans.

What are the tax benefits of Keogh plans and IRAs?

The tax benefits of Keogh plans include tax-deductible contributions, while IRAs provide tax-free growth or withdrawals. Consider these benefits when planning for retirement.