Working for yourself means giving up certain benefits, like a workplace retirement plan. But when it comes to saving for old age, you still have plenty of choices.

Which retirement account you choose depends on how much you earn and the amount you want to contribute in any given year, financial planners say. Here are your best options.

Traditional or Roth IRAs

Traditional or Roth individual retirement accounts are easy solutions if you're just starting out and earning a modest salary.

The fine print: For 2015, you can put away up to $5,500 if you're under age 50. Contributions to a traditional IRA are made pre-tax and earnings grow tax-deferred. With a Roth, money is put in after tax, but withdrawals are tax-free in retirement.

Anyone can contribute to a traditional IRA, but the tax deduction begins to phase out for solo workers if you have a spouse who is covered by a company retirement plan and your household income exceeds $183,000 in 2015.


What if you can afford to stash away more than $5,500 this year? Consider opening a simplified employee pension plan, or SEP-IRA.

SEPs are available through brokerages, such as Fidelity Investments and the Vanguard Group. And you can put away a significant amount, as much as 20 percent of your net self-employment income, up to a maximum of $53,000 in 2015.

The fine print: Just as with traditional IRAs and Roths, you have until tax day to open and fund a SEP-IRA. So, for 2015, you can set up and put money in a SEP as late as April 15, 2016. Contributions are tax-deductible and earnings grow tax-deferred.

Solo 401(k)

But if you can afford to save even more, most financial planners would suggest opening an individual 401(k), also known as a self-employed or solo 401(k).

Starting a 401(k) for yourself is easier than you might think. The accounts are offered through major brokerages, and over the years, "the paperwork has become more streamlined and the fees have basically been eliminated," said Jim McGowan, a financial planner in Doylestown, Pa.

The fine print: A solo 401(k) account must be opened by Dec. 31 to count for 2015.

Carolyn Bigda writes for the Chicago Tribune.