There are many ways to save up for retirement, but there is perhaps no better way for most Americans to do so than by starting a 401(k). While it’s common knowledge that many employers provide this as a benefit to their full-time employees, it’s a (somewhat) little-known fact that those who are self-employed or otherwise lacking full-time employment can start their own solo 401(k) plans, also sometimes known as individual 401(k) plans. That said, it is important to only go with a reliable and experienced provider to set up a 401(k). This makes sure it will be set up properly, doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to maintain, and can be potentially transferred if full-time employment through a company with an established 401(k) program is reached. The best providers on the market right now are Charles Schwab, Fidelity and E-Trade. Keep reading to learn more about each one and other people’s experiences with them.

Charles Schwab

The Charles Schwab Solo 401(k) plan is a great option because it offers its prototype for free and then only $4.95 per trade with no annual maintenance cost for the plan. Charles Schwab does only offer traditional IRA contributions (as opposed to also allowing Roth IRA contributions, which are not deductible but can be held for as long as possible after age 70), but this is still good because they are deductible. The investment options here are also numerous, including commission free ETFs and mutual funds through Vanguard. Now, the rollover options here are a bit complicated and require extra steps, but they are not impossible, and all of this still makes Charles Schwab one of the best options around.

“I didn’t really know where to begin when it came time to set up my individual 401(k), but Charles Schwab made the process surprisingly easy. Of course, I also love the low costs.” Jake K.

“I knew I wanted a 401(k) plan with a lot of investment options, but I also really wanted to go through a provider that already had an established reputation. After sifting through so many sketchy offers, I came across Charles Schwab and was shocked I hadn’t considered it earlier.” Michael D.

“After losing my job and having to look elsewhere for 401(k) options, I decided to go with Charles Schwab. My friends were surprised at how little it costs me, and many of them have plans through their employers and are jealous! It’ll be some time before I can retire, but with this plan I know I’ll be okay.” Marcia A.


The truth about Fidelity is that while it does not necessarily offer a “full service” 401(k) plan for individuals, the plan it does offer is low cost and has a lot of the great amenities that other plans do. While it also doesn’t offer a Roth investment option or many loan options, Fidelity’s solo 401(k) plan does offer an extremely broad range of investment options. Rollover options here both in and out of the plan are also broad and comparatively simple to do, and there is also no annual maintenance fee for this plan. Like Charles Schwab, the cost per trade is also set rather low, at only $4.95 per one. Also like Schwab, Fidelity has high recognizability through the financial and business communities, and it has developed a reputation for being reliable.

“I’ll be honest and say that this plan has been surprisingly good to me. I went with Fidelity because I didn’t have many other options at the time, but now I’m never leaving it. I love the low costs and how many investment options I have.” Kevin F.

“I’d used Fidelity before for their other brokerage stuff, but hadn’t considered a 401(k) through them until a friend of mine was raving about theirs. I’m self-employed and don’t make a lot, so this was the perfect plan for me!” Felicia S.

“I like Fidelity because I’m not under pressure to have a certain amount invested, and I don’t have to pay annual fees like some people do. It’s the right choice for me.” Brian W.


Believe it or not, E-Trade offers one of the best 401(k) options around today. Offering both Roth and Traditional IRA investments, the E-Trade solo 401(k) also allows easy rollovers both in and out of the plan and no setup fees. The range of investment options here are vast, although one of the few downsides is that the trade fee is a little higher than its counterparts at $6.95 per trade (though there are additional options through no-fee mutual funds). Still, the benefits with this plan outweigh the minor downsides, and this is a great option for many. Like Fidelity and Charles Schwab, there is no annual maintenance fee.

“I’ve been using E-Trade for a while now for investments, so it only seemed to make sense when I found out I could start my 401(k) with them. So far it’s been paying off well!” James Maimone

“Honestly, I don’t even notice the higher trade fee because the trade options are so many. I’m finding new stuff every day.” Mary Shafer

“E-Trade is so much more than I thought! Their individual 401(k)s are perfect for people like me who work from home but still want to save up for the future. I love it!” Francine McCoy.