Saving for retirement is different for freelancers than it is for full-time employees — and more challenging. Not only do freelancers have income that often fluctuates from month to month, they also have expenses that full-time employees don’t have, such as a 15.3% self-employment tax on earnings to cover Social Security and Medicare contributions, health insurance costs, and other types of benefits. Freelancers also have business operating expenses like website hosting and marketing that they often must cover themselves.
“The single biggest obstacle to saving for retirement as a freelancer is the fact that you need to take the initiative,” Ben Henry-Moreland, founder of Freelance Financial Planning, told the New York Times. “You need to put aside some money, determine what type of retirement vehicles you want to use, then you have to find a provider or providers.”
There are ways for the self-employed to organize their finances so they can save. But before they can even start saving for retirement, they first need to have a cash emergency fund. Lazetta Rainey Braxton, co-chief executive of 2050 Wealth Partners, advises that freelancers should “put aside six months of living expenses, and three months of business expenses.” After that, freelancers should determine a percentage that they want to contribute to retirement savings and automate it.
Julie Cunningham, a freelance writer, uses three business bank accounts on top of her personal bank account: one for operating expenses, one for taxes, and a reserve account for her business. She also uses the free Wave accounting app to track business expenses.
These are the four primary retirement savings options for freelancers. There’s the Simplified Employee Pension plan individual retirement account, or SEP-IRA, which can be used by the self-employed and has contribution limits that change from year to year.
The Solo 401(k) plan “is an incredible way to save for retirement, and decrease taxes,” according to freelance copywriter Holly Larson. “That’s money the U.S. government will allow you to tax-deduct right off the top of your revenue,” Larson added.
The Health Savings Account, or HSA, allows those with high-deductible health insurance to put aside money with pretax dollars. “While the funds can be used to pay for out-of-pocket medical costs, including deductibles, you can choose to keep the funds in your H.S.A. and use it as an investment vehicle,” Atiya Brown, president of the Savvy Accountant, told the Times.
And finally, there’s the Roth IRA. The maximum contribution of after-tax dollars to the Roth IRA is $6,000 per year, with an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution for participants over 50. That money can be withdrawn free of taxes after age 59½ if the account has been open for more than five years.
There are an assortment of retirement plan options for self-employed clients and for financial advisors looking to meet the income needs of their clients. Nationwide a variety of actively managed ETFs for advisors that cater to a range of investment exposures and strategies, including seeking a measure of downside protection within the major indexes.
For more news, information, and strategy, visit the Retirement Income Channel.