More and more Americans are forgoing the morning commute to the office in exchange for a freelancing career. Over 36% of Americans are freelancers, and that number is estimated to rise to over 50% in 10 years if the growth of gig workers across the country stays at its current rate.
Nearly 8 in 10 freelancers say they prefer the freedom of freelancing over a traditional job. And there’s plenty to love — making your own schedule, being your own boss and, of course, working in your pajamas.
But when it comes to saving for retirement, freelancers have a harder time than their 9-to-5 counterparts. Whereas many traditional employers provide retirement plans for their employees, it’s up to freelancers to establish a system to save for retirement.
And for many, this isn’t easy — less than 4 in 10 self-employed workers in a survey reported that they’re “habitual” retirement savers.
But freelancers aren’t the only ones not saving enough. In a survey of 2,003 Americans, 21% had no retirement savings, while 1/3 had less than $5,000.
Apart from not having an employer-sponsored retirement plan, freelancers face specific hurdles that can make it harder for them to save for retirement.
Compared to traditional positions, a freelancer’s income can be irregular or unsteady. And many freelancers have a lower average annual salary than their employee counterparts (although research shows freelancers also put in fewer hours a week, on average).
But whether you’re fresh out of college or have decades of freelancing under your belt, there are steps you can take today to build your retirement savings so you can enjoy a better tomorrow.
1. Start Saving at Least 10%-15% of Your Income
Most experts recommend saving 10-15% of your income into your retirement savings to be comfortable and secure in your golden years.
However, the exact amount you save every month should be based on your income, expenses and financial goals for the future.
Depending on the type of retirement account you get, you can also get a tax credit on top of the tax deduction as a low-income saver.
Just remember that if you’re self-employed and had net earnings greater than $400 this year, you’ll need to file a 1040 form with the IRS to pay taxes for Medicare and Social Security (which would traditionally be withheld by your employer).
2. Create an Automatic Savings Plan
Getting in the habit of saving is the root of any successful retirement savings plan.
If regularly saving money isn’t exactly your forte, an automatic savings plan that pulls money from your checking account into a retirement savings account can help.
Without even thinking about it, you can put away a set amount of money into your retirement savings every month. By the end of a year or so, you can have a good nest egg to start growing with smart investments.
3. Open a Self-Directed SEP or Solo 401(k).
Once you become a savvy retirement saver and are ready to set aside more for your golden years than just the $5,500 a year allowed in a traditional IRA, you may want to open a Solo 401(k) or a SEP IRA.
A SEP IRA adds the ability for your business to make a profit sharing contribution of up to $55,000, or $61,000 if you are age 50 or older (2018 limits). This can be a considerable tax deduction, and a real means to build your tax-sheltered retirement savings on the front end.
The best option for most self-employed freelancers is a Solo 401(k), also known as an Individual 401(k), The maximum limits are the same as with the SEP IRA, but you can get there on a lower amount of overall income.
In addition to the same employer profit-sharing contribution the SEP has, a Solo 401(k) allows you as an employee of your business to contribute up to $18,500, or $24,500 if you’re over 50.
Plus, the Solo 401(k) provides a powerful set of Roth savings features that can really maximize the amount of tax-free money you can create for your future self.
4. Invest in Alternative Assets with a Self-Directed IRA
Any type of an IRA or 401(k) can be made into a self-directed IRA.
A self-directed IRA gives you the ability to invest in alternative assets outside of the stock market, including rental properties, your friend’s new startup or even an alternative energy enterprise.
When you invest wisely, you give yourself the opportunity to put your personal passions and investment knowledge to work to grow your retirement savings — at a tax-deferred or tax-free rate.
And when you use a checkbook control IRA structure, you get even closer control of your retirement account — without transaction fees or third-party processing delays.
Safeguard Advisors, LLC is not an investment advisor or provider, and does not recommend any specific investment.
We provide properly structured self-directed retirement plan platforms that provide you as the investor with full control over investment decisions.
The information above is educational in nature, and is not intended to be, nor should it be construed as providing tax, legal or investment advice.