57% of Freelancers Are Worried About Their Financial Future. Here’s What to Do if You’re One of Them

Being a freelancer certainly has its benefits, like the ability to manage your own schedule and be your own boss. On the flip side, it also means losing out on key workplace benefits like subsidized health insurance and paid time off. Just as importantly, it means not having access to an employer-sponsored 401(k) to propel your retirement savings efforts. Throw in the fact that freelancers tend to grapple with large fluctuations in income, and it’s no wonder so many of them have their share of money-related stress.

In fact, only 43% of freelancers are confident about their overall financial future, according to an Ipsos Marketing study commissioned by TaxAct. The good news, however, is that there are plenty of ways for freelancers to get on track for retirement and achieve long-term stability, so if you’re worried about the future at present, there are steps you can take to alleviate those concerns.


1. Start saving immediately

We’re told we’re supposed to save 15% or more of our income for the future, but that’s hard to do when your earnings aren’t stable. But if you make a point of setting aside a small amount of money each month, it’ll eventually make a huge difference for your nest egg. Check out the following table, which shows how much you might accumulate by socking away just $300 on a monthly basis between now and retirement:

If You Start Saving $300 a Month at Age:

Here’s What You’ll Have by Age 70 (Assumes an 8% Average Annual Return):


$1.39 million














As you can see, if you’re still relatively young, that $300 a month will buy you a fairly comfortable retirement down the line, and so while you should always aim to save as much as you possibly can, don’t be discouraged if you’re not making major contributions to your retirement plan month after month. Rather, do your best to be vigilant about saving more during the months when your income is higher.

2. Invest your savings wisely

Saving money is only part of establishing a strong nest egg. If you want to set yourself up for a secure future, you’ll need to invest your savings in a manner that allows your money to grow. And in this regard, stocks are your friend. Though the stock market is pretty volatile, it has historically delivered higher returns than the bond market, and if you have a relatively lengthy savings window ahead of you (meaning 10 years or more), it pays to go heavy on stocks for better long-term results.

In fact, the 8% return referenced above is actually just below the stock market’s average. But if you were to invest in safer vehicles, like bonds, and snag just a 3% average annual return instead of an 8% return, you’d wind up with only $334,000 over a 45-year period rather than $1.39 million. And that’s not the sort of hit you want to take.

3. Find the right home for your savings

As a freelancer, you have several retirement plan options available to you. First, you can go with a traditional IRA, which will let you contribute up to $5,500 a year if you’re under 50 or $6,500 if you’re 50 or older. You’ll get an immediate tax break for the money you put in, but your distributions will be taxed in retirement.

Roth IRAs work the opposite way — they have the same annual contribution limits as their traditional counterparts, only you don’t get an up-front tax break for making those contributions. Withdrawals, however, are taken tax-free in retirement. If you’re a higher earner, you’re not allowed to fund a Roth IRA directly, though if you make a lot of money and really want one, you can open a traditional IRA and convert it to a Roth down the line.

If you think you’ll manage to save more than $5,500 a year (or $6,500 if you’re 50 or older) for retirement, then you may want to look at plans that come with higher annual contribution limits. One such plan is the SEP IRA, which lets you contribute up to 25% of your net business earnings for a yearly maximum of $55,000. There’s also the SIMPLE IRA, which gives you the option to contribute up to $12,500 a year if you’re under 50, or $15,500 if you’re 50 or older. Finally, there’s the Solo 401(k), which lets you put in up to 25% of your net business earnings for a maximum of $55,000 if you’re under 50, or $61,000 if you’re 50 or older.

No matter which retirement plan option you choose, the key is to start saving in it as soon as possible and invest your savings in a manner that will fuel your nest egg’s growth. Just because you’re a freelancer doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a secure financial future, and if you commit to funding your retirement now, you’ll most likely get to enjoy it without stress later on.

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