Retirement Options for Gig Workers and the Self-Employed
One of the most interesting shifts in the business world has been the trend toward self-employment. From gig work to freelancing to small business ownership, more and more people are taking their futures into their own hands and leaving the world of traditional employers behind.
If you have been part of this shift toward gig work and self-employment, you will find much to love about your new circumstances. From the chance to work at home permanently to the opportunity to benefit wholly from your talents, there are many advantages to forging your path, but there is one significant disadvantage.
When you work for a traditional employer, the presence of a workplace retirement program can make your future planning very easy. All you have to do is fill out a few forms, dedicate a portion of every paycheck to the 401(k), and sit back and watch the account grow. When you are self-employed, however, those options are not available. It’s up to you to save for your future self. Here are four steps you can take today to provide a better tomorrow.
1. Start with a Solid Emergency Spending Account
It’s easy to focus on retirement when you are self-employed, but there is a more immediate problem to address. The earnings of the self-employed and members of the gig economy can be notoriously unpredictable, making a robust emergency spending account vital.
When working for someone else, you may have had a few months’ worth of spending salted away, but self-employment demands a higher amount. Creating an emergency fund with a minimum of six months’ worth of expenses is a good idea, and some gig workers may want to add even more.
2. The SEP-IRA
The IRS knows retirement savings is difficult for the self-employed, so the tax agency has created specialty plans for gig workers and solopreneurs. For example, if you work for yourself, you may be eligible for a SEP-IRA – A retirement plan similar to the traditional IRA aimed squarely at the self-employed and those in the gig economy.
The contribution limits for a SEP-IRA are the same as those for other IRA accounts, so check the IRS website or ask your tax adviser for more information. Opening a new SEP-IRA or adding money to an existing one can significantly reduce your tax bill now and provide retirement income later.
3. A Solo 401(k)
If you have spent time in the traditional workplace, you may be familiar with a 401(k) plan, an employer-sponsored account designed to aid your future retirement. The money deducted from your paycheck is also removed from your taxable earnings, reducing the amount you pay now while helping you save for later.
A solo 401(k) works similarly, albeit with a self-employment twist. For gig workers and the self-employed, a solo 401(k) can be a powerful tool for retirement savings and current tax savings. You will need an employer identification number (EIN) to open a solo 401(k), but getting that ID number is fast and easy at the IRS website. Once the account is open, you will find the contribution limits quite generous—even more so than the traditional 401(k) plan you may know.
4. A Health Savings Account
Last but certainly not least is the health savings account, which can be a powerful tool in your future planning. While not technically a retirement account, an HSA does offer the potential for tax-deferred growth and tax-free spending while providing an upfront tax deduction.
To open or contribute to a health savings account, you must first have a high deductible health plan (HDHP), and not all plans qualify. If you are unsure about the plan you currently have, ask your insurer or tax preparer for advice.
Saving for the future is never easy, but there are steps you can take to protect your older self. The self-employed and members of the gig economy have access to several programs that make saving for retirement more accessible, including the four outlined above.