How to Retire as a Freelancer

If you’re a freelancer the thought of retirement can be a little overwhelming. Where do you even start saving? What kinds of accounts are available? How much should you save and by when? The questions go on and on.

Fortunately, Ben Henry-Moreland, a freelancer and owner of Freelance Financial Planning had several answers to these looming questions that he shared with us at the Retirement Planning for Artists, Freelancers, and Solo Practitioners event.

Why even save?

While it is difficult to determine exactly how much every unique individual should save, Ben had some tips on how to figure out what is right for you. First, consider your pre-retirement goals and current savings. Having cash on hand for emergencies is a good place to start. If you have goals to have a wedding or to buy a house list them out and how much you’ll want to save toward those goals.

When you can afford it, save 10-15% of your income specifically for retirement. As you get closer to reaching retirement age and know for certain what you’ll need, save what you need. Ben said between 50 and 60 years old. Tools like Nerdwallet’s retirement calculator can help you estimate what you may need to save to reach your goals.

How do you save?

There are several different kinds of accounts you can open in order to meet your retirement goals all with different benefits depending on what you need.

If you can only save a little (up to $6,000), open an IRA

There are two kinds of IRAs (individual retirement account). These are the simplest account to set up and account holders can contribute up to $6,000 a year. The difference between traditional and Roth is that you can contribute pre-tax with a traditional IRA and the money is taxed when it comes out. Roth IRAs have tax paid on the money before it is contributed to the account but the withdrawals are tax-free.

Traditional IRARoth IRA
No tax deduction when contributingTax deduction when contributing
taxed on withdrawaltax-free on withdrawal

If you can afford to save more (over $6000), open an SEP or Solo 401k

For folks looking to save more than $6,000, there are SEPs or Simplified Employee Pensions. You can save up to 20% of net self-employment income up to $61,000. All contributions are pre-tax. Some drawbacks could be that you need to know your self-employment and that many folks wait until tax time to contribute.

Another option is a Solo 401k. You can save up to $20500 plus 20% of your self-employment income. It’s easier to contribute to this kind of account if you don’t know your exact income and you can save a percentage of your income.

How do these accounts compare to each other?

Account TypeContribution limit
SEP20% of income up to $61,000
Solo 401K$20500 + 20% of income

How to bring it all together

Ben suggested a few ways to start saving and think about the big picture. Start saving by setting up deposits on a recurring basis based on a percentage of your income. Put your basic needs first by creating an emergency fund. Just get started any amount of money saved means more flexibility later and keep it simple.

By Sarah Lincoln
Published August 11, 2022