Top 4 Retirement Planning Tips for the Self-Employed

in Financial Planning by

KEY POINTS
  • See why 70% of self-employed Americans aren’t saving for retirement.
  • Build an automatic savings plan that keeps you honest with every paycheck.
  • Save as you save – retirement contributions are the #1 tax deduction for small business owners.

Self-employment is a dream for many- setting your own hours and working on your own terms- it’s the ultimate freedom. Along with these freedoms though come a lot of added responsibilities. With no employer sponsored plan or HR department to help, the onus of retirement planning falls entirely on you.

Even if you’re making a killing on eBay or growing an exponentially successful start-up, without systems for individual retirement planning that larger companies have- funding your golden years may prove a challenge.

A 2013 survey showed that nearly 70 percent of America’s 10 million self-employed workers aren’t saving regularly for retirement, and 28 percent aren’t saving at all.

Make as strong a commitment to your financial future as you do for your career. Prioritize your retirement savings and put proper accounts in place to maximize the growth of future funds.

Prioritizing Savings

One attractive feature of employer sponsored 401(k) plans is the way funds are automatically deducted from each paycheck. Rather than setting aside whatever’s left over at the end of each month, these plans force employees to have a percentage of their money transferred directly into savings. This is essential in prioritizing retirement savings- ensuring that future funds don’t get spent on current bills or discretionary expenses.

You can develop your own system of automation to make sure your retirement contributions don’t get spent in favor of current wants and needs. You may not be able to set up direct withdrawals from your paycheck, but with online tools, you can easily schedule regular transfers from your checking account to your brokerage.

Know Your Account Options

One of the biggest perks of traditional retirement plans is the tax deferred account option. Luckily, the self-employed have their own account alternatives with similar benefits- the SEP IRA, the Individual 401(k), and the SIMPLE IRA.

SEP IRA. A Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRA allows you to contribute up to 25 percent of your net earnings from self-employment up to $53,000 annually (for 2015). The SEP IRA is flexible, low cost, and easy to set up. There are no required minimum contributions and individuals can wait until their business’ tax filing deadline to pay into to the account- allowing for strategic last minute increased (or decreased) contributions based on annual earnings and tax liability.

Individual 401(k). Similar to traditional employer 401(k) plans; you can make salary deferrals of up to $18,000 per year (in 2015) on a pre-tax basis to an Individual 401(k), plus an additional $6,000 for those 50 and older. Unlike traditional 401(k)s though, Individual 401(k)s allow for an added contribution of 25 percent of net earnings from self-employment each year. While this plan allows for larger contributions, it is only available to business owners with a spouse and single business owners with no employees.

SIMPLE IRA. A SIMPLE IRA, or Savings Incentive Match PLan for Employees, is a traditional IRA for small business owners with 100 or fewer employees. This account option is best if you have a few employees or you plan on expanding your solo business and would like to offer prospective workers an added perk. The contribution limits max out at $12,500 (for 2015)- plus an additional $3,000 for those over 50.

The SIMPLE IRA requires you to make a contribution on your employee’s behalf regardless of whether or not the employee contributes to the account – either a dollar for dollar match, up to 3 percent of salary, or a flat 2 percent of pay. While this account is cheaper to set up and run than a traditional workplace retirement plan, it can come with hefty annual fees and IRS penalties if employers don’t keep up with contributions.

The Present Benefit Of Future Savings

All three of these plans- Individual 401(k), SEP IRA and SIMPLE IRA- are pre-tax plans, meaning every penny saved for retirement is deducted from taxable income. According to TurboTax, retirement contributions are the number one tax deduction for self-employed business owners. In other words, taking advantage of retirement accounts not only aids the self-employed in their financial futures, it keeps more money in your pocket today.

Make Retirement Savings Non-Negotiable

Being a business owner is undeniably overwhelming. With competing demands on time and resources, it’s easy for a seemingly distant retirement to be overlooked.

The implications of retirement planning are not limited to ten, twenty or thirty years down the line though. Putting the proper accounts in place and making regular retirement contributions non-negotiable, even for the self-employed, can prove effective in promoting personal profitability today, too.

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Stefanie O'Connell

Stefanie O'Connell

Stefanie O’Connell is a financial expert, Gen Y advocate, speaker and author of the book, “The Broke and Beautiful Life.” She blogs about millennial finance at stefanieoconnell.com. @stefanieoconnel

One Response

  1. kash

    we are consultants, both 60+years
    we contribute 6K to each of our
    IRAS and 7000 each to our SEP IRAS
    Whar are limits if one is still workng for a compny part time?

    thanks

    Reply

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