If you call yourself a consultant, a freelancer or an independent contractor, you’re one of the growing numbers of Americans without an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan. As a solo entity, you’re left without the luxury of the “employer match,” which many use to help grow their retirement nest eggs. Meanwhile, the full retirement age for Social Security eligibility has been pushed out, making it more important than ever for self-employed individuals to put retirement planning strategies in place. Here are three tips to help you prepare financially for your retirement years.
Max out your retirement savings
As a self-employed worker, have you established a SEP IRA or Solo 401(k)? These retirement savings plans are not mutually exclusive, and you can contribute the maximum (as much as 25 percent of your adjusted growth income) to both plans to accelerate your savings in any given year. But, you don’t need to stop there. If you’re looking for more ways to save, consider a Roth IRA as a vehicle for accruing supplemental retirement savings.
With the Roth, your contributions are not tax deductible in the year in which you make them. Down the road, however, your withdrawals in retirement will be tax-free if you have met all the qualifications. Because the tax rates of the future are not entirely predictable, this is a plus. Since you can withdraw direct contributions from the Roth at any time, you needn’t worry about not being able to access the money for emergencies. Earnings in your Roth account can also be withdrawn tax- or penalty-free once you reach age 59 ½ (sooner if your eligibility changes due to disability) and have had the Roth for five years or more. For 2014, you can contribute up to $5,500 to your Roth IRA (if your income falls within certain income limits). If you are 50 or older, this maximum goes up to $6,500.
The more you have working for your future security, and the more predictable your retirement income can be the better. Consult your financial advisor and visit IRS.gov for more complete rules on retirement savings plans.
Budget for healthcare costs
Nearly all of us will eventually need costly medical care at one time or another and that possibility rises in retirement. Evaluate income streams such as annuity or interest income that may help you defray eventual medical expenses. If you’re within five years of leaving the workforce, it’s a good idea to anticipate what your healthcare needs may be and how you will pay for those expenses.
It’s important to know that regardless of your work status, you must sign up for Medicare by age 65 to avoid potentially delaying your coverage and paying higher premiums. Visit Medicare.gov to familiarize yourself with premium and deductible costs for hospital, general medical and prescription coverage offered by the government. Talk to your insurance broker to explore supplemental plans that can help you manage deductibles and pay for services not allowed by Medicare. By all means, do what you can to maintain your health, but don’t ignore the likelihood that you’ll need costly medical care at some point in retirement.
Keep working if you’re able
The amount of your monthly Social Security check is determined by how much you earned annually over your working life and your retirement date. This means delaying your retirement will result in a bigger monthly Social Security check. If you’re in good health and enjoy working, there’s no hard and fast rule that says you have to remove yourself from the workforce.
These retirement planning tips are especially important for self-employed individuals, but they also have value for workers of every variety. As more employers retreat from the business of providing extensive retiree benefits, everyone in the workforce needs to be mindful of how they will manage the bills in retirement. At the end of the day, you’re the boss of your own retirement. Make your retirement finances a priority by working with a financial professional who can help you establish a solid retirement plan.