3 obstacles between freelancers and retirement (and how to overcome them)

Guest Blogger

As a freelancer, you’re in charge of everything. You set your own schedule and pursue work for clients, but there are other responsibilities that you may not have time to think about.

One of the most important is your retirement fund.

Saving enough for retirement can seem overwhelming when you don’t have an employer-sponsored 401(k). But when you know how to overcome key obstacles, you’ll discover how to plan successfully for retirement as a freelancer. Here are three problems you may experience and steps you can take to solve them.

illustration & icons by DreamMaster

1. You haven’t set a goal

Saving for retirement is even more stressful when you don’t know how much you need to save. Creating a written retirement plan will give you a goal to move toward. A retirement calculator can help you get a better idea of how much money you need and how much you have to put aside every month to reach your goal. We have one you can try out.

2. You need to save and pay off debt at the same time

If you’re trying to pay off debts such as your credit cards, student loans or car loans, you might not think you can afford to set aside money for retirement until you’ve paid those debts off. High interest rate debt should come first. But for lower interest rate debts, where the interest rate is lower than what you could make on your retirement fund, it’s better to pay the minimum on that debt and put the rest toward retirement.

3. You don’t know which retirement plan is right for you

If you’re a full-time employee, a 401(k) is the easiest choice. But as a freelancer, you may not know your options. Here are two of them:

Solo 401(k)


This account allows you to put money in your own 401(k) and then match it as your own employer. You could contribute up to $18,000 a year as an employee, plus up to 20% of your net self-employment income. These accounts come in both traditional and Roth versions, but you can’t have any employees other than your spouse.


This account has a contribution limit of $53,000 a year, or 20% of your net self-employment income, if it’s less. You won’t be able to put away as much money this way if your income is higher. It’s also best if you don’t have any employees, because you’ll have to give them the same percentage that you give yourself.


Even with a budget and the right plan, there’s one more hurdle: choosing where to open your account. Check out this list of the best IRA providers to get an idea of where to start saving. Once you choose one, the provider will walk you through the process.

Your retirement plan should be something you feel good about. Once you have your plan in place, you can pursue your career knowing that your money is going both to your current and future self.

This article was written by Veronica Ramirez.  Veronica is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: vramirez@nerdwallet.com. Twitter:@veraudrey.

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