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Randy Fernando

How Can a Freelancer Save for Retirement?


As the way we work evolves, the need for private benefits grows. Workers are increasingly identifying themselves as “self-employed,” putting the onus of planning and saving for the future on the individual. Today, over 54 million Americans consider themselves freelancers or contractors and by 2020, over 40 percent of the total U.S. workforce will belong to this rapidly growing demographic. So just how can a freelancer save for retirement?

Pro tip: The SEP IRA, or Self Employed Pension IRA, was created for the independent earner and can help you in more ways than one. Not only can the SEP IRA empower you to save for your future, but in many cases, it can also lower your taxable income. Contribution limits are much higher for this type of retirement account; save up to $54,000 or 25 percent of your self-employed income, whichever is less, all while lowering your taxable income accordingly.

Once your hard-earned savings are in an IRA, you can elect to have your money invested. Investing is important, so that like you, your money continues to go to work—hopefully working and growing over time as you near retirement. What’s more, your savings grow tax-deferred over time until you’re ready to start taking taxable withdrawals in retirement.

How do I open a SEP IRA and what investments should I select?

Most online brokerages and banks offer SEP IRAs to their customers. When choosing the right financial partner to manage your money, it’s important to look out for management fees, commissions, and how investments are managed. If you’re unsure about where to start or who to trust, I suggest exploring companies that act as a fiduciary and have a simple fee structure. Vault, for instance, is a digital retirement company that operates exclusively through iOS and Android mobile apps. Customers can sign up for a SEP IRA in under two minutes and choose to save and invest a percentage of pay, automatically, every time they’re paid. Utilizing innovative portfolio management software, investments are selected by Vault and assigned based on the client’s age and corresponding timeline to retirement. As you move closer towards your retirement, Vault auto-rebalances your portfolio accordingly.

Moreover, Vault acts as a fiduciary, meaning investments are selected in the best interest of the customer, forgoing unnecessary fees or commissions. Pricing is simple, $1 per month for accounts that have less than $5,000, or .25 percent per year for balances totaling $5,000 or more. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more cost-effective option.

A win/win scenario

The SEP IRA is one of the most popular retirement vehicles for the self-employed population—and for a good reason. Your earnings and dividends grow on a tax-deferred basis until you withdraw your assets (age 59 1/2), at which point the money withdrawn is taxed as ordinary income. With some of the highest possible contribution limits and attractive tax advantages, the SEP IRA is simply a must have for every independent earner.


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