A quarter of gig economy workers have saved nothing for retirement.
Gig workers need to get a hustle on.
While most Americans haven’t saved enough for retirement — GOBankingRates reports that 42% of us have less than $10,000 saved and expect to retire “broke” — the future for freelancers looks especially bleak.
More than one in three workers today are doing on-demand work, such as driving for Uber and Lyft, renting their homes out on Airbnb, doing handiwork on TaskRabbit, as well as more traditional side hustles in sales, writing, website development and graphic design, according to Intuit and Emergent Research. And these on-demand gig workers will number 92 million in the next four years, making up 43% of the workforce by 2021.
But 1 in 4 (27%) of workers whose gig job is the main source of income have $0 saved for retirement, and 1 in 5 (21%) have less than $1,000, according Betterment’s Gig Economy and the Future of Retirement report released Thursday. The online investment company surveyed 1,000 U.S. gig workers aged 25 and up, half of which rely on their gig economy job as their primary source of income, and half who supplement a full-time job with a side hustle.
Seven in 10 full-time “giggers” say they are so unprepared to maintain their current lifestyle during retirement, that 1 in 5 expect to keep picking up gig work even after they are supposed to be “retired,” and 12% of those with full-time jobs will keep their side-hustle after they’ve “retired” from their 9-to-5 to make ends meet.
The problem is, most gig workers (61%) are using their side hustles to pay off debt, which stacks up to more than $10,000 for almost half of them, so they’re not thinking about the future. And because so many are self-employed, the onus is on them to set up a retirement account, whereas those who work for a company might have a 401(k) set up for them.
“There are unique challenges that the gig economy workers have. It’s harder to get started because you have to take more initiative; retirement savings don’t come directly out of your paycheck,” Nick Holeman, senior financial planner at Betterment, told Moneyish.
“But on the plus side, when you work in a typical 9-to-5, you are held captive to the 401(k) provider that the employer chose — you don’t get to pick,” he added. “As a gig worker, you have the option to offer a Roth IRA (individual retirement account) or a SEP IRA (simplified employee pension) or whatever you choose.” Find one that fits your needs, preferably with low fees, great tax planning.
The Betterment report noted that gig workers are tech-savvy when it comes to managing their side hustles — but they’re not using the same tech to manage their finances. While 59% of them use a digital platform for work, only 19% use an automated savings tool or app to save money. In fact, 42% store their cash at home, where it’s not gaining the compound interest that investing into a retirement fund like Roth IRA would. And these tools can simplify things tremendously.
“As a self-employed individual, your income is likely to fluctuate a lot more than a typical salaried employee, and because of that, your tax bracket might change year to year,” said Holeman. “Platforms like Betterment can allow you to review your tax bracket on an annual basis, and automatically recommend which accounts might be better for you.”
Your homework for today: Take stock of how much money you have in all of your bank accounts, any retirement accounts you’ve picked up from various jobs, what’s hidden under the mattress, etc., and see where you can consolidate what you’ve saved so far.
“A lot of people don’t have a very clear picture of their standing right now; they might have multiple accounts across different companies, overlapping investments and redundante feels that they don’t even know they’re paying,” said Holeman. “Simplification is your best friend, so get organized.”
Then it’s time to sort out how much you need to retire (a rule of thumb is $1 million to $1.5 million) — and no matter near or far you may be to that goal, it’s time to get started tucking money away each month. No amount is too small to get started, and Moneyish has tips to bumping up your emergency fund here (and gig workers should have six months of expenses saved up, to handle the ebbs and flows of your cash flow) as well as ways to get started on saving for retirement. These articles help you start with baby steps: figuring out how much money you can afford to save each month, as well as ways to automate your contributions so that you don’t even have to think about them, plus tips to trimming your spending, such as unsubscribing from unnecessary memberships that are siphoning your money away, or reigning in your credit cards.
“Catching up when you’re dramatically off track to begin with can feel daunting or hopeless — but no one expects you to change your lifestyle overnight,” assured Holeman. “When I talk with clients … I don’t expect them to cut their budget in half tomorrow, or move from Manhattan to Arkansas for lower housing costs; that’s not realistic. It’s just focusing on incremental changes.”
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