This post is sponsored by the Alliance for Lifetime Income.
Imagine that you want to learn how to ski. You envision yourself whizzing down mountains, wind whistling in your ears as you pick up speed. When you arrive at your first class, eager to get started, the instructor explains that you’ve signed up for a cross country skiing program, and dives right into the skills you’ll need to master and enjoy the sport.
Freelancers, artists, and gig-economy workers – basically, independent workers who are outside of the traditional workforce and are looking for financial understanding and growth – may feel like downhill skiers in a cross-country class. Certainly, there are ideas and skills to be gained from the multitude of financial experts, money books and podcasts. But the truth is that most financial conversations fail to address the realities that come with life as a non-traditional earner.
You are likely to have multiple periods of part-time employment or no employment, or time at a job with no security or benefits. Your income may be sporadic – earning larger amounts for a few months, followed by lengthy periods without income.
Here are three key insights to help navigate the challenges of being an independent worker.
Understand your numbers. Following a non-traditional career path, requires significant clarity with regards to your precise financial starting point.
- Without the inherent stability of a regular paycheck, it will be critical that you maintain an accurate picture of your financial position, including your overall expenses and earnings. Establish your current cost of living by review at least your last six months of bank and credit card statements to determine your specific expense categories and the average monthly amounts being spent in each one.
- Create a balance sheet that reflects your current net worth. Itemize the value of each of your assets, along with a list of each of your liabilities (debts).
Focus on the long term. Don’t allow an increased focus on day-to-day survival eliminate attention to your long-term financial stability.
- Estimate what you’ll need to secure your comfort and lifestyle you want in retirement. The Alliance for Lifetime Income provides helpful tools, like the (RISE) Score®, that can tell you whether you’re on track with having enough retirement income and how well it will cover at least your basic living expenses. It’s like a credit score for your retirement plan.
- Make sure you understand powerful retirement vehicles designed for solo entrepreneurs such as SEP IRAs and Solo 401Ks. As someone who will likely experience larger single chunks of income, commit to learning about financial options that can create protected lifetime income, like annuities, that can give you the security and comfort knowing your basic living expenses will always be covered, so you can live the life you want.
Build community. When you’re not a part of the traditional workforce, your community is no longer automatic, so take time to create a network, personally and professionally, that lasts. The decision to be an independent worker does not mean you have to go it alone. Regardless of where in the country (or world) you’re currently living, it’s not difficult to find robust online communities, specifically designed for individuals building their own businesses and streams of income.
As an independent worker, commit to establishing an intentional approach to financial management and to developing a relationship with money that allows you to flourish and live the life you truly want.
For more guidance and information on financial education and empowerment for independent workers and non-traditional earners, visit protectedincome.org.