Happy November. The year will soon end and it is time to put together a tax planning strategy while there is still time to plan and execute. There may be business equipment to purchase, upgrades to make to your website or a seminar to attend, but we self-employed workers must also fund our retirement. Traditionally employed workers must also fund their retirement, but they get help from their employers. Freelancers are our own employers and we must step up and do all that we can to stash a few tax-deductible dollars in the cookie jar, so that we can eat when we’re 75.
Whether you’ll squeeze a few thousand dollars out of modest billable hours or you’re looking for a place to roll the overflow from a lucrative year, saving for retirement is a superb tax planning strategy. It is also a superb life planning strategy. Under no circumstances do we want to be old and broke in America. If one is single, that is a real possibility. This is not Europe and the government will not give us any financial assistance in a time of need, even though we have been tax paying citizens our entire lives.
The good news is that there are good retirement plan options available to Freelancers with a few thousand dollars to spare and the discipline to save. Also, the retirement money can be invested in stocks, bonds, mutual funds or even real estate. You might get lucky and see your investment really grow. Taxes will not be paid until it’s time to draw down on the account (age 59 1/2 the youngest and age 70 1/2 the oldest).
The Simplified Employee Pension Individual Retirement Account is modeled after the IRAs that every employer offers. They are evidently the easiest type of retirement account to set up and there are minimal IRS reporting requirements involved. Your job will be to find a brokerage firm that will set up the plan, process your deposits, maybe give you some investment advice and not kill you with administration fees.
Contributions are limited to 20% of your net earnings (before the self-employment tax). Contributions are capped at $52,000/year for tax year 2014 and the limit will increase every year or two, to adjust for inflation. A married couple who run a business together, or are each Freelancers, may open a joint account and save an annual maximum of $98,000 tax-deductible retirement dollars in 2014. One cannot borrow against a SEP IRA.
The Individual 401K is modeled after a traditional 401K and once again, the IRS filing requirements are uncomplicated and your job is to find a brokerage firm that will set up the plan, process your deposits and not kill you with administration fees. One may contribute money a little differently to a Solo 401K, in that you may give yourself a “salary deferral” in a good year and stash up to 20% of your net earnings into the Solo 401K, but the annual maximum contribution remains $52,000 in 2014 (the limit will rise modestly to adjust for inflation). However, Freelancers aged 50 + can take advantage of the $5,500 (max) “catch-up contribution” feature, which allows those who are able to set aside more retirement dollars to do so and contribute up to $57,500/year in tax-deductible dollars. Another big advantage of the Solo 401 K is that one may borrow against maximum one-half of the assets (you must repay the loan with interest, to yourself). Additionally, a married couple who run a business together can start a Solo 401K retirement plan for the two and contribute up to $98,000 annually as of 2014 and $10,000 more with the catch-up contribution if both are age 50 +.
Next week, we’ll look at the SIMPLE IRA and more retirement plan options.
Thanks for reading,