Freelance Writers *Can* Retire: 4 Simple Saving Steps

Freelance writer saves for retirementBy Abby Hayes

Are you saving for retirement?

Without employer matches and helpful HR departments to rely on, we freelance writers are on our own for retirement planning.

No matter what your personal situation looks like, a smart freelancer needs to plan for retirement just like we plan for taxes, marketing, and other business-related costs.

With these steps, you’ll be well on your way to saving what you need for retirement. And that tax bill may be smaller, too.

1. Set goals by age

Instead of setting a seemingly impossible end goal for your retirement savings, focus on reaching smaller goals by a certain age. Fidelity suggests saving 1X your average annual income by the age of 35, 3X your salary by 45, and 4X your salary by 55.

Breaking down your goals this way means you’re more likely to stay on track.

2. Use the right account

Many freelancers mistakenly think that their best retirement savings option is a traditional or Roth IRA with a low $5,500-$6,500 contribution limit. But, actually, there are much better options around for US-based and US-expat freelancers, including the following:

  • Solo 401(k): Choose tax savings now or later with both traditional and Roth options. A traditional IRA lets you tax-shelter money now, where a Roth will let you withdraw it tax-free at retirement. Limits are subject to change, but in 2014 you can contribute up to $17,500 (plus an extra $5,500 for those 50 and older) as an “employee,” and then add up to 25 percent of your net self-employment income up to an overall limit of $52,000, not including over-50 “catch-up” contributions.
  • SEP-IRA: In this more streamlined account, you can save up to 25 percent of your net self-employment earnings, up to an overall limit of $52,000 in 2014.
  • SIMPLE IRA: A great option for low-to-middle earning freelancers, the SIMPLE IRA lets you set aside up to $12,000 (plus an extra $2,500 for those 50 and older) in 2014. Plus, your business will add either 2 percent of your total income or a 3 percent matching contribution.

Any of these options gives you the flexibility to save much more money in years where you earn more, so you can reach your retirement goals more quickly. And if you’re in the UK, you have the option of saving in a personal pension, which offers tax relief in the form of bonus savings on contributions up to £50,000 for the 2013-14 tax year.

3. Set monthly goals

There are two ways to set monthly retirement savings goals: by dollar amount and by percentage.

If you have a fairly steady freelancing income, you can set a dollar amount goal – whether that’s $50 per month or $500 per month. In this case, set up an automatic monthly transfer to have the money wired from your checking account to your retirement savings account monthly. That way, you won’t be tempted to spend it!

But if you’re like many freelancers, your income is a bit of a roller coaster. In this case, consider setting a percentage-based goal – like 5-20 percent of your income. Then, get in the habit of automatically transferring that percentage of every single payment you get into your retirement savings account. Again, when you build this habit, you won’t be tempted to spend your retirement savings.

4. Kick in additional year-end contributions

Retirement savings contributions are a great way to save on taxes for both US and UK freelancers. If you find that you’ve got some money lying around at the end of the year, consider kicking some of it into your retirement fund.

In the US, the additional tax savings could mean that you write Uncle Sam a much smaller end-of-year tax payment. In the UK, the more you max out your personal pension contributions for the year, the more tax relief will grow your retirement savings for you.

Abby Hayes blogs about the intersection of freelancing and money at Finance for Freelance, and is the author of 47 Money Saving Tax Deductions for Freelancers, a guide to help freelancers squeeze out more savings at tax time.

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48 comments on “Freelance Writers *Can* Retire: 4 Simple Saving Steps
  1. Tom B. says:

    A little 401k, a little CD, a little bank, a little gold, a little silver, a LOT of Food, water, and ammo, a generator+gas. Just refinanced to a 15 yr mortgage at 2.75%, I’m still working at my crappy job until my writing improves, but I’ve now got my sights set on my first rental of some kind, maybe a condo or apartment, but a trailer park?……now that’s interesting.

    • Mike Johnson says:

      Hi Tom,

      Based on your prepping, I can see you have used your writer’s, pro-active research skills for your own benefit. You’re obviously looking deeper than the drivel the mainstream media is feeding the masses.

      A wonderful, free resource for creative real estate investment is CREOnline.com . They post hundreds of free how-to articles and success stories written by people (including me) who are successfully making money with all types of income property.
      Good luck with your writing and income streams!
      MJ

  2. Hiten Vyas says:

    Hi Abby,

    This is wonderful advice on how we can practically start saving for our retirement, while reducing the overall tax we pay.

    Thank you.
    Hiten Vyas recently posted…5 Bollywood Love Songs to Inspire Your Romance WritingMy Profile

  3. Nadia McDonald says:

    Sarita can you please send me your website address? The information is very timely and pertinent.

  4. Nadia McDonald says:

    Mike Johnson your story was inspiring. I read with intrigue because there was a wealth of information I didn’t know. Can you please send me a link, or the information to your website? I will be honored to ask as many questions, and gather the vital information needed.

    • Mike Johnson says:

      Hi Nadia,

      My website is WorldsBestWriter.com You’ll find some good real estate articles I’ve written at the bottom of my main welcome page.

      You can find anyone’s website here by clicking their highlighted name above their post.

      I also highly recommend reading the first Rich Dad Poor Dad book (What the Rich Teach Their Kids That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not)

      Good luck!
      MJ

  5. Some excellent advice in this article. I’m not really thinking about retirement yet but I’m considering opening a savings account soon, I don’t have one yet. The idea of creating an automatic payment from one account to the next is quite interesting.
    Timothy Torrents Writer recently posted…Hey YOU! Guess What? You are Incredibly AWESOMEMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Do it NOW — and start auto-deducting. You never miss the money…but as someone who’s closer to retirement, let me tell you you sure will miss it later when you have nothing to retire on. And the miracle of compound interest means the earlier you start, the less you have to put away to end up with a nice nut.

    • Abby Hayes says:

      I second that! The sooner the better.

      Unless you’re saving for something specific – like a down payment for a house or another big purchase – I’d start a retirement fund and allocate at least some of that automatic payment for that. A regular savings account isn’t going to net you much interest (at all!), and you want to take advantage of compounding interest for as long as humanly possible.
      Abby Hayes recently posted…Hello world!My Profile

  6. John Soares says:

    Interesting discussion here!

    I always max my contributions to my SEP-IRA and my traditional IRA. I’m in a mixture of stocks and bonds and have done very, very well over the long term.

    I highly recommend Vanguard’s Wellington and Wellesley funds. They pay a decent annual dividend, and they automatically rebalance between stocks and bonds, which is important. Also, the fund invests in a large number of stocks and bonds, so a precipitous drop in any one stock doesn’t hurt much.
    John Soares recently posted…How I Chose My Freelance Writing NichesMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      My dad recommended those to me when I was young, and we have some in it, and I’m sorry we didn’t put it all there. They have sure performed great!

    • Abby Hayes says:

      Rebalancing is so, so important. Otherwise you’ll float – over the long term – towards having too much in stocks and taking on too much risk. One of my clients also recommends Vanguard’s age-targeted investments, which can automate the portfolio allocation process. It just gets more conservative as you get older, and takes a lot of the work out of it for people who won’t stay on top of their own investments.
      Abby Hayes recently posted…Hello world!My Profile

      • Carol Tice says:

        I am in some age-targeted funds myself…for those of us who tend to not be good at setting aside time to rebalance it can be a good way to go.

  7. Elke Feuer says:

    Great article, Carol! Unfortunately these investment options don’t apply to me as I live outside the US, however the post is a reminder that I need to consider retirement in my writing career. I’d considered writing my retirement. 🙂

    Right now I’m contributing 20% (14 by me and 6 by my employer) from my full-time job to my retirement plan. The money I make from writing goes towards writing expenses so I don’t have to use my salary. I also have a plan to pay off our mortgage and beef up our emergency plan so there’s a cushion when I start writing full-time. I’ve also calculated the amount of money I’ll need to contribute to our household expenses. What I hadn’t calculated however was adding to my existing retirement account once I started writing full-time. I’d planned to leave the money in my existing retirement plan until I reached retirement age. But let’s face it, you can never have enough money for retirement. I’m going to add it to my business plan right now! Thanks for that, Carol!

    Another thing I’ve been considering lately is how to manage the money I make. ie What will be my salary vs what goes to business expenses, etc. Not that big an issue at the moment as all of it goes to cover business expenses, however I’m optimistic that one day I’ll make enough to pay myself. 🙂 Any advice?
    Elke Feuer recently posted…CayWriters On The MoveMy Profile

  8. Williesha says:

    I have a retirement account from a previous job just kind of sitting there. While it is gaining returns, I haven’t contributed to it since I quit. I had no idea there were multiple options like this. This gives me hope I don’t have to depend on my husband’s retirement. Thank you so much.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Oh yeah — set up a SEP and get rolling Willi!

    • Abby Hayes says:

      I’m happy this is a good resource for you. Honestly, these are not the only options, but they’re the most often used – and usually the best for freelancers. (Other options are much more complicated.) Just be sure you do your research about the particulars of different options before you choose what’ll work best for your situation.

  9. Sarita says:

    Great post, and a subject that is near and dear to my heart.

    I have the good fortune to have come to freelancing after spending twelve years as a financial adviser. I spent my days teaching people how to manage their money. In addition to the bank training and course materials required for my financial planning designation, I learned a LOT about what not to do by talking to clients approaching retirement age who just hadn’t planned when they should have.

    I like what Abby said – ie. put aside a percentage of your earnings as a freelancer – that works. And while I’m too conservative of an investor to invest in trailer parks 🙂 Mike brings up an important point in his comment – diversify your investments and income stream in retirement, the same way you (should) diversify your freelance writing income stream by having more than one or two clients.

    The other thing to keep in mind is what you envision your retirement lifestyle will look like, and how far away retirement is for you. You may not need four times your current income at 55 if you don’t plan to retire for many more years, and see yourself hanging around at home enjoying the grandkids. If, however, you plan to retire early and treat your family to cruises and trips to exotic places, you might want to up that percentage.

    The most important thing I would tell a freelance writer planning for retirement, is to start saving right after you’ve built up your emergency fund. I believe an emergency fund is a more immediate concern than retirement savings for entrepreneurs and freelancers. Even if you are earning $50 per blog post, automatically allocate a percentage for your income tax and a percentage for retirement savings when you deposit that check. It may not seem like a lot, but believe me, it DOES add up.

    And one last note. At the age of 25 I was a single mother and university student. Those were lean, hard years, and I was forced to live very simply. The lessons I learned from living on a shoestring (about $13,000 per year for myself and my sons, and that was almost twenty years ago) plus what I learned as a financial adviser have helped me SO much. I still live very simply. Well, we live off the grid, so I don’t really have a choice, lol. My point is that while freelance writing currently provides a comfortable income, I try to still live as frugally as possible, watching that my spending doesn’t balloon to match increases in income. And while I like to think I’ll be writing well into my twilight years, I know that may not be possible, or I may not want to. So I set aside what I can while I can.
    Sarita recently posted…Five Things I Never Said Before Moving Off The GridMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Right on, Sarita. The whole trick is as your income grows, don’t grow your lifestyle as fast. That creates free cash flow you can sock away.

      Wow, you’re off the grid! Where do you live? I’d love to do solar, but we’ve got too much forest.

      • Sarita says:

        We are about a half hour drive from Yellowknife, NWT. We have eight solar panels, two diesel generators, a big old woodstove and an unbelievable view of the lake. Another perk of freelancing. I can work from anywhere. 🙂

        • Abby Hayes says:

          PS, That is so cool! The back of our house is west facing amd not shaded. I’d love to do solar, but we live in the Midwest. Hopefully prices for installing it will drop, so it’d be worthwhile in spite of our cloudy seasons.
          Abby Hayes recently posted…Hello world!My Profile

          • Karen J says:

            Abby – have you considered tapping the wind? There *are* alternatives that are less visually intrusive than those huge windmills.
            I’m thinking of various corkscrew-shaped wind collectors that can not only make equal use of even the most turbulent, erratic breezes of “concrete canyons”, but don’t have to be mounted vertically!
            I’m not sure if Aerotecture.com is still a going concern, but their site has a wealth of information about the technology.

    • Abby Hayes says:

      Thanks, Sarita.

      That’s a good point about living simply. It’s definitely best from a financial standpoint, and I think it’s probably just better for us holistically, too.

      And the emergency fund is so important. Though maybe less so if your spouse/partner has a steady job that pays the bills. I mean, everyone needs an emergency fund, but how much you need depends on your circumstances!

      Though $13,000/year is impressive. Living on a shoestring budget, indeed!
      Abby Hayes recently posted…Hello world!My Profile

  10. peachfront says:

    Good article but I must say that I personally don’t think 4x your annual salary by age 55 is enough any more. We set that goal years ago but eventually realized it wasn’t even remotely close to what we would need if we had a life expectancy of more than a few years in retirement. Just my opinion though. Writers do not necessarily have to permanently retire, which may be one of the best things about the job.

    @ mike Living in New Orleans and having spent a lot of time in Nevada, I know literally dozens of people who lost everything investing in real estate. Trailer parks? Seriously? Seems to me most people are going to lose money trying to collect rent from people so broke they’re living in a trailer park. Good luck with that, sir.
    peachfront recently posted…Fun with internet hoax-bustingMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      My grandparents owned rental property and while they ended up selling it and doing well, they were lucky if it broke even the years they operated it — something always breaking, bad tenants trashing the place, you name it.

      I’m with you Elaine — I think one advantage is that what we do is not physically laborious, and we love doing it, so we can scale back rather than ‘retire.’ Which means you don’t need to save as much.

      Whether the 4x savings formula works anymore I think depends in part on how much you make. If your income is still low at that age, it probably isn’t enough. I think the formula assumes you’re cracking six figures by then.

    • Mike Johnson says:

      Hiya Peachfront,

      I’m not selling anything, just trying to show folks there are other options than having to work decades before they can retire.

      I’ve been successfully earning income from trailer parks for over 10 years now, so my “luck has been good.” For six consecutive years, in the sweet spot of my writing career back in the 1990’s, I was earning what would be over $100K a year today, from writing.

      I exceeded that six-year total in my first three years with trailer parks and it was mostly passive. It’s only gotten better over the years. If I told you how much I’ve exceeded that writing income through today by providing clean, functional, affordable housing at market rates to people who willingly ask for it, you’d never believe me.

      And shame on you for stereotyping people who choose to live in trailers. It’s a more private option than sharing walls in an apartment and less costly than a stick-built house. It also allows people to economically own their own home free and clear. All trailer parks aren’t run like ghettos and all trailer park tenants aren’t deadbeats.

      There is always information that the average man on the street does not have. Only about 5% of the population is financially independent. That 5% actively looks for, and uses the info that others don’t have. As a writer, you have every opportunity to look for information that can rock your world. I hope you find it.

      MJ

    • Abby Hayes says:

      Good point. I think writers also have good writing-related passive or low-maintenance income options, too.

      JD Roth over at Get Rich Slowly started the blog, but has backed off and left much of the day-to-day to staff writers now, I think. And you can always do written products that can continue to sell after you “retire.”
      Abby Hayes recently posted…Hello world!My Profile

      • Carol Tice says:

        I think he actually sold that site, Abby.

        • Abby Hayes says:

          You’re right. Sorry for the misinformation. I do currently work for a client, though, who is slowly doling out more pieces of his personal finance blog. He’s not ready to retire yet, but by the time he is, he could just manage his blog from afar for a few hours a week.
          Abby Hayes recently posted…Hello world!My Profile

  11. Thanks so much for this, Abby! I think saving for retirement is one thing a lot of freelancers forget to budget for, but it’s just as important as setting aside money for taxes.

    Another suggestion I’ve heard is to designate certain income streams as retirement savings, for example reprints of articles or website revenue. But for that you need to keep an eye on things to make sure you’re not surpassing any limits.
    Katharine Paljug recently posted…10 Ways to Find InspirationMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      That’s exactly what I’m doing with one of my freelance clients right now, Katharine — I’m using their checks to build my emergency fund, which has always been frighteningly small, and to fuel automatic monthly deductions to my SEP-IRA, which I just FINALLY automated a couple years ago!

      Makes a big difference in how much you’ve got put away at year-end, and it’s fairly painless. You don’t miss the money the way you do if you have to trot down to the bank in April and stuff thousands into your account all at once to lower your tax nut.

    • Abby Hayes says:

      That’s a really good suggestion, especially if you’ve got several regular clients or income streams!
      Abby Hayes recently posted…Hello world!My Profile

  12. Mike Johnson says:

    I’m a freelance writer who wrote his way to early retirement at age 52. I’ve also invested 10,000+ hours studying the US financial and political systems. I’d like to share a few tips that can get motivated writers to early retirement in months rather than years or decades.

    First, we need to take a look at what savers up against. REAL inflation is actually running nearly 10% (ShadowStats.com). If you’re surprised at this, it is only because you’re unaware the federal government keeps changing the formula to make inflation look lower than it actually is. This means that your savings and investments must earn 10% per year just to MAINTAIN your purchasing power. Anything less and you actually become poorer, despite your saving and investing.

    In 2013, the average rate of return on a $100,000 bank CD was 0.24%. That’s a quarter of one percent. In 2013, the grocery division of Hormel, the makers of Spam, grew by 24.0% (twenty-four percent). We live in an investment world where a can of Spam earns 100 times greater rate of return than $100,000 cash sitting in a bank. You should fire your banker and hire your oinker.

    In addition, the federal government has just created a “retirement account” called myRA that invests in treasury bonds. Why? Treasury bonds are what the federal government sells to get the cash to pay its bills. The federal government is insolvent right now and actually borrows or counterfeits about 50% of its budget just to pay the bills. Many suspect that the feds will soon be so desperate for money that they’ll force ALL retirement accounts to invest in treasury bonds.

    Even worse, US banks are tweaking their deposit agreements to allow “bail-ins” where if the bank suffers a loss, they can steal depositors’ money to cover that loss.

    So in today’s world, saving is a losing proposition for most people and your savings are not nearly as safe as you’re led to believe.

    But the good news is that you are a writer. That gives you the power to read anything, interview anyone, and then write about it, becoming an authority on that topic. You can then use what you learn about that topic in your own life, creating the retirement you desire. If you’re motivated, you can retire in months. Here’s how.

    Experts tell you the way to retire is to save and invest a million or two and then live off the interest or earnings. Millions of seniors who have followed this advice for decades are now shocked to see this isn’t working. Banks are paying 0.24% on bank CDs which is $2,400 per year on a million dollar deposit. No one can live on that. So they are forced into riskier “investments” and still earn less than 10% on their money, which has them losing purchasing power, which makes their lifestyle continually decline.

    If the goal is to gain a passive, monthly income that exceeds your monthly personal bills so you can retire, there is a much easier way to do this.

    Just teach yourself how to BUY an income stream. There are millions of businesses and properties that generate passive income. Hundreds of thousands of them are for sale right now. Just buy one and gain the passive income for yourself!

    After 12 years of active freelance writing I did this with multi-unit residential rental properties. Specifically, trailer parks. I self-educated myself on how to buy them and operate them and then used my writing skills to write the proposals to banks and sellers that closed the deals. I bought my first park for just $1,000 down. It earns enough to pay all park expenses, a manager to run it and all my personal bills too. It is 95% passive. I now own two parks and my only “job” is to manage my managers.

    I’m still a writer for fun and profit, but I no longer NEED to earn anything from my writing. I “retired” at age 52 but had I known this shortcut earlier, there’s no reason I couldn’t have retired by age 25.

    There are many other forms of passive income. You’ll likely choose something else. But the point is, learning how to buy passive income streams is the short route to retirement. And owning an income stream that you can touch and control is far more secure than paper or digits sitting in a bank or brokerage account.

    You’re a writer! You can read anything, interview anyone who has already bought income streams and become an authority on passive income. Now use that information for yourself. If you use the money in your retirement account to do this today, you can “retire” tomorrow. If you don’t have any money saved yet, you can self-educate yourself on how to buy income streams with little or no money down. People are doing this every day.

    “Retirement” is immediately possible as soon as your passive monthly income exceeds your monthly bills. You can achieve this at any age. You don’t have to work 40 years and wait until you’re 65 to do this! This type of knowledge is yet one more reason why I say writing is a Super Power.

    Good luck!

    MJ

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Mike —

      I’m thrilled that real-estate investing worked out well for you. It’s a well-known fact that most of the great fortunes in this country originated in real estate. I’ve been a personal-finance and business-finance reporter for 20 years, and have had a chance to learn a lot about investing along the way.

      While it’s true that it’s tough to earn a secure, decent return these days from a bank, I know many people who lost everything investing in real estate! It’s not exactly a low-risk endeavor, as everyone who bought a house in 2008 that now has an underwater mortgage well knows. Rents rise and fall, as do property values. Neighborhoods go downhill, and one bad tenant can destroy property or empty out a complex.

      I know others who’ve assured me they’ve put it all in gold and that’s going to be their retirement security. Equally risky and volatile.

      Despite its fluctuations, over long timeframes stock market returns have reliably done well — the trick is not to panic and sell when the market declines. Experts I’ve spoken with recently say we should all stay fully invested even after retirement because we’re going to live so long, we need to continue to see high returns.

      I totally agree with you that as writers, we have the chance to learn about ways to make money. I personally think creating your own ebooks and other information products to sell may offer the retirement income opportunity many writers need. Write it once, sell it forever! And it’s really zero risk, except for your time investment.

      PS — .24% on $1 million is $24,000, not $2400. I know plenty of people who can live on that plus Social Security, which might double that figure, depending on how they take the benefit and how much they’ve worked. But obviously, it’s not exactly the high life.

      • Mike Johnson says:

        Hi Carol,

        I think this is a great post for writers who may never consider some of the points we’re making.

        Darn math gets tricky when you start tossing in decimal points.

        10% (a tenth) of a million is 100,000
        1% (a hundreth) of a million is 10,000
        0.24% (a quarter of one percent) of a million is 2,400

        It would take a 2.4% return on a million to get $24,000 a year. If only.

        So the returns are as pitiful as I presented. The interest banks pay today is almost criminal when you consider people saved and invested their entire lives expecting to get a decent interest rate to fund their retirement. Basically, they are learning that their life’s work has been ripped away and they can’t afford to retire. It’s a spectacular tragedy.

        Stock prices are in an unsustainable bubble so retired people can’t put there money there for gains. Just yesterday, the hotel chain La Quinta went public and was bought at a price equal to 47 times annual earnings. This is insane. In the real world, a good hotel that you would buy to operate yourself sells for 3 to 5 times annual earnings (trailer parks take far less work than a hotel so sell for about 10 times annual earnings). There are studies that show that after you factor in real inflation, there have been no real gains in the stock markets since 1980.

        I agree real estate does have a big learning curve. And most people who fail at it, get into it with too few units. The number of units is the key. More units = more spreading of the risk from one or several tenants. If you have one dwelling and it’s vacant, you’re 100% vacant. If it’s damaged, you’re 100% damaged. Multiple units spread these risks over a much larger income. The magic number looks to be about 30 units. That gives you enough income to pay all your property bills and pay a manager to run the property plus throw off several thousands to appy toward your monthly personal bills.

        I picked trailer parks because they are less expensive per unit. This allows you to buy over 30 units at once. 30 + units reduces your risk, increases your gains and allows you to handle several vacancies without freaking out. It also generates reserves to handle repairs or the unexpected. You can do the same with single family homes or apartments but they cost far more, so are harder to get into.

        Using single family homes as rentals is often a bad idea because the cost per unit is so high, and the maximum rents you can charge still doesn’t leave enough monthly profit to justify the expense. Over time you may make out because the tenant is paying your mortgage which is like giving you a free house. When you sell, you may have a nice gain. But to retire immediately, you look for deals that produce monthly profit that exceeds your monthly personal bills FIRST. If the property increases in value over time, (and it will if you manage it correctly to keep increasing income) that is a nice bonus.

        The family home is rarely a good investment when you factor in repairs, taxes, insurance and inflation. In times of high inflation, the family home can work out well because you are paying back your mortgage in worth-less dollars while the value of the home in dollars is going up. Then when you sell, the gains are mostly non-taxable. But family homes provide peace-of-mind benefits that can exceed the value of profits so I support people buying their own home if they can afford it.

        But back to writing, there are many other passive income streams that writers can investigate. Many businesses generate enough income to pay a manager so those can be mostly passive. I agree ebooks can be a good, passive, risk-free income source. But the percent of people who sell more than a few hundred books is very small. That too, takes self-education and motivation to succeed.

        I guess my biggest point to writers is that you will want to retire one day. Some of you want that day to be today! If your goal is to save enough money so you can live off your investments’ passive income, why not just skip the decades it’ll take to save that million? Starting today, on the side, while you still work, you can apply your writer’s skills of research, reading and interviewing to self-educate yourself on how to BUY that passive income stream decades sooner than you can ever save the million dollars that you hope will generate it.

        Good luck!

        MJ

        • Carol Tice says:

          I’m with you — I want freelance writers to think “I can make a lot and retire,” not “this a subsistence, starvation, situation.”

          I’m getting 1% on CDs, not a quarter of a percent…so I think some available rates are better than you’ve stated. And interest rates WILL have to go up sometime again, and static returns will rebound.

          I highly recommend people read Your Money or Your Life to learn more about liberating cash for saving for retirement in whatever mode you do it, from investing in income property to stocks to CDs.

          Just checked and I’m seeing 2.3% rates on 5yr CDs…so it’s not quite as black as you’ve painted it in terms of financial product returns, Mike.

          • Abby Hayes says:

            I’ve heard good things about Your Money or Your Life, Carol. I’ll add it to my reading list.
            Abby Hayes recently posted…Hello world!My Profile

          • Mike Johnson says:

            Hi Carol,

            In my CD example I used the one-year, $100,000 rate average for 2013 which was 0.24%. I agree a longer term CD pays more. There is no way I’d want to tie up my money for 5 years for a piddly 2.3%. Especially when REAL inflation is over 9% (ShadowStats.com) per year right now. Each year your purchasing power is dropping FOUR TIMES the amount of your gains. Now multiply that over 5 years. OUCH!

            What all the savers and investors here are ignoring is that their purchase power is dropping over 9% per year right now. I’m not making this up. ShadowStats.com does a great job explaining how the feds have kept changing the way they calculate inflation. The lower they make it look, the less they have to pay out in Cost of Living increases to Social Security recipients.

            So any savings or investments that earn less than 9% a year are still LOSING money, despite the illusion of gains. Worse yet, when you sell the asset at the higher, illusionary gains, you have to pay tax on those gains. So in reality, you get bit twice — your money buys less, despite it looking like it buys more, and then you are taxed on the “higher” gains that really aren’t higher at all!

            In today’s manipulated financial world, financial education requires far more than just following “mainstream” advice. You have to dig deep to see what is really happening and understand the forces that are destroying everyone’s wealth.

            MJ

            • Carol Tice says:

              Honestly, I have to say I don’t feel like my cost of living has gone up 10% a year. Except the year I sent my kid to college — a lot of the crazy inflation is in the tuition issue. So not sure I buy into that logic.

              But whatever writers think the inflation rate really is, the reality is most of us need to sock away a lot more money than we’re doing.

  13. Great advice…!

    Just wanted to add that for UK based writers, if you are looking to invest in a pension, you want to research SIPP’s (self-invested personal pension).

    They are the main pension pot alternative for the self-employed (after you have maxed out your ISA each year).
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    • Abby Hayes says:

      Thanks, Katherine. As you can tell, I’m much less familiar with the UK system!
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      • Karen J says:

        Thanks for this oh-so-helpful post, Abby (and Carol)!
        I’m still in the “can I afford both food and gas this week?” stage, but real steps in the *how to* plan for later (not useless platitudes) tools will come in handy in the near future!

        For you UK-based people, I’d like to suggest you take a look at this accountant / blogger / coach: Rosie Slosek at http://OneManBandAccounting.co.uk/.

        I started following her before she even narrowed her focus to the UK! And her more general “how to keep your books” posts are *still* helpful for us micro-business-folk, no matter what (my) physical location. 😉

        Happy Wednesday to you!
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