If you're among the 10.6 million Americans who are self-employed, you know that being your own boss brings some serious rewards. Steering your own vessel gives you a freedom and control that just can't be found in traditional employment. But there are also some unique challenges associated with working for yourself. That's particularly true when it comes to personal finances.
While traditional employees have steady salaries and corporate-backed benefits, 63% of respondents in a recent self-employment survey from TD Ameritrade said they don't have access to things like paid vacation, better health care packages and professional support. That complicates things when it comes to financial goals both large and small.
Over half (55%) of those surveyed said they're behind in saving for retirement, and 48% said the inability to predict income is a problem. The good news is that these hurdles don't mean self-employment is a bad choice or that it spells doom for personal financial plans. It just means you need to look at your goals a little differently. If you're self-employed, things you may want to consider include:
Separate the business from the personal.
This is a tough one for many small-business owners and self-employed individuals. When you feel like the business is an extension of yourself, it's difficult to divide the two, but it's essential to do just that. Many entrepreneurs and financial professionals say business goals should be set apart from personal goals, and the financial aspect of both should be separate. Consider these steps to establish separate plans:
- Determine the legal structure the business will take
- Determine financing for the business
- Understand the difference between personal assets and company expenses
- Pay yourself a set salary
The bottom line is to keep a firm division between personal and business.
Business owners tend to be an optimistic group. Sometimes that enables you to take risks that could pay off in a big way, but it's also something to be aware of as you set personal goals. Don't let a false sense of security keep you from acting. Saving for retirement, whether it's through an IRA or a small-business retirement plan, for example, doesn't come together on its own. It takes deliberate planning. Even small savings can help you work toward a larger goal like retirement, but it's important to take those steps and set milestones. People who save regularly (even if it's not a huge amount) are more likely to arrive in retirement prepared.
You should also think realistically about your time and take a moment to consider what type of retirement plan is best for you. If you're busy running your business, you may not have time to monitor a retirement account, for instance. A managed portfolio can help with personal investments while you concentrate on growing the business.
Remember that you don't have to go it alone.
There are a lot of things you do yourself. You may be the marketing department, chief technology officer and more. That doesn't mean you have to forge ahead alone when it comes to finances. Whether you're self-employed and need to fund your own retirement or own a small business and want to create a financial future for yourself and your employees, there are a variety of small-business retirement resources to help identify the right investment for you.
Or you can talk to a financial professional who specializes in self-employed and small-business support. These professionals can help decipher the various different savings and investing vehicles and educate you about managed portfolios, as well as more high-touch advisory offerings.
Find a balance.
Working more may not be the answer to every money question. Your financial well-being depends on your personal well-being. Think about how many hours you can work and still be happy. You may be willing to invest a lot of time into starting and running a business, which is fine. But it's important to keep it in perspective and dial back if you're starting to feel burnt out. Your financial potential and the likelihood of reaching your goals will suffer irreparable damage if you don't take care of yourself. After all, most people wouldn't work for a boss who never let them have a day off. You need to treat yourself with the same consideration you'd expect from others.
When you choose to be self-employed, you take on new freedoms and responsibilities. The financial responsibilities don't have to be a burden. With the right insights and perspective, this can be another way you control your own future.
TD Ameritrade, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC. Stock investing is subject to risks, including risk of loss. Commentary provided for educational purposes only. Past performance of a security, strategy, or index is no guarantee of future results or investment success.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor.