Back Button

Comprehensive Guide to Retirement Planning for Freelancers in the U.S.

Arno Yeramyan

The advantages and disadvantages of being a freelancer can be different for everyone. But one of the biggest disadvantages of freelancing is that retirement planning is often postponed or put on the back burner.

Unlike regular employees, freelancers are responsible for managing their own retirement savings. Retirement for freelancers in the United States can seem daunting. By understanding the retirement plans and alternative retirement savings options, freelancers can avoid financial anxiety as a freelancer and take control of their financial futures, building a secure retirement plan tailored to their needs.

Because there are a variety of retirement plan options to suit the needs of freelancers.

Let’s check out the various freelancer retirement plan options available in the US.

Challenges Faced by Freelancers in Retirement Planning

Freelancing allows you to work with flexible hours and rules, the freedom to do what you want and to be your own boss. However, it also comes with unique challenges, particularly in areas like retirement planning. Freelancers have to make their own way through the complicated world of retirement savings, in contrast to regular employees who frequently have access to employer-sponsored retirement plans.

Some challenges faced by freelancers in retirement planning include:

  • Income Volatility: Income irregularity is the biggest problem of freelancers. When their income fluctuates too much, it is difficult to consistently save a specific amount for retirement. Unlike salaried employees who get a regular salary, freelancers must manage their cash flow proactively to be able to meet both their short and long-term financial goals. Most freelancers also do not run a payroll, hence the problem of freelancer proof of income required by most retirement plans.
  • Lack of Employer-Sponsored Plans: Traditional retirement plans such as 401(k)s and pensions are typically offered by employers to their employees. However, freelancers do not have access to these employer-sponsored plans. Rather, they need to look for other retirement savings solutions that are designed especially for freelancers.
  • Restricted Benefits Access: While freelancers may have the freedom to set their own schedules and choose their clients, they are also responsible for funding their own benefits such as medical coverage, paid time off, and retirement savings.
  • Tax Considerations: Unlike employees who may benefit from employer-sponsored retirement contributions that reduce their taxable income, freelancers must navigate the tax implications of various retirement savings options on their own.
  • Long-Term Financial Security: Freelancers often lack the safety net of traditional employment, such as employer-provided pensions or Social Security benefits. As a result, freelancers must take proactive steps to ensure their long-term financial security in retirement. This may involve creating a comprehensive retirement savings strategy that accounts for potential income fluctuations, healthcare costs, and other expenses in retirement.

Alternative Retirement Savings Options for Freelancers in the U.S

Freelancers in the U.S. have several retirement plan options, allowing them to save for retirement while enjoying the flexibility of their freelance career:

Individual Retirement Account (IRA)

In the US, an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is an option that has two main types: Traditional and Roth.

A Traditional IRA lets your contributions grow tax-deferred. That means you might get a tax break now, but when you withdraw the money in retirement, it'll be taxed as income. Roth IRAs work a bit differently. You contribute money that's already been taxed, but the payoff is fantastic - qualified withdrawals in retirement, including any earnings, are completely tax-free.

The government restricts how much you can stash away each year in either type of IRA. But the good news is, you have a bunch of investment options inside your IRA, like stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and even fancy-sounding Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs).

Deciding between a Traditional or Roth IRA depends on your goals, where you see yourself tax-wise in retirement, and your current tax situation. It can get a little tricky, so you may want to consult a financial advisor at this point.

Solo 401(k)

A Solo 401(k) is a retirement savings plan intended for self-employed people or business owners who do not have any full-time workers aside from their spouse. This special retirement plan, sometimes called an Individual 401(k) or Self-Employed 401(k), offers distinct advantages for those who don't have a team of full-time employees.

Compared to other retirement options, Solo 401(k)s allow you to stash away significantly more each year. Plus, you get to wear two hats: contribute as both the business owner and the employee.

Investment flexibility is another perk. You can choose from a variety of options, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and even ETFs. So you can tailor your investments to your specific financial goals and risk tolerance.

Simple IRA (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees)

A SIMPLE IRA, or Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees, can be the perfect choice for your retirement savings needs if you are running a small business with less than 100 employees. Because employees can contribute a portion of their salary towards their retirement, similar to a traditional IRA. But the beauty of a SIMPLE IRA is the employer contribution. You, as the business owner, get to choose how you want to contribute. You can either match employee contributions dollar-for-dollar up to 3% of their salary, or simply make a flat 2% contribution for all eligible employees.

The SIMPLE IRA is much easier for you when compared to other retirement plans like 401(k)s. This means less paperwork and hassle for you. Plus, your contributions are tax-deductible, and your employees' contributions grow tax-deferred until they withdraw the money in retirement.

Keogh Plans

Keogh Plans might be worth considering since it is a tax-deferred retirement plan designed for freelancers and unincorporated businesses, particularly those with significant income. These plans offer tax advantages similar to traditional 401(k)s, but cater specifically to the self-employed.

There are two main types: defined contribution and defined benefit. Defined contribution Keogh Plans, like most retirement accounts, allow you to contribute a set amount each year, up to an IRS limit. Defined benefit plans, on the other hand, guarantee a specific retirement income, but require more complex calculations to determine your contribution amount.

Health Savings Account (HSA)

You can think of an HSA as a triple tax-advantaged savings account. Contributions you make go in tax-free, any interest or growth on the money is tax-free, and qualified medical expenses can be withdrawn tax-free. High-deductible health plan (HDHP) enrollees can open a tax-advantaged savings account called a Health Savings Account (HSA). HSAs allow account holders to save money for qualified medical expenses, such as deductibles, copayments, and certain other healthcare costs, on a tax-free basis.

Unlike flexible spending accounts (FSAs), unused funds in your HSA roll over year after year, allowing your savings to accumulate.

While Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are primarily designed to help manage medical costs, they can also be a sneaky good tool for retirement savings. Here's the catch: you'll need to be enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) to qualify.

Benefits from Social Security

You may be wondering, “Do freelancers pay social security?” The answer is yes. Just as those who work for an employer must pay Social Security taxes, so too must self-employed persons. Employers are supposed to pay half of the Social Security tax burden, whereas self-employed individuals pay the whole amount.

And because self-employed people pay Social Security taxes, they are eligible for retirement benefits. Your lifetime earnings and the amount you pay into Social Security during your working years will determine your benefits.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Retirement Plan for Freelancers

  • Income and Cash Flow: You need to properly assess your current level and average income. Since you will be making ongoing contributions to your retirement plan, it is very important to choose the plan that best suits your income.
  • Tax Situation: Taking into account not only your current tax situation but also potential future taxes is a step that can improve your retirement plan.
  • Contribution Caps: The IRS sets different contribution caps for various retirement plans. You should be aware of the maximum amount you can contribute annually and remember to align it with your savings goals.
  • Employer Contributions: If you have the option of a retirement plan that offers employer matching contributions, such as a Solo 401(k) or SIMPLE IRA, factor in the potential benefits of employer contributions in maximizing your retirement savings.
  • Investment Options and Flexibility: It is important to know the investment options offered in each retirement plan and how they match your risk tolerance and investment strategy. You need to determine at the outset whether you need a wide range of investment options or a simpler approach.
  • Administrative Complexity: Some retirement plans, like Solo 401(k)s and Keogh Plans, may have more administrative requirements and costs compared to others, such as IRAs.
  • Future Business Growth and Hiring Plans: If you anticipate expanding your freelance business and potentially hiring employees in the future, consider retirement plans that accommodate growth and employee participation, such as SIMPLE IRAs or traditional 401(k)s.
  • Long-Term Financial Goals: You must align your retirement plan choice with your overall financial objectives, including saving for other goals like education expenses, homeownership, or healthcare needs in retirement.

Administrative Complexity:

2. Future Business Growth and Hiring Plans:

  • Planning for the future you. If you see yourself bringing on employees someday, then a SIMPLE IRA or traditional 401(k) might be a better fit. These plans allow for employee contributions, which can give you a bigger nest egg down the line.

3. Long-Term Financial Goals:

  • Retirement is just one piece of the puzzle. Consider if you have other savings goals, like buying a house or funding your children's education. Some plans, like HSAs, might offer more contribution flexibility to address these needs alongside retirement savings.


Despite these challenges, a freelancer has unique non employer retirement plans that they can consider. Choosing the right retirement plan requires careful consideration of various factors, including income, tax free retirement options, and long-term financial goals. By weighing these factors and understanding the unique features of each retirement plan option, freelancers can make informed decisions to secure their financial future in retirement. Seeking guidance from financial advisors or tax professionals can further enhance the decision-making process, ensuring that the chosen retirement plan aligns with individual needs and objectives.


Join the 70.000+ talents using Ruul.
Have doubts? Read 270+ reviews here.

  • Invoice clients without a company
  • Get paid in 24 hours
  • Connect bank accounts or wallets
  • No client sign up required
What does Ruul do?
Who is Ruul for?
How does Ruul work?
Is there a subscription fee?
How long does it take for me to receive the payment?
How does my client pay?
What about taxes?