Financial strategies for contract workers

Flexibility and freedom are two words that typically come to mind when you think of contract or part-time work. However, with flexibility and freedom, there can be financial uncertainty. But don’t worry. With a little planning ahead, you could be well on your way toward financial wellbeing.
If you don’t have the safety net of employer benefits or have a retirement plan and are looking for financial strategies, here are some ways that can help put you on more solid financial ground.

Have 3-6 months of savings

As a contractor or part-time worker, your income likely tends to ebb and flow. Having an emergency fund with enough savings to cover three to six months’ worth of your critical expenses can help ensure you can pay your bills even during times of low employment.

Know what you owe

If you’re doing contract work and don’t want taxes withheld from your pay, you’ll need to make estimated quarterly state and federal tax payments. A tax professional can help you determine how much to budget for taxes and how to file.

Take advantage of savings tools

Contract workers and part-time employees can take advantage of the savings tools below to help plan for and meet important financial goals.
  • 529 college savings plans2: Money invested in these state-sponsored plans can be withdrawn federal income tax-free if you use them to pay for qualified educational expenses, such as tuition, books and supplies. You can open one for anyone, including your children or yourself. Keep in mind that non-qualified withdrawals may be subject to federal and state taxes and the additional 10% federal tax.
  • Traditional IRA: If you’re not eligible to contribute to a workplace retirement plan, this account1 can be a good alternative. Money you contribute to a Traditional IRA grows tax-deferred until you withdraw it during retirement. If you’re in a lower tax bracket when you retire, you’ll pay less in taxes on your IRA earnings later than you would today.
  • Roth IRA: Unlike the Traditional IRA, a Roth IRA offers no upfront tax advantage1. However, it can be an excellent companion to a Traditional IRA or an employer-sponsored retirement plan. To be eligible to contribute to a Roth, you must meet certain income guidelines.
  • SEP, Simple Keogh and Solo Roth 401k plans: These accounts are all tax-deferred retirement plans for self-employed workers. Your tax advisor can help you determine which one is most appropriate for you. If you’re unsure of how much to save toward retirement, our tools and calculators can provide you with helpful guidance.
     
If you’re unsure of how much to save toward retirement, our tools and calculators can provide you with helpful guidance.
Employer benefits are not the only path to pursue financial security. Planning ahead, knowing what you owe, and taking advantage of saving tools can help contract or part-time workers on their journey toward their long-term savings goals—and it’s never too late to start.
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*TIAA does not provide legal or tax advice.  The tax information contained herein is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties. Taxpayers should seek advice from an independent tax advisor based on their own particular circumstances.
 
Income and withdrawal options are subject to the terms of the employer plan. Withdrawals of earnings from an after-tax retirement account and all withdrawals from a qualified retirement account are subject to ordinary income tax, plus a possible federal 10% penalty if you make a withdrawal before age 59 ½.
 
Most states offer a 529 college savings plan. Please refer to the Plan Disclosure Book on a state 529 plan’s website prior to investing, for details on risk, tax benefits, charges and expenses, and whether your home state offers tax or other benefits such as financial aid, scholarship funds, or protection from creditors for investing in its own 529 plan. Investments in the Plan are neither insured nor guaranteed and there is the risk of investment loss. Consult your legal or tax professional for tax advice, including the impact of the new federal tax changes.
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