Freelancing & Catching Up on Retirement Savings at 50: This S**t Just Got Real!

The first post I uploaded to Medium was entitled, “50, Broke & Scared to Death about Retirement: How I Turned It Around & You Can Too.” It details my financial journey to disaster, and realizing I had to do something different if I was going to play catch up in saving for retirement at 50.

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From $600 to $6,000/Month: The Rollercoaster Ride of a Freelance Income

As a freelance writer, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that freelancing can be like being on a rollercoaster with your finances. I’ve had months where I’ve earned $5,000 or $6,000, then there’ll be months where I’ll earn $500 or $600. Yeah, it can fluctuate that wildly! Note: I’ve learned to stabilize my freelance income these days. How is discussed a bit more later.

Usually, I don’t like to get too much into specifics about finances, but in that post on Medium, I lay it all out, including exact expenses, how I found myself in such a financial pickle after years of freelancing, and how I turned it around.

Catching Up on Retirement Savings: Whatever You Do, Start Today

If you’re younger – especially in your 20s and 30s and you’re freelancing or thinking about freelancing — I BEG you to read this post. Why? Because these are your compounding interest years. And boy, let me tell ya, I wish I’d been more money savvy in my 20s, and didn’t have so much faith that things would “work out just fine,” in my 30s.

I’ve always been a pretty good saver, having a good nest egg under me. But that can disappear quickly with a major hiccup like a job loss in a down economy — as my post on Medium details. Besides that, saving for retirement is about so much more than having an emergency fund, of course.

Saving for retirement — especially when you’re playing catch up, is about investing — and this doesn’t have to be complicated. It can literally be as simple as investing in a few good mutual funds on a automatic basis (eg, monthly). I like mutual funds because they’re an easy way for a novice to invest without too much risk.

FYI, I like Vanguard; have invested with them for years. And no, this is not an affiliate link or anything; I’m just a happy investor.

Playing Catch Up on Saving for Retirement at 50+: It’s Never too Late to Start

The point is, the earlier you start saving for retirement, the less you’ll have to worry about playing catchup later. As I say in the title of this post, “At 50, this s**t just got real.” I take comfort in that I’m not alone though. Proof? According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute:

Nearly a third of Americans age 55 and older have saved less than $10,000 for retirement … [and] Only 22% have saved $250,000 or more.

So see, you’re not alone!

4 Things I Did to Boost My Retirement Savings in the Last Few Years

I turned 50 in 2016. A few years ago, I took some drastic actions to be able to see my way to a comfortable retirement. This included:Retirement Savings: How to Play Catch Up at 50

  • Downsizing;
  • Getting completely out of debt;
  • Investing more every month; and
  • Reassessing what my retirement years were gonna look like.

I’m not on track to have the retirement I thought I’d have in my 20s and 30s. But, I’m on track to have a stress-free, debt-free retirement. And that’s what I’ve always wanted — financial security; not having to worry if I’ll be able to pay my bills every month when I retire.

If I hadn’t taken the drastic action I outlined in the Medium post, I wouldn’t be on this track.

Exercise: It’s as Important to Retirement as Saving

One more quick thing I wanted to add is exercise. I take care of myself physically so I don’t fall prey to preventable diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure because medical costs are no joke.

I don’t want to be spending hundreds per month on pills I have to take to stay alive if I had just taken better care of myself.

I’ve been a runner since I was 18. I’ve completed 10 marathons to date, and although I fall off the exercise wagon and pack on a few extra pounds now and then, I always hop right back on it before things get too out of hand.

These days, I’m doing less falling off because the older you get, the harder it is to get those pounds off.

How Much Should You Be Saving for Retirement?

To me, some of the numbers that financial experts throw out are just ridiculous. I know people who live quite happily on a lot less than is quoted in articles you read on the subject.

Here’s a suggested guideline though. Couldn’t very well write a post about saving for retirement without discussing how much you should be saving.

The one thing I’d always keep in mind when thinking about retirement is debt. If you can get out of it and stay out of it, you’ll be a lot further down the road to a happy retirement. So if you don’t do anything else right now, just work on doing that. Then, after you do that, think about ways you can add to your existing income.

How I Stabilized My Freelance Income In Order to Save More for Retirement

I’m self-employed as a freelance writer, but I’ve added other more passive income streams, eg: affiliate marketing; self-publishing my own line of ebooks (fiction and non-fiction);  and developing and teaching ecourses.

It’s all writing — but these income streams are more in my control, as opposed to depending on client work. This has helped stabilize my income to a large degree. And a bonus is, barring any mental or physical problems, I can ostensibly continue this work or the rest of my life (lucky me, cuz I love what I do and can’t imagine retiring altogether).

Are You on Track with Your Retirement Goals, or Will You Have to Play Catch Up?

Playing catchup when trying to save for retirement ain’t no joke. But the silver lining is, it can be done. I’m living proof of it. Is retirement something you think about? Why/why not? Do you have a retirement plan? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

P.S.: Add to Your Existing Income: Start a PT (or FT) Biz as a Freelance Writer.

Here’s a practically fail-proof way to get started. Proof? This freelancer earned $20,000 in one month.

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    1. A freelancer I’m keeping anonymous because she emailed me personally wrote, “This is an area where I really suck i.e. I have no retirement plan. Your article in your newsletter definitely got me thinking about doing it NOW. Thank you!

      I know it’s so hard to write about stuff where we wish we’d done better ourselves, but I wanted to share that you definitely helped me!”
      Yuwanda, Site Editor recently posted…Freelance Writers: How to Deal with Clients Who’ve Been Burned by Other FreelancersMy Profile

      • Following is what I emailed her back:

        You’re welcome. That’s my goal — to help others. As freelancers, it’s not an area many of us give enough thought to — not nearly enough.

        I have a 23 yr old nephew in the Air Force. I bug him TO DEATH about retirement. B/c of me, he’s well on his way to possibly becoming my family’s first millionaire (well, family that I know and am in touch with regularly). If you start early, it’s crazy how little amounts of $$ add up. Compound interest; it ain’t no joke.

        I keep my investing simple — mutual funds and auto deposit. Most months, I don’t even look at my statements.

        You’re much younger than me, so trust me, even if you just put $100/month in a trusted mutual fund now, you’ll thank yourself in 20 or 30 years.

        Thanks for letting me know it helped. That made my day! :)”

        Retirement — if you live long enough, it’s gonna get here people. Start planning for it now. And the younger you start saving, the less you have to save to see big returns over the years.
        Yuwanda, Site Editor recently posted…Freelance Writers: How to Deal with Clients Who’ve Been Burned by Other FreelancersMy Profile

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