Working as a freelancer is a great gig. You often can set your own hours, work wherever/whenever you like, and let’s be honest , it great to be your own boss. While it’s great, one downside simply is the fact that freelancers rarely have access to healthcare and many other benefits full-time employees take for granted. This means freelancers have to identify and purchase their own health insurance, set up their own retirement funds and understand that they don’t receive paid vacation and sick days.

Recent surveys demonstrate freelancers don’t seem to mind, and show 70 percent said they’d rather buy their own benefits if it means taking home more pay, according to a 2017 survey of 6,000 people commissioned by Upwork, a popular freelancing platform and Freelancers Union.

There is an effort to increase the safety-net options for freelancers. In 2017, senators and representatives introduced into Congress a bill, titled “Portable Benefits for Independent Workers Pilot Program Act,” that would provide the Department of Labor with $20 million to create and test pilot programs designed to enable workers to take their retirement and health insurance plans with them as they move from job to job. Until this or similar bill passes, contract workers don’t have to devise their benefits plans wholly from scratch.

Plus, “there’s a lot of new financial startups right now that are finding ways to cater to freelancers and help them with everything from planning their finances to saving to sending invoices,” says Caitlin Pearce, executive director of Freelancers Union.

“It’s not always easy for freelancers to know all of what they need to protect themselves.”

   Caitlin Pearce – Executive Director of Freelancers Union

Health, Dental and Vision Insurance

The federal Affordable Care Act requires most people to have health care coverage or pay a penalty. If young enough, freelancers are covered by the insurance policies of their parents, spouses or domestic partners.

But a quarter of full-time freelancers buy their own health insurance, according to the Upwork/Freelancers Union survey. Some get theirs through the ACA individual Health Insurance Marketplace, which enables self-employed people to buy a plan. Others purchase insurance through group plans offered by professional associations or chambers of commerce.

If for whatever reason insurance is not a viable option, benefit discount programs can help freelancers save money on the everyday services, like healthcare, dental, vision, even pet care and more.

Retirement Funds

Retirement Funds save money for the future. Freelancers should acquire good advice when it comes to saving money, and understanding what is needed to someday retire. In lieu of having a retirement plan benefit, freelancers should open IRA or Roth IRA accounts, advises Emily Brandon, senior editor for retirement at U.S. News and author of “Pensionless: The 10-Step Solution for a Stress-Free Retirement.” They offer similar tax breaks as 401(k) plans but aren’t tied to employment.

Account holders can deposit up to $5,500 a year in 2018; workers ages 50 and older can contribute up to $6,500. For traditional IRAs, investors deposit money that hasn’t been taxed; they pay taxes when they withdraw funds. For Roth IRA accounts, investors deposit money on which they’ve already paid taxes. When they withdraw money, it usually isn’t taxed.

Legal & Financial Advice

Freelancers don’t have access to human resources departments where they can consult and receive help filing government forms. It’s important for freelancers to get solid advice when they’re setting up their shop to avoid legal and financial mistakes.

This may mean seeking help from a lawyer when drawing up contracts used to make agreements with clients, or it could mean finding an accountant to help figure out which expenses may count as business deductions when filing taxes.

Conclusion

Wouldn’t it be nice to have one resource that can help with most benefits freelancers need? Benefits 4U Now provides a discount program that saves you time and money, for a fraction of the cost of regular insurance.