Are you part of the “gig economy”? You’re likely enjoying the perks, like being your own boss, setting your own hours and working on projects you’re passionate about. But there are some things to consider. One in particular – the array of benefits available to full-time employees through their employers. So, how might you fill this benefits gap?
Retirement plan – When you work as an employee, you may have access to an employer-sponsored, tax-advantaged retirement plan. These types of plans allow you to save for retirement in a tax-advantaged way. As a gig worker, you may be able to get these same benefits through your own retirement plan. You can always contribute to a traditional or Roth IRA, but you can invest much more in other types of plans, such as a SEP IRA, a SIMPLE IRA and possibly even a “solo” 401(k). Your financial advisor can recommend the plan that would work best for you.
Insurance protection – As a gig worker, you’ll need to get your own life insurance, which is essential if you have anyone depending on you for financial support. You may also want to look for disability insurance to replace part of your income should you ever become temporarily unable to work because of illness or injury. It’s worth noting that some organizations for freelancers and self-employed individuals offer access to life and disability insurance, so you might want to do some research online to check out these groups. Last, you may also need to review your current property and liability coverages to make sure they are sufficient to cover any unexpected event that could occur while working.
Health insurance – Many mid- to-large-size employers offer health insurance to their employees, but as a gig worker, you’ll need to find your own, unless you’re covered by your spouse’s plan. In looking for health insurance, you may want to contact a “navigator,” the position created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to help individuals find coverage. You can find someone in your area by going to healthcare.gov and following the prompts. Depending on your income, you may be able to receive subsidies through the ACA.
Paid time off and unemployment insurance – Many full-time employees are given paid time off for sick leave and vacation. They may also receive unemployment insurance if they lose their jobs. Since most gig workers won’t have access to these benefits, it’s important to have an emergency fund available for unexpected (or even expected) income dips. Ideally, you’d want three to six months’ worth of living expenses in your emergency fund, but even a few hundred dollars can help create a lot more security to cover life’s unexpected events.
As a gig worker, you’ll have to take the initiative to close the benefits gap – but the opportunities are there, so do what you can to find them. It will be worth the effort.