Freelance Workers Have a New Way to Save for Retirement

The US Treasury's new myRA is an ideal savings solution self-employed people who want to retire one of these days.

learn more about Richard Ludlow

By Richard Ludlow


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Freelance photographers, Rod and Marlene Planck, have an eye for catching some of Mother Nature's most beautiful moments. The Michigan couple earns their living leading nature photography tours and workshops throughout the U.S. and Iceland.

Throughout their adventures, the Plancks have continued to keep an eye toward the future. After reading about myRA, a retirement savings option launched last year by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, they became one of the first self-employed teams to start saving with myRA.

"We've always been really good savers, and my first reaction was that this is a savings program that is safe," Marlene says.

While 76 percent of full-time private-sector workers have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan through their jobs, self-employed workers must seek other ways to begin saving.

Related: Retiring at 27: Ambitious, Lazy or Crazy?

Often they face barriers to doing so, such as fees, complexity and risk. That's one of the key reasons myRA, which President Obama announced during his 2014 State of the Union Address, was launched by the U.S. Treasury in 2015 as an easy way for all workers to begin saving for retirement. It's a simple, safe and affordable retirement account that helps workers get into the habit of saving while safely earning interest. Investments in a myRA account are backed by the U.S. Treasury, and there's no risk of losing money.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 15 million American workers were self-employed in 2015. Due to the nature of their jobs, many of these workers miss out on the opportunity to participate in employer-sponsored benefits, such as retirement savings plans. Lack of access to retirement savings plans is not just an issue for freelancers and the self-employed. Many workers, who are just beginning their careers and work multiple part-time jobs, face this challenge as well.

Related: The 10 Best U.S. Cities for Retirement

myRA can be an ideal savings solution for these employees. Much like the flexible nature of the freelance economy, a myRA account allows savers the freedom to save at one's own pace.

Since there are no minimum contribution requirements, savers can contribute as much or as little as fits their personal budgets, so long as it fits within Roth IRA limits and within the account maximum of $15,000. This flexibility can be especially important when income is unpredictable from month to month.

For self-employed professionals, who are also first-time savers, myRA can help them take an important step toward building a long-term savings habit by minimizing common barriers to saving. Since myRA is designed to help jumpstart retirement savings, savers can transfer or rollover their balances to private sector IRAs at any time before or once they reach $15,000.

Related: Breaking Down Retirement Plan Options for Small Businesses

Savers can also open and fund their myRA accounts in different ways - from a paycheck via direct deposit to a personal checking or savings account and through their federal tax refunds during tax time.

The flexibility of myRA allows them change their contributions based on their current budgets, which means they can contribute lump sums to their accounts, or deposit money on a monthly basis. These options allow entrepreneurs like the Plancks to easily move money from their personal accounts to their myRA accounts and to make changes to their contributions as frequently as they'd like.

For the Plancks, myRA is a key tool for realizing their vision of retirement. "We've worked really hard," Marlene says. "The beauty of having a husband and wife working as a partnership is that we have a really common goal in mind."

Richard Ludlow

myRA Executive Director at the U.S. Treasury

Richard Ludlow serves as Executive Director of the myRA program within the U.S. Department of the Treasury. He has previous experience as a founder and executive in Silicon Valley, where he managed the launch and growth of new initiatives in education and healthcare. Richard is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Business School.

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