Monday, March 07, 2011

I Love My Job Too Much to Retire, But . . .

When I speak at a conference dinner, I have one topic that I love to use - I love my job too much to ever retire. The point is to make people at parties think twice about belittling writing and not have a comeback because 90% of the population count the years, months and days to retirement. I don't.

But in reality, one day you just might retire. Whether you tire of the business or become physically unable to continue, you will set down your pen. At that time, how will you pay the bills? Nobody wants to think that far. It's critical that you do.

Save now. Even if it's pennies. Thinking ahead is how I was able to quit the day job and become a fulltime writer. Ten dollars a week in the bank. Then as I paid off a bill, I put that payment amount in the bank instead of letting it melt away and hide in my disposable income. After a couple of years, I was banking some serious coins! After three years, I turned in my papers and began to seriously write.

But a few years after I leaped into freelance writing, I began making a profit. And I hadn't paid taxes. Enter an IRA account. Now I put money into a self-employment designed IRA to save me from paying as many taxes, and to plan for the one day I won't be able to write.

You need three levels of savings, in my personal opinion.

  • You need instant income - for those sudden expenses like toner for the laserjet, a backup harddrive, a sudden airline ticket, or purchasing several hundred of your self-published book.
  • Then you need savings you can access without penalty. A savings that earns a little interest (little is very little these days, but it still adds up) but is there when your car dies, the air conditioner fries, or you break a hand and can't type for a couple of months.
  • And you  need a retirement account. You have a wide assortment, and this choice takes time. Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, SEP IRA. Find someone you trust to walk you through this, and that doesn't necessarily mean your banker. Your tax accountant might be able to help. A broker. A financial planner. But these funds are there for later, and you invest them in areas that build the best return for you in the meantime.
Short term - mid-tern - long-term. You need a balance among your accounts. Don't be afraid to save long-term, and never short-change yourself to where you have no immediate cash on hand. The balance is critical.

Even if you have to pass up a weekly latte or trip out for a burger, save. Even if it's $5/week, save. The point is to make it a habit. And it will be after a few months. Like eating fried food after six months of healthy eating, you'll regret backsliding because you've instilled the pattern in your life. Because one day, and there will be a "one day," you'll have a crisis, or a remarkable opportunity, and you won't be able to take advantage of it.

You don't want to find yourself emailing me, asking for some sort of emergency grant to keep the power on so you can keep your freelance career alive.


Mary Ingmire said...

Excellent advice for creative types who don't like to think about the mathmatics of being creative.

Susan said...

That was a thoughtful post, Hope. I think your suggestions are good for people in any profession. It's important to live in the moment but plan ahead while doing it! Susan

Laura M. Campbell said...

Thanks for the post. Recently, I've been looking into Roth IRA, but wasn't aware of the self-employment designed IRA. Looks like I have some researching to do.

widdershins said...

But... but... won't we be so famous that we'll never have to think about money again? ... seriously, great post.

JD said...

This post is right up my alley. I've been financially conservative since I was young, prompting many a more-free-spirited friend to advise me to "live a little". Eh, I think I "live a little" just fine and am thankful for my conservative stance on finances.

There are many ways to save, and I started the day I got married a few years ago. I save my family mucho dinero by cooking at home. It's healthier and much cheaper in the long-run. Buying a coffee machine or switching to tea is a great way to keep yourself from spending $20 a week at the local coffee shop, too.

But I digress! I thank you for this post, especially the mention of a self-employment designed IRA, which I had never heard of before.

Enjoy your week, Hope. :-)