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6 Ways Gig Workers Can Invest for Retirement

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Even if you support yourself through gig work, meaning you make income through a non-traditional route such as being an independent contractor or a temporary worker rather than a traditional 9-5 job, you still need to save for your retirement. But that can be tough when you don’t have access to a 401(k) or some other employer-sponsored plan

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways gig workers can invest for retirement.

Note that if you’re surviving on gig work because you’ve lost your job, you may not have much — or anything — to invest right now. That’s OK — staying up-to-date on your bills is more important.

But if you’re a gig worker who can afford to invest right now, here are six smart ways to grow your nest egg.

A young man wearing pajama pants works from home at his kitchen counter.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Roth IRA

A Roth IRA is one of the simplest ways to save for retirement, whether you have a regular job or you earn a living through gig work or self-employment

Income limits: To contribute to a Roth IRA, you need to earn income, but not more than the Roth IRA income limits.

Contribution limits: The Roth IRA contribution limits are $6,000 for both 2020 and 2021 if you’re under 50. People 50 and older can make an extra $1,000 in catch-up contributions.

Tax advantages: One of the major benefits of a Roth IRA are the tax advantages. You don’t get an upfront tax deduction for contributing to a Roth IRA, but assuming you withdraw your earnings after age 59 1/2, they’re all yours tax-free, as long as you’ve had the account for five years or more.

You can access your contributions at any time without taxes or a penalty.

2. Traditional IRA

A traditional IRA is a good option if you earn more than the Roth IRA income limit or if you want to deduct your contributions earlier than age 59 1/2.

Income limits: There are no traditional IRA income limits, but you may not be able to deduct your contributions if you or your spouse are covered by a workplace plan.

Deduction limits: The amount you can deduct from an IRA if you have an employer plan begins to phase out at $65,000 in 2020 and $66,000 in 2021 if you’re a single filer. If you’re married and filing jointly, your deduction starts to phase out if your combined income reaches $104,000 for 2020 or $105,000 for 2021 if either spouse has an employer plan.

3. Solo 401(k)

If you’re a self-employed gig worker or you have a small business with no employees other than your spouse, a Solo 401(k) can be an easy option for retirement planning. It’s similar to a regular 401(k) plan, but you make contributions on behalf of both the employee and the employer. 

Tax advantages: You can make the deferral pre-tax like a traditional 401(k) to get the tax savings now, or opt for a Roth Solo 401(k) to get the tax-free money in retirement.

Contributing as an employee: In 2021 you can defer up to $19,500 of the salary you earn as an employee, plus you can make an extra $6,500 in catch-up contributions if you’re 50 or older. However, you can’t contribute more than your compensation.

Contributing as an employer: You can also contribute on the employer side. Your contributions can’t exceed 25% of your net self-employment income, which is your earnings minus business expenses, half of self-employment taxes, and the money you’re contributing to your Solo 401(k) on the employer’s side.

Contribution limits: Overall contributions for Solo 401(k)s can’t exceed $58,000 if you’re under 50 in 2021, or $64,500 if you’re 50 or older.

These contribution limits apply across all 401(k) plans you have. If you’re a gig worker who has a regular job with an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan, contributions across your plans can’t exceed $58,000, or $64,500 if you’re at least 50.

Due to the high limits, a Solo 401(k) is a good option for high-paid gig workers seeking to maximize their retirement contributions.

4. SEP IRA

A simplified employee pension (SEP) IRA is another way to save for retirement if you’re a gig worker. All contributions you make are as the employer rather than as the employee. Employees aren’t allowed to contribute to a SEP IRA, which is why there are no catch-up contributions.

Contribution limits: In 2021, the maximum contribution to a SEP IRA is 25% of your earnings, up to a maximum of $58,000. There’s no Roth option for a SEP IRA, so your withdrawals will be taxed.

However, there’s a kicker if you grow your hustle into a business with other people on the payroll: You have to make all employees eligible if they’re at least 21, have worked for you at any point in three of the past five years, and earn at least $650 in 2021.

You’ll have to contribute the same salary percentage for all eligible employees. That means if you’re contributing 20% toward your own retirement, you have to kick in 20% for each employee who meets the requirements as well.

For this reason, a SEP IRA can be good if you’re self-employed, but if you’re planning to turn your gig work into a full-fledged business with employees you may want to think again.

5. SIMPLE IRA

The “SIMPLE” in SIMPLE IRA stands for “Savings Incentive Match PLan for Employees.” You can invest in one if you’re a gig worker or if you’re a small business owner with 100 or fewer employees.

Contribution limits: The SIMPLE IRA contribution limits aren’t quite as generous as they are for a Solo 401(k) or a SEP IRA.

In 2021, you can contribute up to $13,500 if you’re under 50, or $16,500 if you’re 50 or older.

There’s no Roth option, so you’ll be taxed upon withdrawal. There’s also a steep penalty if you need to withdraw your SIMPLE IRA funds within two years of setting up the account: 25%, instead of the usual amount, on top of taxes.

As the employer, you’ll have to contribute to your SIMPLE IRA on your own behalf, as well as for any employee who’s earned at least $5,000 in at least two of the past five years and expects to earn at least that much for the current year. You’ll have to choose one of the following formulas:

  • Automatically contribute 2%. 
  • Match 3% of contributions dollar for dollar.

Due to the lower limits and the extra layer of rules, a Solo 401(k) or SEP IRA is typically a better option for solo gig workers. However, if you expand and add others to the payroll, a SIMPLE IRA may be a good option.

6. Taxable Brokerage Account

If you’ve exhausted your other retirement savings options or you want the flexibility to invest with fewer rules, a plain old taxable brokerage account works. Since you won’t get any tax breaks for investing in a brokerage account, though, aim to max out your Roth IRA or traditional IRA contribution before you go this route.



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‘Jeopardy!’ guest-hosting gig brings out some of Rodgers’ quirks

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) — We are learning quite a bit about Aaron Rodgers over the course of his run as guest host on Jeopardy! We’re learning he’s not afraid to openly campaign for the job as permanent host, he’s ready to spread his wings on his Instagram page (possibly with some prodding from fiancée Shailene Woodley), and we’re hearing him talk more than ever.

While watching Wednesday’s Jeopardy! episode, morning anchor Mike Curkov noticed some of Rodgers’ quirks that he hadn’t noticed before his two week stint on Jeopardy! Watch the video for more.

Jeopardy! airs weekdays at 6 pm on CBS 58. 



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Gig Worker Classification Worsens Inequities During Pandemic, Organizer Says

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Drivers for apps like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash have said that being classified as independent contractors while working during a pandemic means they face the impossible choice between paying their bills and managing their exposure risk. Cherri Murphy, a lead organizer for Gig Workers Rising, spoke with “Civic” about drivers’ circumstances.

Murphy began driving for Lyft in 2017.

“I felt that it was a godsend, because they offered this whole thing around flexibility,” she said. But that perception shifted quickly. “There’s nothing flexible about not having access to restrooms. There’s nothing flexible about having the looming threat of an accident with no coverage. There’s nothing flexible about me being in the middle of a pandemic, with not having access, particularly in the beginning, of safety equipment. And, you know, those things are really difficult.”

Uber and Lyft have both issued statements emphasizing that they are trying to support drivers throughout the pandemic. Lyft says it has provided tens of thousands of face masks, cleaning supplies and in-car partitions to drivers at no cost to them, and that Lyft does not profit off personal protective equipment it sells to drivers. Uber told Business Insider that it had allocated $50 million toward safety supplies for drivers and had provided 30 million masks and other cleaning supplies to drivers worldwide.

In March 2020, Murphy was completing a doctoral program at a graduate theological union and her primary source of income was driving for Lyft. She decided she would be able to get by without her earnings and chose to stop driving so as not to expose herself to the coronavirus. Others chose to keep working.

“There were quite a few workers that had their backs against the walls, and that were forced to work,” she said.

During that same pandemic, employment law in California changed with the passage of Proposition 22. The ballot measure categorized gig workers — people who work through apps like Lyft, Uber or Instacart or DoorDash — as independent contractors rather than as employees of those companies. Because they are not considered drivers’ and delivery workers’ employers, the companies are also exempt from providing benefits like unemployment protections, minimum wage and sick leave. Drivers and labor organizers have described that system as exploitative, because drivers lack full employee protections and earn less than they should. The Labor Center at the University of California, Berkeley, in an October 2019 analysis of Proposition 22, wrote that while the initiative guarantees drivers 120% of minimum wage, since it only applies when the drivers are actually en route to or transporting passengers, drivers may be paid for only 67% of their actual working time.

Murphy said that in the Bay Area, where the majority of gig workers are immigrants and people of color, the classification of gig workers as independent contractors deepens existing inequities.

“Not only are we in the middle of a pandemic, but we’re also in the middle of a movement that’s been really pivotal as relates to COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter. And so our perspective is that we know that economic justice and racial justice are interrelated,” Murphy said. “At the end of the day, what you have is a law that continues to create a caste system, not designed to have people be economically sustainable, or work in safe working conditions.”

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Greeson: Wishing our next mayor all the best in his stressful gig leading a stress-filled city

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Tim Kelly cruised to an easy win this week to become Chattanooga’s 66th mayor.

He will be sworn in Monday, along with the nine members of the City Council, including new members Jenny Hill (who also serves on the school board and must believe running for office counts as good cardio, too), Isiah Hester and Raquetta Dotley.

For Kelly, who spent a pot of his own money to topple more than a dozen challengers in the March election and eased by Kim White in Tuesday’s runoff with a commanding 60% of the vote, the challenges are numerous, from long range to looming right around the corner. And the majority of them will not be fixed with a shovel and wheelbarrow.

Everyone will be watching how he will work with Chattanooga Police Department Chief David Roddy. Everyone will be watching how he is able to influence the direction of downtown development — development that is splitting into unsustainable segments from the Tennessee River and North Shore to the bottom of Lookout Mountain.

There are pandemic recovery and jobs issues, affordable housing shortages and, of course, paving and pothole repair. Side note: It will be a welcome relief for our next mayor to put the brakes on the bike lane fiasco, but that’s low-hanging fruit (with apologies to the six peddlers who actually used those in the last half decade).

I could go on, but you get the idea. There is quite a long list of priorities and challenges.

Chattanooga is beginning to shake off its pandemic fatigue, and that’s great news because the Scenic City needs to stretch its legs and, more importantly, retap the tourism money spigot.

A recent online survey by LawnStarter that ranked 191 American cities from most-to-least relaxed based on 57 indicators put Chattanooga near the bottom of most-relaxed cities.

You’d be forgiven for thinking Lawnstarter.com was just a lawn care company hawking the best grass seed or the most affordable push mower.

The company also cranks out surveys ranking cities in a variety of areas, including best cities in which to get stoned.

As for the most- or least-relaxed cities, Lawnstarter crunched everything from rates of depression and high blood pressure to life expectancy and the average length of a work day. The work day averages and livability scores include traffic measurements as well as walking and biking scores. Hey, Lawnstarter, did y’all count our bike lanes?

Sunnyvale, California, was listed as the most-relaxed city in the survey; Kansas City is the least relaxed/most stressed. As for Chattanooga, we ranked 186th among 191 cities studied, right behind Cleveland, Ohio, and just ahead of Clarksville, Tennessee. We’re dealing with a lot of stuff apparently, as we ranked 189th in mental health, 161st in physical health and 183rd in social environment.

Sources for some of the data came from organizations such as American Public Gardens, the U.S. Department of Labor, the FBI and the CDC. Not sure if they got your grade school permanent record, but the survey feels pretty thorough, even though it felt like you needed three degrees and a slide rule to crack the code of the analysis.

Still, our ranking is a bit confounding, because in the realm of interweb reviews, Chattanooga is the LeBron of lists.

On his website, our mayor-elect says, “Chattanooga succeeds when we work together in the spirit of transparency and common purpose. We must act with urgency to seize our opportunity to become the best city in the country.”

Kelly’s “First 100 days” plan looks like he’s prepared to hit the ground running.

It’s going to be a stressful transition, and I wish Kelly all the luck in the world.

He’s going to need it — and we’re going to need him to have it.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com.


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