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How Do the Self-Employed Save for Retirement? Erratically

How Do the Self-Employed Save for Retirement? Erratically

Photograph by Galley Stock

Americans aren’t very good at saving money. The self-employed are even worse. A survey published this week by TD Ameritrade (AMTD) shows that 40 percent of America’s 10 million self-employed workers aren’t saving regularly for retirement and 28 percent aren’t saving at all. That compares with about 10 percent of traditionally employed workers who aren’t saving for retirement, according to the survey, which 2,000 U.S. residents completed online.

Those numbers square with research by Katie Vlietstra, director of government affairs for the National Association for the Self-Employed, who occasionally includes questions on retirement planning when she surveys the organization’s roughly 200,000 members. “For the self-employed, there’s very little difference between business operating cash and personal cash,” she says. When independent workers have a good year, they may add to retirement plans.

The self-employed are unlikely to save in leaner times, but that doesn’t mean they’re ignorant on the subject, says Vlietstra: Because they typically file more complicated tax returns than traditional workers, independent workers often use accountants, who can be good sources of information about retirement planning. That helps explain some of TD Ameritrade’s findings, which indicate the self-employed rely on varied streams of funding for retirement, including money from the sale of their businesses.

Clark is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek.

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