1. Maintain three to six months of savings in your account. “As a contractor or part-time worker, your income will tend to ebb and flow,” Gugliuzza says. “Having an emergency fund with enough savings to cover three to six months’ worth of your critical expenses can help ensure you can pay your bills, even during times of low employment.” Figure out what this necessary dollar amount is and make sure your bank account is ready to go before you take the full leap into the gig economy.
2. Keep a handle on your debts. As part of the gig economy, you’re still responsible for paying taxes on what you earn, and bad news: You don’t have an in-house HR or accounting department to make that happen for you. “If you’re doing contract work and don’t want taxes withheld from your pay, you’ll need to make quarterly estimated state and federal tax payments,” Gugliuzza says. You’ll save yourself a lot of stress comes tax time if you are careful to put away a portion of each payment you receive and flag it as a tax payment before you accidentally spend it. Consider reaching out to a professional now to walk you through the specifics of the tax code in the area where you live.
3. Understand how much you need to save. While you may be feeling somewhat removed from your pals who are working in more traditional jobs (go on with your bad self!), the truth is that many of your financial needs are still the same as theirs. Take some time to establish some goals for what you’ll need to save for retirement or other long-term goals. There are plenty of tools and calculators available online to help you crunch these crucial numbers on your own.
4. Investigate investment opportunities. You can still take advantage of investment opportunities, even if you’re not working in a traditional full-time job. A 529 college savings plan can help you stash away funds to further your own education (and is a good way to save for your children’s future tuition as well). You should also do your homework on IRAs, which can help you grow your retirement nest egg so you’ll be sittin’ pretty when the time comes for you to quit that side hustle life. There are a lot of misconceptions out there about IRAs — for one thing, that you need to work a corporate nine-to-five to invest in one — so be sure to do your research!
5. Seek expert advice. There’s no shame in asking for help, especially if you’re new to working in the gig economy. A financial or business adviser will be able to help you figure out what your specific goals are, and they can help you put together a plan to make them happen. An action plan like this should make it a whole lot easier for you to follow through on the other four tips — and to do it effectively.