Planning for Retirement as a Creative

Despite the fact that I regularly come off as a curmudgeonly old man, I’m not. I’m actually more on the young side than otherwise. This means I have the usual younger person problems, including trying to explain what I do to my parents. They get it, and I totally understand the regular “but you have money coming in, right?” – being a creative can be to live in a nasty industry at times with all sorts of money failing to materialize for any number of reasons.

That got us talking about planning for retirement and the numerous things you have to do as a creative because no one is going to do it for you. Here’s the few steps that I’m taking already for you to crib if you’re finding yourself wondering.

1) Make sure you Own things

This can be a tricky one – owning your IP can be a huge thing as you establish yourself into a career. Failing to own IP means that you usually get paid just the once for a project, then it is gone. Owning your IP usually means taking on more risk, but if it is successful you get more of the profit.

It becomes an art trying to mix things that you own with things you just get paid to do. Some people have had a ton of success launching things that they own and just running with them, but others don’t. Either way, I’m already trying to lay groundwork to make sure that for some of the projects I’m working on, I get paid for them forever.

2) Set money aside

This sounds like introduction to financial planning, but as a creative you absolutely have to set money aside. When you’re working contract to contract, you don’t know when you might have a month that is tighter than others. Money set aside helps offset this.

The other side of it is making sure that you have money that is actually going towards retirement. When you’re freelancing, none of that money naturally goes towards retirement. There aren’t anydeductions, no company is matching with you, you’re on your own. Expect that, and plan for it.

3) Be ready to think smaller

This is just a reality when you’re doing the creative and freelancer thing. You have to be ready to think a bit smaller. When some of your friends are off living the big life, going on trips or whatever, you’ve got to remember that you don’t necessarily get to keep up with them. Most of your trips are likely to be spent trying to secure more work, more contracts, and to try to sell what you’re working on.

The other side of this is you might not be upgrading to a bigger and better apartment when other people do. You likely are working more nights and weekends. That’s part of the deal. The other side of it is that when you go on those work trips, you’re often still doing some really cool things. You get to meet awesome people and create something from nothing.

If all that is kind of scary, good. It should be. The world we live in isn’t super set up to reward and ensure the safety of creatives or freelancers. Governments are still catching up with regulations to help people who live contract to contract (like New York’s one that makes it easier for freelancers to collect outstanding payments), but you can’t really count on them. You’ve chosen a scary lot in life. Good luck.

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