If you left a 9-to-5 job to become a self-employed real estate agent, you probably gave up some excellent benefits, such as a 401(k), employer-sponsored health insurance, continuing education, and paid time off.
While those are great perks offering by some brokerage firms, being your own boss comes with benefits most traditional employees miss, such as unlimited vacation and sick days, flex time, and tax deductions. Some real estate brokers offer some of these benefits, so check with your broker to see what options they can offer you first.
Whether you’re a part- or full-time real estate agent, the good news is that you can create your own self-employed benefits package that rivals any company using the following six steps.
Buy health insurance.
Health insurance is a critical benefit you should never go without when you’re self-employed. Even a quick trip to the emergency room can leave you with a huge bill. Here are some options to find and enroll in affordable coverage.
- If you’re married or have a domestic partner with a health plan, find out if you can join their policy.
- If you left a workplace group plan, you might be eligible for COBRA, which extends health coverage for a period if you pay the premiums (which can be expensive).
- If you’re under age 26, you could join a parent’s health plan if they’ll have you.
- If you need to purchase an individual plan, shop at Healthcare.gov or your state’s insurance marketplace to determine if your income and family size qualifies you for a premium subsidy.
Use a health savings account (HSA).
If you enroll in a high-deductible health plan, you’re typically eligible for an HSA. These medical savings accounts allow you to pay for qualified medical expenses tax-free. You get:
- Tax-deductible contributions
- Tax-free investment growth
- Tax-free withdrawals
The list of qualified expenses is extensive and includes:
- Doctor co-pays
- Eyeglasses and contacts
- Dentist appointments
- Chiropractor visits
- Feminine hygiene products
HSA funds have no spending deadline, so your account balance rolls over yearly. After age 65, you can even use it as a retirement investment to spend it on anything you like (however, you must pay income tax on non-qualified withdrawals). Some great places to shop for an account include Starship HSA and Lively HSA.
Purchase a term life insurance policy.
Many employees get a term policy at work but lose it when they leave their job. It’s critical to have life insurance if you have loved ones, such as a spouse, partner, children, or aging parents, who depend on your income.
A general guideline is to purchase a life policy that pays a death benefit ten times your annual income. If you have a large family or significant debt, you may need more coverage.
The cost of life insurance may be more affordable than you think. For instance, If you’re in your 30s with relatively good health, a 20-year, $500,000 term policy costs approximately $200 to $300 a year. It’s convenient to shop and compare life insurance quotes online.
Don’t forget about disability insurance.
Disability insurance is an often-overlooked benefit for the self-employed. It pays a portion of your income, such as 60% or 70%, if you can’t work due to a covered illness, disability, or an accident.
Remember that health insurance doesn’t cover your living expenses if you get sick or injured. Without a disability policy, not working for an extended period could cause significant financial hardship for you and your family. Shop around for disability coverage at Haven Life and Policygenius.
Contribute to a retirement account.
Your self-employed benefits package should include a tax-advantaged retirement account. Use one or more of the following plans to save for the future and reduce your tax liability:
- Traditional IRA allows tax-deductible contributions up to $6,000 or $7,000 if you’re over age 50 for 2022. Then you pay ordinary income tax on withdrawals in retirement.
- Roth IRA allows after-tax contributions up to $6,000 or $7,000 if you’re over age 50 for 2022. Then you take tax-free withdrawals in retirement.
- Solo 401(k) allows a self-employed person with no employees (other than a spouse) to contribute up to 25% of compensation or up to $61,000 or $67,500 if you’re over age 50, whichever is less, for 2022. You can choose a traditional or Roth option for tax-deferred or tax-free withdrawals in retirement.
- SEP IRA allows a self-employed person (with or without employees) to contribute up to 25% of compensation or up to $61,000, whichever is less, for 2022. Then you pay ordinary income tax on withdrawals in retirement.
If you’re not sure whether you should have a traditional or Roth account or how to leverage multiple retirement accounts, speak with a financial advisor or retirement planner.
Get quality continuing education.
To maintain your real estate license, complete continuing education and submit the required paperwork by your state’s deadline, which is typically every two to three years. You can take an online education course on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone that fits your busy schedule.
The bottom line is that you don’t need to be an employee to enjoy excellent perks. By researching your options and shopping around, you can customize an affordable benefits package that protects you, your family, and your real estate business.
Laura Adams is the author and host of the Money Girl podcast.
This content should not be considered accounting or legal advice. You should consult your local tax or legal professional in your state for appropriate strategies.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of RealTrends’ editorial department and its owners.
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