How to Save for Retirement When You Work from Home

Updated on: by Amy Kennedy

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If you’ve ever worked outside of the home at a brick and mortar office, your employer may offered you benefits, including the opportunity to save a portion of your check into a 401k retirement account – and your employer may have matched some or all of the money that you put into your 401k.  If you work from home though, you may not have that option, especially if you work as a independent contractor.  The good news is that if you do work from home, you can still save for retirement.  There are a few different types of retirement accounts you can open – the traditional or Roth IRA, Solo 401k, SEP IRA and SIMPLE IRA.  This article will provide some information on each of them.

Traditional or Roth IRA –

Everyone can open one of these accounts, whether you work from home or not.  The main difference between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA is that with a traditional IRA, you won’t pay taxes on the money you save in the account until after you start making withdrawals from the account.  With a Roth IRA whoever, you’ll pay taxes on your contributions before you retire, but after you retire you won’t have to pay taxes on the money you withdraw. If you choose to open one of these accounts, you can contribute a maximum of $5,000 per year before the age of 50 – after the age of 50 you can contribute a maximum of $6,000 a year.

Solo 401k –

This is the best choice for a lot of freelancers that work for themselves and don’t have anyone working with them except a spouse.  Your limit on contributions to a Solo 401k is  $16,500, and you won’t pay taxes on that money until you retire.  You can also contribute 20%  of your self-employment income to your solo 401k, but the total maximum for your contributions cannot exceed $49,000.  If you’re 50 or old you can contribute an additional $5,500 in catch-up contributions, and if your spouse works with you they can also contribute up to $49,000.


You can open an SEP IRA whether you have employees or not – however if you do have employees you need to contribute the same amount for your employees that you do for yourself – so if you contribute 20% of your income, you also need to contribute 20%  of your employees’ income.  One thing that’s great about SEP IRAs is that you don’t have to contribute every year – if your income fluctuates one year and you can’t afford to  make contributions, you don’t have to. SEP IRAs are usually used by people who are earning a lot of money and who can afford to make enough contributions to max out the SEP IRA, as well as the SEP IRAs of their employees.


You can contribute up to $11,500 every year to a SIMPLE IRA, and if you’re 50 or older you can contribute an additional $2,500 a year to catch up.  If you have employees, you also need to contribute to their IRAs, either by making a matching contribution of up to 3%, or by contributing a 2% fixed contribution regardless of how much the employees earn.

So how do you go about opening one of these accounts?  The best place to start is to contact your local bank to find out the process for opening a traditional or Roth IRA – be sure to find out the minimum amount needed to open one, as well as if the bank charges any fees. If your bank doesn’t offer one of these retirement accounts, you can also contact places like Vanguard, Fidelity, and Etrade, which have lower fees than many banks, to find out about their requirements for opening any of the IRA choices mentioned, or for opening a solo 401k.

Some More Tips:

Create a Budget

Creating a budget is an essential step toward saving for retirement. By tracking your income and expenses, you gain a clear understanding of where your money is going and can identify areas where you can cut back. Start by listing all your income sources, including your work-from-home earnings and any additional income streams. Then, track your expenses, categorizing them into essential and non-essential items. This will help you identify areas where you can reduce spending and allocate more towards retirement savings.

Reduce Unnecessary Expenses

Reducing unnecessary expenses is a key strategy for saving money for retirement. Look closely at your spending habits and identify areas where you can cut back without significantly impacting your quality of life. Consider reducing expenses such as dining out, entertainment subscriptions, or impulse purchases. It’s important to be mindful of your spending and prioritize long-term financial goals over short-term gratification. By consistently reducing unnecessary expenses, you can free up more funds to contribute towards retirement savings.

Automate Savings

Automating your savings is a convenient and effective way to consistently save for retirement. Set up automatic transfers from your checking account to a dedicated retirement savings account. This ensures that a portion of your income is automatically allocated towards retirement savings, eliminating the need for manual transfers. By automating your savings, you remove the temptation to spend the money elsewhere and establish a disciplined savings habit. It’s advisable to set up the transfers to coincide with your payday to ensure consistent contributions to your retirement fund.

Minimize Debt

Minimizing debt is crucial when saving for retirement. High-interest debt, such as credit cards or personal loans, can eat into your savings potential. Prioritize paying off these debts as soon as possible, as reducing your debt burden frees up more funds to contribute towards retirement savings. Start by tackling the debts with the highest interest rates first while making minimum payments on others. Consider debt consolidation strategies, balance transfers, or negotiating lower interest rates to accelerate your debt repayment and improve your overall financial position.

I hope this post has provided you with some valuable information.   Be sure to check out the e-book “Saving for Retirement without Living Like a Pauper or Winning the Lottery
” by Gail Marks Jarvis – it provides a lot information on how to figure out how much to save for retirement, as well as how to figure out how much money you should invest in the different stocks and bonds that you have a choice of investing in when you open an IRA  or 401k plan. You can download it to Kindle, one of the free Kindle reading apps available for many smartphones, or you can download it straight to your computer. Happy saving!

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Leisa Good

August 9, 2012 at 2:21 pm

Erica, this is so timely. Good job. I am exploring this as my husband continues to “beef up” his retirement at his B&M job. Excellent and timely advice as I continue to explore my options.


August 9, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Glad this was beneficial for you Leisa!

Leisa Good

August 10, 2012 at 9:36 am

Very, Erica. I keep telling my husband that if I could just win the lottery, I would save myself a lot of reading and decision making. Oh, well. I guess I’ll have to rely on the great resources that are at my fingertips — like your post! Thanks again.


August 13, 2012 at 3:52 pm

I had no idea that you could have a solo 401K! I didn’t think something like that existed! Wonderful! Thank you, Ms. Martin!