The boring stuff: Pensions and retirement
We’re getting all the exciting, sexy subjects covered in this series! We’re moving on to maybe the scariest subject of them all, pensions. At the time of writing I am in my mid-20s, so retirement is quite a way into the future for me. However, I look at saving for my future as a form of self-care. Sacrificing some extra money today to give myself the knowledge and comfort that I will be able to support myself into retirement. Group fitness instructing and personal training are both really physically demanding careers and you are going to be unable to maintain the same physical exertion at 50 as you were at 24.
Case study: I have an instructor friend who used to work full time in the industry until about 2 years ago. She turned 50 and realised she had barely any pension pot saved up and hadn’t paid enough national insurance over the last 30 years to qualify for the full state pension that she was due to receive in 15 years time. She left the fitness industry and got a 9-5 admin job that meant she had to pay national insurance, tax and pay into a pension. She enjoys the work a hell of a lot less, but her poor planning in her earlier years have meant that it’s a sacrifice she has to make.
Most of us in the early stages of our career don’t really think much about pensions or retirement and don’t like the idea of putting some of our hard earned cash away for a date far, far away from now. Pensions can also be easily overlooked, especially in the first few years when your income is just starting to grow. However, being self employed gives the freedom to be in control of all of this, which isn’t the case for some employed folk. You can choose how much you contribute and where it is invested, so if you like the idea of only having your pension money in sustainable or ethically friendly companies, you can do just that.
If you are starting out as an employee of a gym, ask about their pension scheme. If you are over the age of 22 and earning £120 a week (correct as of May 2020) you will be auto enrolled into their scheme. Take full advantage of this. Usually your employer will match your contributions up to a percentage of your salary so it’s basically free money! Fully self employed folk won’t benefit from employer match so will have to work a little harder to save for the future.
If you are fresh out of school or uni and going straight into a fitness career, you won’t have any pension pots built up already (but massive kudos for reading about this sort of stuff so early on!) For anyone coming to self-employment from an employed career, you may have several small pots built up from your previous jobs. It’s a good idea to bring these altogether to see where you’re really at. Services like PensionBee are perfect for this.
(A glimpse at your future self?)
One of the big challenges of saving as a self employed fitness professional is massively varying income. As a full time fit pro you won’t be earning the exact same amount each month. Even if you have a pretty set routine of classes and clients, you may take on extra cover work throughout the month, or you may wish to go on holiday and therefore get your classes covered for a week or so. Most providers will allow you to change, stop and start your contributions as you wish or you can just commit to a small monthly amount that you know you’ll be able to stick to. Something is always better than nothing.
The two easiest ways to save into a pension for a self-employed person are a personal pension or SIPP (self-invested personal pension). Both are usually held through an insurance company but some investment platforms like Vanguard have just started offering them as well. The main difference is the way your money is invested and how the fees are calculated. You probably have more choice of things to invest in in a SIPP, so if investing in property or specific companies in your pension sounds cool then investigate these further. I’d suggest speaking to a financial planner or finance professional before opening either of these accounts.
The above are just a few tips on how to make saving for your future seem a little less scary. As mentioned though, I am not a financial adviser or planner so can’t tell you what the best advice is for your individual situation; I am simply speaking from my experience so far. If you want specific advice for your financial situation then I’d recommend talking to a financial expert. I did this about a year ago and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made.
If you want a deeper look into all things finance and budgeting then you should download my Finance and Accounting Guide for fitness professionals! If you've got any questions or comments about anything discussed over the last few posts then get in touch with me on email@example.com
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