It’s no question that the pandemic has resulted in major shifts in the workforce. Whether it be the large-scale layoffs in March 2020 or the Great Resignation that more recently impacted personnel changes, we know that millions of Americans have left their jobs due to burn out and/or to pursue starting their own businesses in the hope of finding something that brings more personal fulfillment. In 2021, there were over 5 million new business applications submitted, which is an astonishing 55% jump from 2019.1
If the idea of starting up your own business has been on your mind, you have more than likely asked yourself if it’s the right thing to do financially—or at the very least are curious about all the differences between working for a company or being self-employed. We highlight the pros and cons for both options below.
First and foremost, taxes are the greatest change when making the switch from employee to self-employed. Most employed individuals are familiar with various line items for federal and state taxes, Social Security, and Medicare amongst many other potential employer-provided benefits (more on those other benefits later). When you’re self-employed, you, of course, still pay federal and state taxes, but in place of the regular line items for Social Security and Medicare, the IRS adds a self-employment tax. Typically, the Social Security and Medicare amounts are figured by employers, but self-employed individuals (or their tax professionals) need to calculate out what their self-employment tax looks like. The self-employment tax rate is 15.3% which consists of two parts: 12.4% for Social Security and 2.9% for Medicare. And, just as employers do, you can deduct the employer portion of your self-employment tax to calculate your adjusted gross income.2
Sticking on the topic of deductions, self-employed individuals can deduct expenses for their business that can reduce taxable income. Things like phone bills, internet bills, home office expenses, business travel, and health insurance are all common examples of deductible items for the self-employed, and these are all things you can’t typically deduct as an employee. While finding deductions can sound fun, it also means a lot more work on the administrative side by tracking each of these items and having proper documentation to help you make sure you’re maximizing your deductions.
As an employee, you can maximize your pre-tax or Roth 401(k) contributions up to the IRS limit of $20,500 or $27,000 for those age 50 and above (2022). When you’re self-employed, you are eligible to make contributions to a solo 401(k) as both the employee and the employer. This means you can contribute up to $20,500 for your employee contribution then contribute up to 25% of your compensation on top of that for the employer match.
With regard to savings, one item that could be considered a small perk of being self-employed is having the freedom to choose which custodian you utilize for your retirement savings.
Going back to the topic of benefits, employees are usually offered benefits through their employers, such as paid time off, health and life insurance, free/discounted fitness memberships, retirement plan matching or employee stock awards, donation matching, paid family leave, adoption assistance, and sometimes even retailer specific discounts. These benefits can certainly provide peace of mind beyond their monetary value for some and don’t exist when you’re self-employed.
One huge benefit of being self-employed is the amount of flexibility it provides. You can decide to work from home, a local café, or even beachside. You choose your own hours and aren’t limited to the amount of paid time off you’re allotted each year when you feel like taking a vacation. You’re also your own boss, so there’s no risk of having a supervisor managing you and potentially causing friction. On the flip side, there also aren’t any paid holidays or sick days. Without the oversight of a manager and being fully responsibility for the growth of your business, it takes a great amount of motivation and focus to be self-employed, which could also result in longer hours. There may be periods, especially in the early stages, where earnings may be lower or inconsistent, so making sure you’re prepared will be of utmost importance. Being okay with failure before finding success is a common theme amongst entrepreneurs, and remember that what you gain in freedom, you may also lose in security.
Being an employee typically means stable income; however, this also means your livelihood is dependent on your company’s success. The stability of working as an employee can be more than a steady source of income—it can also mean long-term career development and opportunities and more convenient access to building long-term professional relationships.
It’s quite clear that there are many considerations for anyone thinking about making career changes, but there’s no reason you should have to think things through on your own. It’s ultimately a personal choice, but we recommend getting in touch with your advisor or clicking here to connect with an advisor at Merriman to discuss what makes sense for you and your lifestyle.
Disclosure: The material is presented solely for information purposes and is not intended as specific advice or recommendations for any individual. The information presented here has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable; however, Merriman cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source. Merriman does not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be relied upon as such. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Merriman and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. No advice may be rendered by Merriman unless a client service agreement is in place.
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Michelle is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and native of Minnesota. She made the move to Seattle and joined Merriman in 2020, bringing her passion for helping clients and serving as a partner in their financial lives. She works closely with the advisory team to deliver holistic financial planning to families with a positive attitude and a decade of experience working at a firm like Merriman.
Michelle graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) in 2013 where she earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in financial markets finance and a minor in accounting.
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