The economic health of the self-employed is divided, with just over half (52%) indicating that they are satisfied with their financial wellbeing. But what does financial wellbeing mean to the self-employed? Being able to support your family? Growing your business? Having a steady income?
Whether it’s considering their present situation or the future, there are clearly two major factors that affect the financial wellbeing of the self-employed: security and choice. Almost half (46%) of respondents said that having the financial freedom to make choices and enjoy life is the single most decisive factor in their financial wellbeing. Two in five (40%) said earning enough to provide for family and loved ones was another key factor, while 37 per cent said being able to put money away for retirement.
Millennials are more likely to focus on the near future: most indicated that saving for a financial goal or putting money into their savings account on a regular basis suggested good financial health for them. Perhaps unsurprisingly, generation X and baby boomers are more likely to prioritise putting money away for retirement.
For the self-employed overall, ‘financial wellbeing’ means being in a state of financial security that gives them choice in their career and the freedom to enjoy life – as well as the ability to provide for family and loved ones and feel secure in their financial future.
The self-employed are living in the present, but not prepared for the future. At the moment, the majority of the self-employed are enjoying life because of how they are managing their money (72%). However, more than three quarters (77%) are concerned that the money they have – or are going to save – won’t last.
There’s also further evidence that the self-employed see an uncertain future ahead of them: 36 per cent said they do not feel secure in their financial future.
Millennials are particularly exposed to financial uncertainty in the future. Their financial priorities are more likely to be tightly focused on the present and they feel less secure than average in their futures – with four in five (80%) saying that they are concerned the money they have or are going to save won’t last. Consequently, they are also less satisfied with their financial wellbeing and see a lack of financial advice tailored to the self-employed and knowledge on how to manage their finances as some of the main barriers to prosperity.
The survey found further evidence of the importance of money management and savings. Respondents who said they are more satisfied with their financial wellbeing – and are enjoying life because of the way they are handling their money – also said that they feel in a position where they could handle a major unexpected expense and still feel secure in their financial future.
This suggests that the way the self-employed manage their money has a great deal of bearing on overall satisfaction – and might hold the key to reviving confidence in their financial future. It also seems clear, however, that if more is not done to help self-employed people improve their financial wellbeing, it could compromise their personal welfare, as well as their business performance.
Poor financial wellbeing affects performance
The survey showed that nine in ten self-employed people worry – at least occasionally – about their financial situation.
What’s more, half (51%) of those surveyed said they felt anxious or stressed as a result.
A third of respondents also said that worrying about their financial situation had caused them to lose sleep (34%) and experience a lack of confidence (33%).
As well as shorter-term psychological and physical effects, financial worries may also make many people question the long-term sustainability of self-employment.
Of those who had worried about their financial situation, almost half considered giving up self-employment (45%) or accepted work they wouldn’t typically take just to make ends meet (44%).
Being self-employed means being the master of your own destiny – and taking on all the financial challenges that it may entail. These everyday challenges are also exacerbated by irregular income patterns and earning potential – as well as limited access to financial support from both government and the financial services industry. These factors can cause significant concerns for the self-employed, but there are a number of things they can do to take control of their financial wellbeing.
The self-employed are a growing and valuable sector of the UK workforce: in fact, their labour contributes no less than £271bn to the economy.7 For the individual, being your own boss is a meaningful and rewarding way of working. This satisfaction can, however, be offset by financial concerns – particularly about saving for the future. These concerns can then have a detrimental effect on the personal welfare and performance of self-employed people.
There are several lessons to be taken from this research, which could help the self-employed take control of their financial wellbeing and enjoy a genuinely rewarding freelance career – with the financial security and freedom they need and deserve.
1. Be prepared for periods without work by having insurances and a savings plan in place.
2. Expand your skill set to help increase earning potential and provide an income that allows for saving.
3. Strengthen your business networks to help with the flow of clients and referrals to your business.
4. Put together a financial plan to improve confidence in managing your business and satisfaction with your financial wellbeing.