Freelancers' financial wellbeing: Understanding experiences of savings, pensions and mortgages in 2021

  • Room for more advice and support for self-employed savers, with 71 per cent concerned about saving for later life. 
  • Women (78%) were more likely to be concerned than men (69%) about saving for later life.
  • Concerningly, 14 per cent are not currently saving for later life in any way. Again, women were more likely to not be saving compared to men (20% compared to 12% respectively). 
  • Over one in 10 self-employed people (12%) are planning to purchase a property in the next five years.
  • However, getting a mortgage has become more difficult for the self-employed in 2021, as 38 per cent report that they found the process either somewhat or very difficult – a 57 per cent increase to the figure in 2020.
  • Only one in five (19%) believe that they will be treated fairly by mortgage lenders with half (50%) believing they will not be.
  • Two in five (40%) people who accessed the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) during the pandemic fear they could be penalised in a mortgage application.

The self-employed, who were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, are now facing greater difficulty accessing key financial products as a result.

CMME 2021 Homeownership infographic 71 per cent concerned.png


With the pandemic forcing over a quarter of self-employed people (27%) to burn through hard won savings to get by, and further strain placed on the cost of living by higher taxes and rising inflation, putting freelance finances back on track will be essential to averting a self-employed savings crisis in future.

But significant barriers remain, with one in five (20%) indicating they are not clear about the pension products available to them – and 14 per cent are not currently saving for later life in any way, for reasons including not being able to afford to save (59%) and having other financial priorities (35%).

Without guaranteed income from employment, the self-employed are also facing greater difficulty compared to employees when searching for a mortgage, potentially undermining the plans of the 12 per cent of self-employed people looking to purchase a home in the next five years.

Concerningly, the process of obtaining a mortgage appears to have become more difficult for the self-employed, with 38 per cent of this year’s sample reporting that they found the process either somewhat or very difficult – a 57 per cent increase to the figure from 2020.

Reasons for this difficulty range from a requirement to complete greater volumes of paperwork, to dealing with providers who would not lend to them because of their self-employed status. There are also concerns that those who claimed SEISS payments at the height of the pandemic – a cohort of 2.9 million people – could be penalised in their mortgage applications for doing so.

CMME 2021 Homeownership infographic attitudes house.png


Overall, it is clear that the self-employed face unique difficulties when attempting to access key financial products that employees – who have regular incomes and are automatically enrolled into workplace pensions by their employer – do not.

It is therefore essential that tailored advice and products are developed for the self-employed sector, whilst areas of the tax and employment system that prevent lenders from de-risking the self-employed as customers are addressed – ensuring that the UK’s 4.3 million self-employed are not disadvantaged in their plans for later life and home ownership.

Read the full report here

Meet the author

Headshot original.png
Joshua Toovey

Senior Research and Policy Officer