Empowering the Freelance Economy

One of the most liberating things about being a freelancer: you retire when and if you want to

Freelancers have the retire when and if they want and in the process act as mentors to younger generations. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio
0 378

If there is a call for ageing workers, especially senior executives, “to retire already” to give younger generations a chance to move up the corporate ladder, is the same being asked of freelancers?

There are many liberating perks to being a freelancer as there are obstacles (no need to elaborate here, you will have your own war stories to fill in the blanks). But perhaps the most liberating perk of being a freelancer is that no one can tell you “It’s time to retire.” Only you can decide that.

I was reminded of this when reading a recent FT article, Ageing executives should ‘move out of the way’, says endowment boss. This headline resonated with me on two levels. As a freelancer who enjoys the freedom of having no expiry date on my career and as a mother, excited about what younger generations will bring to what is becoming a much more inclusive and caring working world.

The article started by taking the example of Britt Harris, the chief executive of Utimco, the $68bn University of Texas and Texas A&M endowment system, who will retire at the end of this month. Harris was quoted in the article saying: “You have to move out of the way for the next generation or people won’t get senior positions until they’re 75 or 80.”

I admire that Hariis, 65, is open about why he’s choosing to retire. I am equally inspired by some Wall Street banks that want to keep their “seasoned” talent and are willing to pay handsomely when they do.

We may not be Wall Street CEOs, but we have our freedom

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dixon (67) was offered $50mn as a “retention bonus” to stay at the helm until at least 2026. In other words, the investment bank is of the mindset, when something is working, cherish it and don’t just follow ageist social norms.

But those who are not the Jamie Dixons, Warren Buffetts, Lary Finks (BlackRock) or Brian Moynihans (Bank of America) of this world, might fall into another camp. The camp where once you reach statutory retirement age most companies will presume it’s time for you to retire. Do you have a say in the matter or are you just pushed out?

In contrast, freelancers are in an enviable position compared to their salaried counterparts, because they are more apt to reinvent themselves over the course of their freelance careers. They have worked within enough sectors and companies to add value to any client. They can also act as a mentor to younger staff without feeling threatened they will be replaced.

The largest age groups for freelancers are those aged between 50-59 (493,000) and 40-49 (409,000). Combined, these groups account for 48 per cent of all freelancers. Consequently, the average age of UK freelancers is now 48 years old, the same as in 2020 and one year older than the overall solo self-employed average age for 2021, according to IPSE. So I think it’s fair to say that freelancers are not being pushed out of the market because they are getting older.

Understandably, this isn’t always the case in some sectors. For example, in the UK theatre sector, the gender pay gap only gets worse for women as they get older, according to a Freelancers Make Theatre Work survey.

Pay disparities such as these make it understandable why some freelancers will not retire in their mid-sixties because they can’t afford to. Fewer than one in five of the growing number of self-employed workers in the UK are saving in a pension. This is particularly concerning given that the decline in pension membership among the self-employed is greatest among those who have been self-employed for a long period, according to the IFS.

So, the next time, you fret over when and if you can retire, consider that you have the freedom to shift course into a new area of business, bring on an apprentice, collaborate with other freelancers and build new sources of income. You can do this. Why? Because you’re a freelancer.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.