Retirement Plan
When planning for your retirement, experts suggest using a 50/30/20 budgeting system to manage your side hustle income, which NerdWallet also recommends for primary income. Image Credit: Shutterstock

At the start of 2022, I panicked after realizing I was in my early thirties with only about $4,000 saved for retirement. Once the panic subsided, my solution was to use side hustles to fast-track my retirement savings. Within two years, I was able to use my freelance and 9-to-5 income to grow my retirement savings by over $100,000. Here are some strategies I used to achieve my goal.

Draft a plan

Over the years, I hadn’t put much thought into when I wanted to retire or how much I would need. I got started by reading online articles and using a retirement calculator.

Drafting a retirement plan was a cathartic process — it challenged me to think about what lifestyle I want during retirement and how much that could cost. I landed around the $2 million mark, which was initially a shock to my nervous system because I only had around $4,000 saved. I arrived at this number by inputting my ideal retirement age, life expectancy, monthly contribution, monthly budget and other variables into a retirement calculator.

The retirement calculator also helped me break down how much I needed to save monthly to reach my lofty goal.

Before hunting for freelance gigs, I wanted to make sure I had an investing strategy in place. It’s easy to spend freelance money before it hits your checking account; I would know because I’ve done it one too many times.

Budget for strategy

Eventually, I found multiple consistent freelance writing gigs by focusing on securing high-paying clients who would provide consistent work over an agreed period of time. I was a regular contributor for some online platforms and also had private clients to whom I provided articles. I used job boards, cold emails and tapped my network. Although most of my freelance income was consistent, some contracts didn’t get renewed. This meant I had to have a solid budget in place and revisit it regularly to stay on top of my saving goals.

Tate suggests using a 50/30/20 budgeting system to manage your side hustle income, which NerdWallet also recommends for primary income. With this method, 50% of take-home income goes to needs, 30% to wants and 20% to savings, debt and investments.

“Everyone’s percentages need to be adjusted according to their own lifestyle and financial priorities,” Tate says. “But that would be a really great starting place.”

I was frequently adjusting my budget allocations. Some months, I was investing too much and didn’t have enough in my emergency fund, while other times, I wasn’t leaving enough for bills. I went overboard with the leisure and self-care bucket a few times, and during months when I had less side income, I had to reduce my savings.