Episode 008 – Scott Stratton on Retirement Options for Self-Employed Musicians


When I graduated from college and was first starting my music school, I knew saving for retirement was a thing I should be doing, but I really didn’t know how to get started.

Today’s guest, Scott Stratton, is a financial advisor and blogger behind FinanceForMusicians.com. In this episode he explains some of the retirement options available to self-employed musicians.

The specifics of this episode apply mostly to American teachers, but the general savings principles apply to everyone.


This episode discusses financial planning in the United States. Options in other countries will be different. Do your research!

  • Social security benefits probably won’t be enough to fund your entire retirement savings
  • “Four Percent Rule” – plan to withdraw no more than 4% of you total retirement savings per year during retirement. Don’t forget to adjust for inflation!
    • $1 million savings = $40k/year during retirement (in today’s dollars)
    • $1.5 million = $60k/ year during retirement
    • $2 million = $80k/ year during retirement
    • If $40k is enough for you now, adjusted for inflation, you will need around $80k/yr to retire in 2050)
  • Start saving yesterday. If you don’t have a time machine, start today.

Three types of retirement accounts musicians should know about

Traditional IRA
  • Contribution limit $5,500/year ($458/mo)
  • Everyone can invest, but only some are eligible to deduct contributions
  • If you can’t deduct, look at another option first
  • If you make a deductible contribution, the money goes into the account pre-tax and it grows tax-deferred. It is taxed when you withdraw the money during retirement when you are (potentially) in a lower tax bracket)
Roth IRA
  • Contribution limit $5,500/year
  • Money is contributed after taxes have been paid on it and it grows tax-free. You can also withdraw from a Roth IRA tax-free.
  • Contribution limit determined by income – up to $55,000 contribution (in 2018)
  • If you can save more than $5,500/year, consider SEP

First Steps

  • Have 3-6 months of savings in emergency fund
  • Have a plan in place to pay off student loans
  • It’s never too early to get started, even if it’s only a small amount at first
  • Create a net worth statement and come up with a plan to increase income and decrease liabilities (student loans, credit card balances, mortgage, etc.)


“Cost of Waiting” Chart: Finance for Musicans – Scott Stratton – Cost of Waiting Chart

Blog Post: How to Become a Millionaire (Music Teacher Style)

Budget Worksheets: Personal Budget Worksheet

Music Studio Startup Expense Worksheet

Connect with Scott

Website: https://financeformusicians.com


Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FinanceForMusicians


Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play Music, or wherever you listen to podcasts!
Previous Episode
Episode 007 – Tara O’Brien on Manufacturing and Marketing a New Teaching Tool
Next Episode
Episode 009 – Sean Murphy on Managing an In-School Studio of 100+ Students