How Pensions Work for the Self-Employed?

by | May 13, 2024

Are you self-employed and wondering how to secure your financial future?

Thinking about retirement can feel overwhelming, especially when you’re managing your own business. Many self-employed individuals overlook the importance of setting up a pension, but it’s a crucial step towards ensuring a comfortable retirement.

Pensions aren’t just for those in traditional employment; they’re equally important for freelancers, entrepreneurs, and independent contractors.

In this blog, we will explain how pensions work for the self-employed, explore what a pension is, the different types available to you, and how you can start one. Let’s get started!

What is a Pension and Why is it Crucial for the Self-Employed?

A pension is a way to save money for later in life, when you decide to stop working. Saving for retirement is essential, especially if you’re self-employed because you don’t have the automatic pension setups that many employers offer their staff. Let’s discover what a pension is and why it matters so much for your future.

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What is a Pension?


A pension is a fund into which a sum of money is added during your working years. After retirement, these funds provide you with income. For those who work for themselves, setting up a pension means starting this fund on your own, which ensures you have financial security later on.

Why is it Especially Important for the Self-Employed?

If you’re self-employed, you don’t have an employer to handle your pension or contribute on your behalf, which makes it all the more crucial to start one yourself. You control your contributions, adapting them as your business grows or your personal circumstances change. This flexibility is great, but it also puts the responsibility solely on you to ensure you’re saving enough for your retirement years.

What Pension Options Are Available to You?

Choosing the right type of pension can make a big difference in how comfortably you live after retirement. There are several types of pensions available, each with its own features. Let’s compare personal pensions, SIPPs, and stakeholder pensions to see which might be best for you.

Personal Pensions

A personal pension is a common choice for many self-employed individuals. You pick the provider and make regular payments into your pension fund, which is then invested with the goal of growing over time. This option is straightforward and easy to manage, making it a popular choice if you want something simple yet effective.

SIPPs (Self-Invested Personal Pensions)

SIPPs offer more control over where your money is invested. You can choose from a wide range of investments, like stocks or property. This is ideal if you want to be more hands-on with your retirement savings. However, it requires more active management and understanding of investments.

Stakeholder Pensions

Stakeholder pensions are another option, known for their low charges and flexible contribution terms. You can pay in as much or as little as you want and aren’t penalised for changing your contribution amounts. Stakeholder pensions are great for those seeking flexibility with minimal fees.


Each type of pension offers unique benefits and may be better suited to different financial situations and preferences. Thinking carefully about your long-term goals and financial planning needs will help you choose the right one.

How Can You Set Up Your Pension Easily?

Setting up a pension may seem challenging, but it can be quite simple. By following these steps, you can start securing your financial future without much hassle. Choosing the right provider and getting a clear understanding of the costs are key initial steps.

Choosing a Provider

Start by researching different pension providers. Look for ones with good reviews and low fees. Select a provider that fits your financial goals and offers good customer support. This makes the process smoother and ensures you get the help you need.

Getting a Clear Understanding of Fees

Before finalising your choice, make sure you clearly understand all the fees involved. These can include management fees or charges for switching funds. Knowing these fees upfront helps you avoid surprises and manage your pension fund more effectively.

Starting Contributions

Once you’ve chosen a provider and understand the fees, you can start making contributions. Decide how much you can afford to contribute regularly. Setting up automatic contributions can make saving for retirement easier.

What Are the Tax Benefits of Self-Employed Pensions?


One of the biggest advantages of starting a pension is the tax relief you receive, which effectively reduces the cost of putting money into your pension.

Understanding Tax Relief

When you contribute to your pension, the government adds a portion of that amount in tax relief. For example, for every €80 you put in, the tax relief can increase your total contribution to €100. This is like getting free money just to save for your future.

Maximising Your Benefits

To make the most of this benefit, consider contributing as much as you can afford up to the annual limit. This maximises the amount of tax relief you receive and boosts your retirement savings.

By setting up your pension and taking advantage of tax benefits, you not only secure your future but also save money today

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How Should You Manage and Grow Your Pension?

Managing your pension effectively is key to ensuring it grows over time and meets your future needs. Regularly reviewing your pension’s performance, adjusting your contributions, and choosing the right investments are all crucial steps.

Reviewing Your Pension’s Performance

It’s important to check how your pension is doing at least once a year. See if it’s growing as expected. If it’s not, you might need to consider changing your investment choices or adjusting how much you’re saving.

Adjusting Your Contributions


As your earnings change, you might be able to save more. Increasing your contributions when you can, even by a small amount, can make a big difference over time. If times are tough, lowering them can also be an option, just keep in mind to increase back when possible.

Diversifying Your Investments

Putting your money into different types of investments can reduce risk and increase potential returns. Spreading your investments can help protect your pension from market ups and downs. Consider different sectors, regions, or types of investment to balance your risk.

By actively managing your pension, you can ensure it is on track to provide for your retirement. Regular adjustments and reviews will help you stay aligned with your long-term financial goals.


From understanding what a pension is and why it’s crucial, to exploring different pension options such as personal pensions, SIPPs, and stakeholder pensions.

We also discussed how to easily set up your pension, the benefits of tax relief, and strategies for managing and growing your pension fund. With the right approach, you can ensure that your retirement is as comfortable and secure as possible.

For personalised guidance and expert advice on setting up and managing your pension, consider consulting with Greenway Financial. Our experienced advisors specialise in helping self-employed professionals with the complexities of pension planning to secure a prosperous future.



What is the best pension scheme for a self-employed person?

The best pension scheme varies depending on individual circumstances. Personal pensions, SIPPs (Self-Invested Personal Pensions), and stakeholder pensions are popular choices. SIPPs offer more investment control, whereas stakeholder pensions are known for low fees and flexibility.

How much should a self-employed person contribute to their pension?

As a general rule, a good starting point is to save as much as you can afford, aiming for a contribution that could be about 15-20% of your annual income. This ensures substantial savings for retirement while taking advantage of tax relief.

Are there any specific tax benefits for self-employed pensions?

Yes, contributions to pensions by self-employed individuals qualify for tax relief at their highest income tax rate. This means for every €80 contributed, the total amount credited to the pension could be €100, due to a €20 tax relief.

Can I manage my own pension if I'm self-employed?

Yes, self-employed individuals can manage their own pensions through a SIPP, which allows them to make investment decisions and adjust their portfolio as needed to meet their retirement goals.

What happens to my pension if my self-employed income varies?

If your income varies, stakeholder and personal pensions offer flexibility in contributions. You can adjust how much you pay in, depending on your financial situation, without facing penalties for changing the contribution amounts.

Is it possible to combine pensions from different jobs when you're self-employed?

Yes, it’s possible to combine pensions from previous employment into one, such as a personal pension or SIPP. This can make managing your retirement savings easier and could potentially reduce administrative costs and fees.

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Debbie Cheevers

Debbie Cheevers

Qualified Financial Advisor (QFA) & Technician Member of the Irish Taxation Institute

Debbie was born in Dublin and graduated from NCAD with a degree in Visual Communication. She brings a strong customer service background to Greenway.

Debbie qualified as APA in 2017 and a fully qualified financial advisor (QFA) in 2018. She believes that product knowledge is key to helping customers make the right choices.

In 2022 Debbie gained a tax qualification as a Technician Member of the Irish Taxation Institute.

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