How freelancers can make sure they get paid
And more of the week's best financial advice
Here are three of the week's top pieces of financial advice, gathered from around the web:
Getting paid as a freelancer
One of the toughest things about being self-employed is getting clients to actually pay you, said Rebecca Knight at Harvard Business Review. More than 70 percent of freelancers say they've had trouble with late or nonexistent payments, according to research by the Freelancers Union, a nonprofit that advocates for independent workers. One of the first things freelancers should do to protect themselves is get an agreement in writing, with "a contract that lays out the scope of the project, the payment terms, and the expectations for both sides." It's smart to ask for as much money up front as possible — for example, a deposit of 30 to 50 percent — while invoicing periodically throughout the project. "Whatever you do, don't agree to terms that involve your getting paid only upon the full delivery of the work."
Don't be intimidated by annuities, said Rachel Sheedy at Kiplinger. By providing a guaranteed income stream in retirement, "the right product could be a good fit for a financial plan, particularly for those who don't have a pension." What kind of annuity you should buy depends on what stage of retirement planning you're in. People in their 50s or 60s who are still working should look at accumulation-phase annuities that build up a cash value before paying out. Retirees who have already started spending their nest egg should look at payout-phase annuities, which involve paying a lump sum up front in exchange for guaranteed payments. But "don't lock up your entire portfolio." Experts generally recommend investing no more than 30 percent of your net worth in annuities.
Negotiating health-care bills
Panicking about a big, unexpected medical bill? You've got options, said Veronica Dagher at The Wall Street Journal. With health-care costs on the rise, many financial advisers "are encouraging clients to negotiate medical costs, question charges, and move quickly to resolve disputes or arrange payment plans." In some cases, "simply asking for a discount" can shave hundreds of dollars off your bill. Start by asking for a 30 to 35 percent reduction and negotiating from there, ideally before undergoing a procedure. "Offering to pay in cash can also land a discount." Consumers should also ask for an itemized statement to catch errors or duplicate charges. "No matter what, experts say, consumers shouldn't delay in taking action on a bill." Some medical providers report delinquent payments to credit bureaus "after as few as 30 days."