Lee Nelson
Lee Nelson
February 23, 2018 - 4 min read

Investing for Retirement While Travel Nursing

Traveling nurses choose this job for many reasons, but for many it is the amount of money they can accumulate in a short period of time. Plus, they don’t have housing costs or medical insurance costs. They also can receive retirement funds.

But those who don’t handle their money well or like to spend it more than save it, the benefits of making more money could be gone in a poof.

“Setting aside six to eight months worth of living funds for emergencies should be a priority,” says Pepper Papineau, employee benefits manager and trust officer at Cornerstone Bank in York, Nebraska.

This may need to include rent for someone who doesn’t have a permanent home.

“Outside of these items, take a look at the list you’ve created concerning future goals or needs and use that as a guideline on how much you can or should be setting aside. Very few people have ever saved too much,” he adds.

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What steps should a traveling nurse take to save a lot for his/her future?

Think ahead. What are your plans when you are done with your traveling nursing career? Do you plan to rent or own a house in the future? Will you need to purchase a vehicle? Is there more schooling involved for the advancement of your career? Getting an idea in mind of what these items may cost will give you a good baseline of how much you need to plan on saving, he adds.

Many of the travel nursing companies offer 401k plans, etc. How should they deal with this?

“Contributing directly to an employer-sponsored 401k (or their financial company) will allow for higher contribution amounts than contributing to a personal IRA,” Papineau states.
For 2018 the contribution limits for a 401k are $18,500 with a $6,000 catch-up for those over 50, whereas an IRA has a $5,500 limit with $1,000 catch-up for those over 50. Also, a company sponsored 401k may be cheaper from an administrative standpoint, as many times the company will cover some or all of those costs.

How does their age affect what they should be doing with the extra funds they make and their 401k?

“At all ages, you should be saving as much as you can afford to put away,” he says. “When it comes to investing, nobody can give back time. Someone younger has the luxury of time to help grow their retirement accounts and can generally be more aggressive with their investment philosophy.” Someone who is older or closer to retirement needs to assess how their accounts are performing and whether or not they need to adjust to a more conservative approach, so their funds are available when they do decide to retire.

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Papineau’s top three tips on the most important things a traveling nurse should do when it comes to investing:

Be disciplined – this is true from budgeting to saving. If you plan something, stick to it.

Surround yourself with trusted professionals – others rely on you and your expertise, lean on those who are financially savvy and will protect your interests.

Ask questions – never be afraid to ask those in the know. Either financial planners or others in your profession, they have first-hand experience of what works and what is realistic.

What are the biggest mistakes a traveling nurse could do when it comes to their retirement investments?

Not taking advantage of any match or incentive an employer offers is giving away free money. Whenever an employer has a matching opportunity try to maximize that benefit, he adds.

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What kind of accounts, CDs or funds would be smart for a traveling nurse to put her extra money into to be able to still make interest but to be able to get it out fast if they need it for any reason?

“You should have your emergency funds in a readily accessible account such as a savings or money market account,” Papineau says. “CDs can be a good instrument that may provide better interest than a savings account. But be careful not to put too much into one CD for too long of a duration. If you have to use the funds in a CD before it matures you may have to pay a penalty to redeem it early.”

How can technology help travel nurses track their money no matter where they are?

“Taking advantage of online account access can help keep tabs on your money and may allow you to set up automatic deposits for savings or allow you to transfer funds between accounts,” he says.
Online bill pay can alleviate the stress of trying to coordinate mailings and gives you a record of transactions that occur. There are also many apps for your phone or tablet which allow you to get most of your financial information in one place so it is easier to see your spending versus saving habits.

What percentage of someone’s salary, especially in the case of a traveling nurse who doesn’t usually have any expenses except food and entertainment, should they save from each paycheck?

“Ideally, most people should aim to set aside 10-15% of their paycheck for retirement. But you should always at least do enough to take advantage of any match or incentives offered,” Papineau explains.

Who can help traveling nurses get their finances in order so they feel free to take on this adventure without worry?

Surround yourself with professionals you trust and know they are looking out for your best interest, he adds.
A quality accountant is going to be able to help you maximize any deductions for your profession, and a personal finance person is going to be able to help you plan and budget. A good banker will be able to acknowledge your situation and may have helpful suggestions as to products or services that may help you while traveling.

“Find reliable people who are willing to work with the other members of your team and be sure they always put you first,” Papineau states.

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