Retirement for Musicians 101

"I dedicated my life to my music...and I never got it to where I wanted it to be."

-Sonny Rollins

The idea of a retired musician might sound quite absurd, because who has actually witnessed one? Sonny Rollins is an example of forced retirement because of health issues, but there are plenty of musicians who physically lose the ability to play as they age. I, for one, don't want to retire from music, but life happens and planning for the future is important.

Retirement doesn't have to mean giving up music. In my eyes, retirement is the freedom to play and create music without concern of payment. Imagine spending your time making music without the pressure of deadlines or paying your bills. I spent my career convincing myself that playing an unappealing gig for higher pay was acceptable because "at least it's still in music." But, in my experience, the mental detriment of playing a gig you don't truly enjoy takes a greater toll than the benefit of income.

Ideally we can avoid truly "retiring" from music. In the event we do lose the ability to perform there are alternative options in the music industry including teaching, composing, recording, contracting, etc. 

So if we never have to retire, then why plan to? Life expectancy continues to climb as the years go on and we may outlive our ability to physically perform by many years, maybe decades. Typical advisors suggest retiring around age 59-62, but as we live longer we will have to adjust our strategy to either make the money last longer or work into later years. In regards to life expectancy, a musician might fare better as we have more options to continue making music beyond performing. Planning for retirement is a nest egg for the unexpected and you will thank yourself for starting now.


Many implement IRA's (Individual Retirement Account) to plan for retirement and there are many options to choose from based on your situation. Below is a list of retirement options to consider:

Many financial institutions offer these options including Vanguard and Fidelity. The sooner you start the more your account will grow. Treat it like a savings account and set up automatic deposits.

DISCLAIMER: Please keep in mind I am not a certified retirement advisor. This is simply my experience with retirement planning as a freelance musician.

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