The Active Adult Guide to the Gig Economy

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The gig economy. It’s one of those terms you’ve probably been hearing a lot lately but might not know exactly what it means. To be fair, the exact definition is a little hard to pin down. Basically, it means the ever-increasing market of jobs performed by freelancers and independent contractors who use the work as temporary, part-time, or supplemental income. It involves gigs you can do from your home, gigs that you can do driving your car, and gigs that let other people rent things you own.

It’s a pretty popular way to make a little or a lot of money these days. 35 percent of the U.S. workforce included freelancers in 2016 and that number is expected to grow to 42 percent by 2020.

While notions of a gig economy worker often conjure up images of teenagers or millennials, older workers and retirees are a huge part of the freelancer and independent contractor workforce. Economic factors and financial concerns are certainly a major part of the reason, but many older Americans also enjoy the flexibility and ability to earn extra cash that comes with a gig economy job.

Whether out of necessity or just to supplement retirement income, there are lots of opportunities for active adults to get in on the gig economy. Here are some things you’ll need to know before diving in and a few potential gigs to consider.

Taxes

A gig economy job might give you freedom in a lot of ways but one thing it will not help you avoid is paying taxes. And because they do their work independently, a lot of gig workers don’t actually realize that they should be filing their taxes as a business. It can get a little tricky to determine how you figure out how to pay taxes and what gets reported.

Almost all companies you work for in this manner will send you a 1099 form at the end of the year so long as you made at least $600. Companies that pay via a third-party (such as PayPal) will send a 1099-K form, but only if you make $20,000 and took part in 200 transactions. It can get confusing, so it’s a good idea to consult with a tax professional if you decide to embark on a gig economy career.

Technology

Many gig economy jobs are going to rely heavily on your use of technology. That often means using your smartphone as your means for accepting, confirming, tracking, and rating gigs as you get them. If you consider taking one of these jobs, you’re going to want to be very comfortable with how to use your smartphone, how to work the specific app required to do the job, and how to troubleshoot any potential problems like lost signals or low batteries.

Even if you don’t need a phone, you’re probably going to need to use a computer. That means ensuring you have access to a good WiFi or broadband signal. You’ll also want to be up to speed on whatever websites and programs you need to know in order to do the job quickly and efficiently.

Expectations

A lot of numbers get thrown around when it comes to the gig economy. The amount of money you might be able to earn sounds too good to be true. Chances are, it is. Not to say that you can’t earn a decent amount by doing one or multiple gigs, but it’s unlikely that you’re going to make the mega-bucks unless you have something to offer that most other gig economy workers don’t. Also, remember that you don’t get benefits or insurance. Best to think of these jobs as ways to supplement and make some nice bonus cash rather than to assume you’ll be able to get rich doing any of them.

So what are some of the gigs that active adults should consider if they want to dip their toe in the gig economy? It depends on what they want to do and what they have to offer.

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