Seniors Using ‘Gig Economy’ to Stretch Retirement Savings


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The share of Americans working past age 64 has been rising for a few decades now. It recently stood at 19 percent — the highest it’s been since 1962.

Working in your golden years might sound like a miserable prospect, but it doesn’t have to mean traditional or full-time employment.

For example, many baby boomers are becoming their own bosses by working as freelancers in the so-called gig economy, reports Steve Vernon, a research scholar at the Stanford Center on Longevity and author of “Money for Life.”

In a CBS MoneyWatch article, Vernon writes of such work:

“This is indeed a great employment strategy for millions of aging baby boomers approaching their retirement years. … Earning just enough money to cover your living expenses while letting your financial resources grow can significantly increase your retirement income when you eventually leave the workforce for good.”

What is the gig economy?

“Gig economy” is a relatively new term for an old concept. It refers to employment that entails doing multiple short-term jobs for several clients rather than working one job for a single employer. It’s generally synonymous with self-employment and freelance work.

For example, Vernon writes of a retired couple finding work through the website, which matches up people who want to provide services like dog-walking and pet-sitting with people in need of such services. Not only have the couple postponed dipping into their retirement funds, but they also get to set their own work hours and spend time together while working.

Other advantages of the gig economy for people nearing retirement include that it:

  • Provides an alternative for older workers who have difficulty finding a traditional job, over such things as age bias.
  • Involves few upfront or ongoing costs.
  • Provides social interaction.

Downsides include that:

  • Income can be unpredictable.
  • Workers are generally responsible for paying their own taxes.
  • Benefits like health insurance are generally not available.

How to take advantage of the gig economy

Rover is among a growing number of websites that enable people to find freelance work. Joining these sites is generally free and as simple as signing up for an account, although potential workers are often screened before they can start soliciting work.

Signing up for a Rover account, for example, entails simply providing your name, email address and ZIP code. Rover also conducts background checks.

If pet-sitting isn’t your ideal idea of retirement work, other options in the gig economy — just to name a few — include:

For more options, check out the “Make” section of our website. For tips to get you started in the gig economy, check out “11 Keys to a Successful Freelance Career.”

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