Episode #7: Grandma Drives an Uber: Why the Gig Economy is Better for Boomers than Millennials

January 5, 2016 · 20:57
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Need extra cash?  Want to be your own boss and enjoy flexible hours?

Sounds like an ad for a get-rich-quick scheme, doesn’t it? Not this time. Think the gig economy.

More people–especially Millennials–are joining the gig economy, also known as the on-demand or freelance economy. They’re working for outfits like Uber, Lyft, Fiverr, TaskRabbit and Airbnb.

These businesses cater to Millennials, but Boomers may be in a better position to take advantage of gig work.

In this episode of Unretirement, we hear from Sue Johnson.  Sue has been an entrepreneur and a real estate agent.  At 72, she didn’t want to stop working but she also didn’t want to be tied down by a job with a set schedule.  That’s why she drives for Uber, picking up customers who need a ride, usually an airport run.  She’s not making much money driving for Uber, but at this point in her life that’s isn’t the goal.  She makes enough to pay for traveling with friends or to visit grandchildren across the country. She likes talking with her customers.

Chris also talks with journalist Mark Miller about the problems and benefits of working in the gig economy.

We’ll learn:

  • Why it is that for a young person who needs health benefits, is trying to raise a family, save for retirement and make a living wage, the gig economy may not work so well.  But older boomers with Social Security and Medicare can take advantage of the flexibility.
  • Why online and mobile gig services can be a good entry point if you’re considering entrepreneurship.
  • How to know if joining the gig economy is right for you.
  • Why we need to revamp the country’s social safety net if we are going to expand flexible work.

Explore additional resources from this episode:

The gig economy is controversial and it’s still evolving, especially on the regulatory side.

What we’ve done is collect a variety of articles. Some are focused on the gig economy and older Americans. Other articles address important worker and regulatory questions that have accompanied the rise of the gig economy.

Articles looking at the gig economy and seniors:

How Seniors Are Creatively Growing Their Retirement Incomes in the Gig Economy by Robert McGarvey

Your Next Uber Driver May Be a Retiree: Contrary to stereotypes, seniors are a natural fit for ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft by Henry Graham

Seniors Gear Up for the Sharing Economy by Mark Miller

Share the Wealth: People Over 50 are profiting from a boom in the sharing economy by Kimberly Palmer

The Sharing Economy Attracts Older Adults by Amy Zepkin

Gigs With Benefits by James Surowiecki

The Low-Risk Way to Start a Business in Retirement: How to bring in part-time income without tapping your savings by Chris Farrell  


Articles on the advantages and disadvantages of the gig economy overall:

Gig Economy Is Piecework. But This Isn’t Dickens. Megan McArdle

The “Gig Economy” Is Mostly Just Silicon Valley Hype by Kevin Drum

Are Uber, Airbnb And Other Sharing Economy Businesses Good For America? By Jacob Morgan and Eric Severson

As the Gig Economy Changes Work, So Should Rules: Workplace rules need to evolve for the sharing economy to grow while protecting workers by Greg Ip

Rise of Gig Economy Spurs Calls for New Workers’ Protection by Carolyn Said at

Worker Protection in the Gig Economy by Laura Tyson and Lenny Mendonca

How the sharing economy can make its case by Mckinsey & Co.


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This week we want to know:

Would you consider working in the gig economy during unretirement?

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