Seniors joining the 'gig' economy: Sharing homes, giving rides, even coaching

Retirees Kiwi Nicholson (right) and Cecelia Hodge (left) coaching kids in tennis on a Down The Line and Beyond tennis clinic in the Gesu School at 1700 W. Thompson Street. ANTHONY BELTRAN / Staff Photographer.

What About Taxes?

  • 1. If you work part time, rent a spare bedroom, or provide car rides or other goods and services, you may still owe Uncle Sam if payments are in cash or if there is an information return like a Form 1099 or Form W-2.
  • 2. Some business expenses may qualify for deductions. For example, a taxpayer who uses his or her car for business often qualifies to claim the standard mileage rate, which was 54 cents a mile for 2016.
  • 3. If you rent out your home, apartment or other dwelling but also live in it during the year, special rules may apply. For more about these rules, see IRS Publication 527, Residential Rental Property (Including Rental of Vacation Home).
  • 4. The U.S. tax system is pay-as-you-go. Those in the gig economy often need to make estimated tax payments during the year to cover their obligations. Payments are due April 15, June 15, Sept. 15 and Jan. 15. Use Form 1040-ES to figure these out.
  • 5. If you work a gig but are also employed at another job, you can often avoid making estimated tax payments by having more tax withheld from your paycheck. File Form W-4 with your employer to request additional witholding.

You’ve retired, but you want some extra cash in your pocket? Join the “gig” economy and pick up what’s known as a “side hustle.”

Side hustles can be as simple as reselling, says John Tarnoff, author of Boomer Reinvention: How to Create Your Dream Career Over 50: “I learned of an insurance agent who shops at Walmart on Black Friday and then sells the items he bought at a deep discount for four times their original price on eBay.”

Some seniors are doing driving gigs for Lyft or Uber, or renting out spare rooms on Silvernest.com or AirBnB.com, or pet-sitting for DogVacay. Some are  delivering groceries for Instacart or running errands for TaskRabbit, or selling their expertise on freelancer sites such as Fiverr.com. Some are coaching youth sports.

Money and flexibility are key reasons for retirees to step back onto the workplace stage, as is supplementing their savings. Roughly 65 percent of baby boomers say they plan to work past age 65 or do not plan to retire at all. Sixty-eight percent of Americans age 50 to 64 say they are worried about not having enough money for retirement. And 40 percent of those nearing retirement age have zero savings.

For those who do have money in the bank, the median balance — half have more, half have less — is just $100,000, according to figures from the 2014 Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies survey and Federal Reserve data.

The gig economy is all about short-term, less formal employment arrangements — and offers the opportunity for experimentation and reinvention.

For Cecelia Hodge and Kiwi Nicholson, it's about coaching tennis.

Hodge, 65, of Philadelphia, a retired brokerage assistant for Wachovia, played tennis competitively and travels for tournaments around the country. Once she retired three years ago, she began volunteering to coach kids at Philadelphia's Althea Gibson Center.

Ultimately, she joined Down the Line and Beyond, a nonprofit that hosts tennis programs in basements, classrooms, gyms, even on concrete parking lots.

She and Nicholson, 65, of Elkins Park, love their coaching gigs — and it doesn’t hurt that coaches are paid $20 an hour. (Information at DowntheLineandBeyond.org.)

“Our entire coaching staff are retirees,” Hodge said. “We need people who can come at any time, and are consistent.”

Said Nicholson, a retired telecommunications engineer: “Tennis keeps me young. You can never stop going, never stop playing.”

When pursuing your second or third career, Tarnoff advises, embrace your age and be grateful for your experiences, but avoid arrogance.

"A resumé is a good reference tool, but it is not a good marketing tool," he writes,  noting that 85 percent of jobs are filled through referrals. Use social media to build relationships and an active professional network. Turn the interview process to your advantage: Ask what problems need solving and position yourself as a valuable solution-finder.

Ignore any age bias you encounter, he adds. "Show by your attitude that you have absolutely no problems dealing with younger people. Remember that you’re not there to teach them a lesson or tell them war stories. Instead, you’re there to be of service and to provide value to their business."

Of course, you might try starting your own business. The Women's Opportunities Resource Center is offering a seminar in conjunction with AARP and the Hartford called "Work for Yourself@50+" from 6 to 8 p.m. June 13 at the center's second-floor training room, 2010 Chestnut St. (Information at http://www.worc-pa.com/ or by calling the AARP Foundation at 1-888-339-5617.)

The program is specifically designed to help people 50 and older learn what it takes to be successfully self-employed in today's economy. "We had one most recently in March at the Philadelphia Free Library, and the response was very strong," said WORC direct Lynne Cutler. 

Home sharing is among the ways a rising number of retirees and empty-nesters are setting themselves up in gig-economy businesses, according to Wendi Burkhardt, founder of Silvernest.com, a roommate-pairing service and rental website for seniors.

Among seniors over age 65 who make less than $25,000 a year, 43 percent would share their homes, she said. Seven in 10 women end up alone as seniors, and Pew/AARP statistics show an increased rate of death by 26 percent if you live alone over age 45, Burkhardt noted.

So you can make money and stay healthier by renting out your house? “There's a lot of studies about health and well-being, the impact of connectivity, and having someone in your space every day is really powerful. It's phenomenal,” she said.

Silvernest is different from AirBnb in that it finds long-term renters, typically for six to 12 months. It has more than 15,000 users and has matched 11,000 roomies in the last 16 months, she said. Cost is $29.99 in a one-time use fee for three months. The average age of a homeowner is 60, and 70 percent of homeowners renting out space are female. The average age of renters is 40.

For retirees who work for Instacart or another delivery gig, you’ll generally need a smartphone and transportation.

“We have two models: full-time contractor jobs who shop and deliver all in the same trip; the second is people who shop with partners like Reading Terminal, DiBruno Bros., BJ's, Petco, SnapKitchen, and Weavers Way, Acme, or Whole Foods. They do nothing but shop. They get the list, talk to the customer, put it in a staging area for Instacart. Another contractor comes and picks it up; scans it in, and then delivers it,” said David Schloss, general manager for Instacart, who oversees Philadelphia as part of his region.

The gig economy often gets a bad rap about low pay.

“We make a concerted effort to pay above minimum wage and we benchmark against existing gigs,” Schloss said. Locally, Instacart pays an average of $11 to $15 an hour.

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