Just in case you didn’t think the middle class is struggling, a survey from Bankrate found that 45% of people have side hustles — and that three in 10 of them do it to cover basic living expenses.
Unsurprisingly, Millennials (the generation that I, at least, think of as still struggling the most financially and being more tech savvy) were the most likely to have side hustles with 48% reporting to some participation in the gig economy.
To be clear, I’m specifically referring to work performed by people who are otherwise employed, either full- or part-time. These are gigs they use to boost or supplement income — by an average of $1,122 a month, according to the survey. For an average of 12 hours per week, that ain’t bad.
A surprising 28% of Baby Boomers also have side hustles. Given that technology is so integral to the process, that surprises me. I just don’t think of older folks as being technologically savvy enough to take part. Then again, my grandfather had a smartphone before I did, so who am I to judge?
And of course side hustles don’t have to include technology. A side hustle could be offering handyman services, walking dogs (without Rover and other pet-sitting apps) or other non-tech options.
But 78% of respondents said that technology played a part in their ability to side hustle, with 51% saying it played a major role. And 67% of side-hustling Boomers reported that technology helps them earn money. So clearly they have more tech know-how than I give them credit for.
As I said, Millennials were the most likely to have a side hustle at 48%. But what’s disturbing is that 40% of those side hustlers say it accounts for at least half of their income. Compare that to only 22% of Gen Xers and only 9% of Baby Boomers.
True, this could simply mean that Millennials are just hustling their hineys off. But it may also indicate that there’s still a big problem finding jobs that pay well enough to support their expenses.
Which I suppose shouldn’t be surprising, given how many Millennials don’t feel they’ve recovered from the recession. If you’re constantly cobbling together funds from various income sources — especially if it’s to pay bills — you’re probably not going to feel economically secure.
Of course, for some it may simply have become a pleasant hobby for them, something they like doing rather than something they feel as though they have to do to get by. In fact, 27% of all respondents said they are passionate about their side hustle.
Personally, I don’t do side hustles. Well, unless you count this blog. And I suppose I’m passionate about it.
But as for the gig economy, no. I have plenty of free time, but my energy is finite. (Thanks, chronic fatigue). So I’d rather spend my energy being with friends than going out and dealing with strange dogs or giving strangers a ride in my car. Or picking up strangers’ food. (I’m beginning to think the ’80s Stranger Danger over-imprinted on me.)
At any rate, I know that I’m privileged to be in a financial position where I don’t have to hustle for money. Of course, plenty of side hustlers don’t have to do it either. They choose to.
In fact, 34% of respondents said that they use the money for discretionary spending. Which, hey, if you’re going to blow a few bucks, it might as well be extra bucks rather than ones from your main salary. Another 27% said that it’s to boost savings, which is a good goal.
So the majority of gig economy participants are doing so by choice rather than necessity. Still, three in 10 people is a lot of folks relying on side hustles to pay the bills. And remember, these are people who have at least one regular job (though the survey didn’t differentiate between full- and part-time workers’ responses). So clearly we have a real problem with wages in this country.
Of course, some of the part-time workers may be part-time by choice. They could choose to work only half the time so that they can pursue their passion projects as side hustles. But I’m guessing that a lot of part-time workers are simply scrambling to cover expenses. Heck, a fair number of full-time workers might be scrambling to cover expenses. Like I said, we have a wage problem in this country.
So what does this mean?
First of all, tip your Uber driver and Postmates/DoorDash delivery person. He or she probably needs the money more than you do, if you’re able to afford the service in the first place.
Second, if you need your side gig money to survive, you’re not alone. Two out of nine other people are right there alongside you.
Third, the gig economy is almost certainly here to stay. Too many people now rely on it, whether for money integral to their budget or simply a nice bit of padding. Even as Uber struggles with lawsuits, it seems unlikely that it’s going anywhere.
No, side hustles seem to increasingly be the norm, and I don’t see that changing in the future.
Do you have a side hustle? Is it to cover expenses, for discretionary spending or to boost savings?