Online Opportunities Can Be Your Retirement Goldmine
I grew up swaddled in the American origin story and the shared, national mantra that ours is a country of riches, where anyone, with effort and a dream, can grow up to be anything. So it is, then, that recent data points worry me for the future of my kids. I’m convinced the real opportunities for creating post-career income no longer lie in the formal jobs market, but in the informal world of side-hustles.
First, those troubling data points…
The U.S. jobs market has fully recovered from the Great Recession a decade ago, meaning unemployment at just 3.5% once again hugs low levels. Yet job quantity does not equate with job quality—and, statistically, job quality nowadays is horrific and getting worse. Cornell University’s U.S. Private Sector Job Quality Index finds that the high-quality, middle-income jobs that once defined the bulk of our labor market have largely vanished, replaced with low-quality service sector jobs that pay minimal salaries.
Indeed, a separate study last fall from the Brookings Institute determined that 44% of all American workers are earning a median annual income of just $18,000.
Those are, to me, startling statistics. They explain why the U.S. economy cannot gain sustained traction without the sugar-high of unnaturally low interest rates, why the term “working poor” colors so many political conversations these days, and why side-hustles have become such an overt part of the cultural zeitgeist.
People gotta live…
I reflexively examine all of this through the lens of someone in his mid-50s, contemplating the many tomorrows I hope to experience. All those tomorrows, of course, require a bit of coin—and many more coins than 44% of American workers currently take home. Which is why so many retirees are back at the quarry pounding rocks.
I was eyeballing some Social Security data and saw that men aged 65-69 are participating in the labor force today—full time, mind you—at more than double their 1995 rate (roughly 20% today vs. about 8% then). For women a decade older, those between 75 and 79, the rate has basically tripled.
Like I said: Gotta live.
But it’s a safe bet many of these are low-income jobs…and I would venture to guess lots of retirees tolerate these jobs, at best.
And therein lies an opportunity, regardless of age.
While official America remains wedded to tracking and reporting traditional job numbers, there’s a whole other economy for us to exploit, an economy largely uncounted yet capable of generating income well in excess of that $18,000 a year on which too much of America subsists.
We all know the Ubers and the Airbnbs of the world. Some know websites such as Upwork, Fiverr, and the like that connect the freelance writer, artist, coder, etc. with those around the world in need of such skills for a project or ongoing gig.
But so many other possibilities are zipping around. Take blog writing, for instance. The setup is fairly easy, the ongoing demand (written content) isn’t terribly taxing, and the income potential can push toward six-figures (above in some instances) if you gin up unique content and populate your blog consistently with stories that resonate with readers and draw them back time and again for your take on some topic. You can monetize those eyeballs. (I aim to come back to this idea at some point, since I have thoughts for a blog I want to launch, assuming I ever find the time.)
There’s also the idea of creating an internet-based “storefront” uniquely tied to some aspect of your life you enjoy. I don’t know—maybe a specialty business selling items for those passionate about fly-fishing, if that’s your thing. (I have an idea here, too…)
Frankly, I could prattle on for many more paragraphs on all the internet-related income opportunities that you and I can tap into right now and start earning a buck or three fairly quickly, either in retirement or pre-retirement. But that’s just overkill in making the point that there’s no reason to rely these days on a traditional jobs market that’s generating meager salaries.
We can improve our state of living—bump up or supplement the quantity of income we live on, as well as improve the quality of our job experience—by finding gig-era work that’s more meaningful, more fulfilling, more engaging, more enjoyable, more flexible, easier to do, etc. etc. etc.
No reason to be one of those depressing statistics when so many brighter possibilities await.
Written by Jeff D. Opdyke