How the gig economy is changing retirement planning

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When I hired an Uber to take me home after a dinner out recently, I was surprised to get a driver in her 80s. I asked her why she was working with the company. “Because it’s a lot more entertaining than my husband, and we need the additional income for our retirement,” she replied.

Her zippy response led me to wonder how many retirees are joining the booming gig economy. According to a 2017 study by Prudential, 31% of those undertaking pick-up work are boomers (54 to 74 years old). Of those, only 32% said that they were struggling financially. Not only are retirees joining, 75% of the retirees said they were happy with the arrangements and were not considering changing.

Over the years, the landscape of retirement planning has evolved dramatically. Retirement is no longer perceived as the ultimate end to decades of long service to one company, followed by days spent on golf courses or volunteering, as fat pension checks arrive in the mailbox monthly.

What prompted this change?

When Social Security began in 1935, life expectancy was 61. As of 2017, the average life expectancy is 78.8 years according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statics. As life expectancy continues to rise, a longevity problem has placed a strain on pension funds, Social Security, and personal retirement savings. The historically used “4% Rule” for suggesting how much retirees could take from their retirement accounts may not be enough if a client saved too little or lived too long.

Clients’ views of their retirement plans have also evolved, especially across generations. At my firm, Archer Investment Management, 55% of the assets under management are owned by Generation X and Y. Many of these clients are skeptical of Social Security and none has a pension of any substantial amount. There is a keen understanding that their personal savings will form their retirement savings.

This leads me to ask: Have planners recognized and adjusted as well? What can we do to look beyond traditional portfolio management to help clients generate income? We may have to consider a broader view of retirement income options so our clients have sustainable assets during their retirement years.

Contract work, consulting or smaller part-time jobs can be a great way for retirees to transition into retirement and reduce withdrawals early in their retirement years. Such measure can also help them delay their claims on Social Security. Better yet, gig employment might maybe provide some additional social life. After all, as I remind my clients, there are seven days of Saturdays after you retire.

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Retirement planning Retirement readiness Gig economy Client strategies RIAs