Retirees Are Reshaping the Sharing Economy

An increasing number of retirees are turning to companies like Uber and Airbnb to stay active.

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When Howard Petrook retired a couple of years ago he, like a lot of new retirees, wanted to stay busy. The lifelong entrepreneur wasn’t interested in watching TV all day or spending hours playing golf. But what would he do? After being a passenger in an Uber – the popular cab-like service where cars are hailed via a smartphone app – he found his post-work calling: He’d drive an Uber himself.

Petrook is one of a growing number of retirees who are turning to the sharing economy for both extra income and social interaction. The sharing economy refers to companies like Uber, or vacation rental giant Airbnb, where people use the Internet or an app on their phone, to buy, rent and sell goods and services from their peers.

“I do two or three days a week. I regard it not as income, but more as spending money,” Petrook says about his Uber side-gig. “It’s easy to do when you’re retired and doing nothing. You can easily make $25 to $30-plus an hour.” Plus, he adds, “You meet very interesting people.”

Retirees have been taking part-time jobs for years, but the sharing economy gives them another, and, in some ways easier, avenue to make extra money and meet new people.

Retirees have been taking part-time jobs for years, but the sharing economy gives them another, and in some ways easier, avenue to make extra money and meet new people. And many are tapping the sharing economy for work. A 2015 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that 25% of Americans 55 and older say they’re working in the sharing economy. That will likely increase, with PwC estimating that the sharing economy will grow to $225 billion by 2025, up from $15 billion in 2014.

Flexibility and social connection are big factors in deriving satisfaction from a post-retirement role in the sharing economy, says Wanda Morris, COO and vice-president of Advocacy with the Canadian Association of Retired Persons. “Retired people want flexibility, shorter days, fewer days, and time off in chunks so they can take trips or work on other projects,” she says.

That’s something Uber has capitalized on in the U.S. and she’s noticed they’re actively recruiting older drivers. “Uber really caters to that need for flexibility,” he explains.

Miles Schiller, a CFP and principal of Lloydminster-based Schiller & Associates, a Private Wealth Management practice with Investors Group, has experience with this. He works with several retired clients who have participated in the sharing economy through businesses such as VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner). Like Airbnb, VRBO allows people to rent out their homes and rooms to travelers.

“I work with a retired couple who built their dream home with three or four extra rooms,” Schiller says. “They love interacting with people from all over the world who come to ski, golf and see the mountains.”

Schiller also works with a retired couple who lives in Lloydminster and Hawaii and uses VRBO to rent out their second condo in Hawaii. “They do everything associated with the rental, including hiring the cleaning crew and communicating with the renters. It gives them something to do, people to stay in contact with. It’s a neat little working situation,” he says.

The arrangement is ideal for Schiller’s retired clients, because it gives them flexibility to choose their working hours and it allows for them to still travel extensively.

As businesses like Uber start turning their sights on older recruits, and retirees begin to see the many advantages of entering the sharing economy, it’s likely we’ll see many older Canadians trying out these ventures.

As for Petrook: “If you told me 10 years ago that I’d be doing this, I’d think you werecrazy. I think it’s the way the world is going. The tide is going to come in and you might as well adapt to it.”

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