Why the “Gig” Economy Works for Semi-Retirees

Ever heard of the “Gig” Economy?

In a nutshell, it’s a workforce that goes from one work “gig” to another, getting paid above or under the table.  ( “freelancing” is a variation on this)  Although its origins are musical, it has come to define independent contracting in the workplace. In a recent  article, Dave Ashton of SnapCar made an argument for replacing certain types of traditional employees with contractors.  Make no mistake, he takes a controversial political position, more understandable perhaps when you recognize that it is based on the French economy and not the USA.

His general point is that the market is better served by independent contractors than by employees in some positions.  It’s a Randian workplace utopia view – that if everyone acts in their own self-interest all the time, everyone is served.  Workers are more efficient because they generally work harder since their income directly relates to their actions, AND they net more take-home pay.  Of course it’s also better for employers because they need fewer employees for whom they pay government-mandated taxes for benefits.

I recall studying about Lima, Peru’s cash economy when I was in grad school.   It existed with full knowledge and tacit support of the government because it provided enough income for the poor to survive – thus keeping them off public assistance and out of the budget.

Then I realized I didn’t need to start a revolution to do this.  It’s already underway, driven by…my kids?  Millennials strike again.

This article about Millennials (formerly called Gen Y) was right on target.  Millennials  “… see work as something that helps them live the rest of their lives rather than seeing work as life — in other words, they work to live rather than living to work. On the whole, they’d rather work at an interesting job for less money that allows them plenty of time out of the office (or working at home) rather than putting in 12-hour days for a six-figure salary.”

Yep.  That’s a Millennial for you.   Drives workplace managers crazy because of the low retention rates and the sometimes inflated self-worth and expectations.   Remember, Millennials are also known as the Trophy Generation.  (Read whole article here)

Dare I suggest that it’s the workplace that needs to change?

And certainly it has in many ways.  We have Gen X to thank for casual Fridays after all.   Silicon Valley is littered with modern workplaces with everything from required sabbaticals to free gourmet food to onsite spas in an effort to make getting the job done more balanced and less stressful.  It’s progress, even if it’s mostly in California.

As for the rest of us?  Well, right now the option is to choose.    Two – five weeks vacation a year in exchange for income and benefits.  It’s a classic exchange, freedom for security.

Or, the slightly terrifying Go-Your-Own-Way Gig Economy.    (It helps if you picture your boss humming Fleetwood Mac)

I’d be severely remiss not to give credit and acknowledgement to my mom, who has worked as a freelance illustrator, artist, pet-sitter, portrait teacher, and walk-leader for over thirty years.  I don’t think she ever considered herself a bleeding edge pioneer of freedom from the workplace.

Not sure where to start?  Go find a Millennial and buy them a cup of coffee.  Oh wait….that’s a latte.  Pick his or her brain about work, play, and having it all.

You might be surprised what a Boomer can learn from youngsters these days.



Recovering MBA. Writer. Photographer. Scanner. Learning Addict. Airplane Geek. Teacher. Certification Collector. Serenity Seeker. Semi-retiree in training.