Is the Side-Hustle a New Dance Seniors Are Learning?

Judging by the growing numbers of people 55 and older seeking out these gigs, the answer is yes. Maybe there's one that is right for you.

Man with white beard wearing headphones
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As we recovered from the recession, many people who wanted to work took any extra jobs they could. In my day, we called these gigs part-time work, second jobs or moonlighting, but in this new age of clever lexicon, they have been dubbed “side hustles.” A side hustle is usually taken in addition to your other work, or you can string a bunch together. You are really freelancing to supplement your income.

Let’s face it, many companies don’t want to have full-time employees to avoid having to offer benefits. So there’s a market for those interested in side hustles. Also, I’d like to think that side hustles can be a way to pursue some of your passions that if done full time may not cover all of the bills.

OK, I’m boring, I get it. I did some research on the word “hustle.” It actually comes from a Dutch word, “husselen,” which means, “to shake,” or my favorite, “to obtain by energetic activity.” So, the term does make some sense.

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A Growing Phenomenon

“Temporary employment has been growing steadily for the last several years. … Nearly 480,000 jobs were added from 2012 to 2019 with companies seeking more flexibility in how they staff and workers seeking greater control over when and where they work,” according to the New Job Forecast from TrueBlue and Emsi.

The big reveal was not that most of the side hustlers were 25-54 years old, the big news for me was that, almost 20% of these workers were 55 years old and older. I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that about 40% of people 55 and older are actively looking for work. (As an aside, the vast majority of these job seekers are women who are looking for the best job for the next phase of their life.) Also, the New Job Forecast found that these side hustle jobs are projected to increase into almost 3.2 million total jobs for all age groups by 2025; growing at 8.5%. Think about that growth when you compare that to only 6% growth for all U.S jobs from now to 2025.

There is even the theory put forth by Laura Carstensen, the founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, who feels that because of our long life expectancies, we should start out with side hustles and concentrate on family and learning in our earlier years and we “… shouldn’t start working full time until 40.”

Remote Work Leads the Way

Sara Sutton, known as the “Queen of Remote Work,” and CEO of FlexJobs told me that, “Over the last 10 years, we've seen people 55 and older increasingly seek out freelance, part-time and project-based work, and we expect this trend will continue, thanks largely to the rise of remote work. Some among this demographic are hoping to continue in their same career field, while others are excited to explore other work possibilities. Usually we see this semi-retirement work arrangement because people want to stay active and contribute professionally while also supplementing their income.”

Before you go out to seek side hustles, evaluate your skills and passions. You may be great at math, but if you don’t have the patience to work with kids, don’t become a math tutor. You also have to know if you can manage your time to juggle all of the things you need to pack into your day or night or weekends.

Take a Look at Some Possible Side Hustles for Seniors

What are some lucrative side hustles that seniors should consider?

I have culled the list that has compiled (and added my own) that I think could be a home run for seniors that can be done remotely:

  • Bookkeeper: $30/hour — You could work with clients via the phone or online to set up and track monthly budgets; pay bills; hunt down mistakes on credit card statements; track investments, complain to Medicare about them rejecting your doctor bills, etc. I take cellphone pictures of some of my hardcopy bills that arrive at my house and send them to my bookkeeper who pays them. I don’t like all bills to be on automatic payment. You don’t need to be a CPA, you need to be organized; be a whiz at QuickBooks and Excel; and coordinate with your employer’s accountant to create quarterly or year-end tax filings and payments.
  • Career Coach: $20/hour — You could work with clients of any age to help them create résumés, roleplay for interviews and help them identify jobs to suit their qualifications. If you have worked in a large or small company before, you will be perfect for this.
  • Copy Editor: $25/hour — If you have an eye for detail and grammar, you could be perfect for this job. Many people also blog today and really need someone to review their posts before they go live. If you love this work, you can also consider ghostwriting for others.
  • Specialized Consultant: $100+/hour — If you have previously worked in a specialized industry, you can pivot your experience to offer your expertise to others. I have a friend who had owned car dealerships. He created a side hustle helping VCs and individual buyers of car dealerships to value their prospective targets.
  • Sharing Your Talents: Who knows the pay? — You could be an accountant who loves to sing, or a banker who loves to play soccer. If you are a great cook, baker, athlete or musician, you could give lessons; if you can paint, you could do portraits of people or of their homes. They could send you a picture, and you could paint a portrait. These can also be turned into cards. You get the drift.

By the way, I do not think that side hustles are a passing fad. I don’t believe that they will go the way of ripped, threadbare jeans and tie-dyed T-shirts (oh, wait, those are back in vogue). Case in point. Side hustles also give the employee flexibility, which is really important to the next generation, not to mention, to retirees, as well. A side hustle is also a great way for you to put a toe in the water to not only see if you like your passion as work, but also to see if you can earn money at it before jumping in with both feet.

The other advantage in today’s world is that so many jobs can be done remotely. So, if there is a skill you have to learn to keep up, it is to become computer-savvy — or have your own IT side-hustler on speed dial to help you. That’s what I have. Jesse is my savior!


This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

Neale Godfrey, Financial Literacy Expert
President & CEO, Children's Financial Network Inc.

Neale Godfrey is a New York Times #1 best-selling author of 27 books, which empower families (and their kids and grandkids) to take charge of their financial lives. Godfrey started her journey with The Chase Manhattan Bank, joining as one of the first female executives, and later became president of The First Women's Bank and founder of The First Children's Bank. Neale pioneered the topic of "kids and money," which took off after her 13 appearances on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."