Retirees driving for Uber? Older Americans gearing up for the shared economy

Brook Folk

Brooke Folk

Five dollars may not sound like much pay for doing a job, but don’t tell that to Brooke Folk.

At age 67, Folk spends up to 30 hours a week on projects generated through, a shared-economy website that requires all its vendors to offer something to customers for just $5 and takes a 20 percent commission on earnings.

Folk, a former radio announcer and small business owner who lives near Pittsburgh, earns approximately $10,000 per year in supplemental income to his Social Security benefits on the site writing short stories and narrating scripts. He also sells – no surprise here – an ebook explaining how to succeed on Fiverr.

“When I first heard about it, I wondered if I should do something for $5, but what happens is you often upsell customers something additional. The most that I’ve billed an account is $1,300, and that’s a far cry from $5.

More Americans than ever intend to keep working past traditional retirement age – whether it’s just to keep busy or because they need to financially – and entrepreneurship is becoming a more common alternative to full time jobs. Fiverr may be a millennial-dominated platform with just 2 percent of sellers over the age of 55, but growth in vendors age 55-64 shot up 375 percent at the end of the second quarter this year compared with a year ago, according to the company.

Starting a business may sound like a risky investment of capital, but it does not have to be. A “micro-enterprise” – or side-gigging – can help retirees generate supplemental income without putting capital at risk and perhaps even enough to stall filing for Social Security or ease the pressure for drawdowns from retirement portfolios.

Folk is participating in an emerging online ecosystem that helps micro-entrepreneurs leverage their accumulated knowledge and experience. Other platforms include retail site Etsy (handmade and vintage items), and freelance marketplaces and

But the action is not limited to the knowledge economy. For example, recently noted that 10 percent of its hosts are over age 60.


And AARP’s Life Reimagined – a program focused on guiding people through life transitions – recently announced a partnership with Uber aimed at recruiting older drivers. Life Reimagined has 1.4 million members; for Uber, the alliance is part of a strategy to hire hundreds of thousands of drivers as it works to meet surging demand for its service.

Learn more in my Reuters Money column this week.

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