MONEY Workplace

Seniors Want in on the Sharing Economy

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Franz Marc Frei—Getty Images

10% of Airbnb hosts are over 60 and nearly 25% of Uber drivers are over 50.

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

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

Entrepreneurs age 55-65 accounted for 26% of all startups last year, up from 15% in 1996, according to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity.

Fiverr may be a millennial-dominated platform with just 2% of sellers over the age of 55, but growth in vendors age 55-64 shot up 375% 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.com (handmade and vintage items), and freelance marketplaces Guru.com and Freelancer.com.

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

Older Drivers

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.

If driving strangers around in your own car for hours on end does not sound like an ideal retirement to you, AARP begs to differ. While it is not putting an age limit on applicants, AARP sees the Uber program as ideally suited to the younger end of its constituency – workers over 50 who have been sidelined by economic turbulence.

“The shared economy is offering people an opportunity to follow their hearts, have flexibility in their work, be empowered to make money and be their own bosses,” says Adam Sohn, vice president of strategic initiatives at Life Reimagined.

“And, for millions of people who are doing what they don’t love, or have been pushed out of precarious jobs and are having trouble fighting their way back into the workforce, this kind of work also can provide a transition to whatever is next.”

Microentrepreneurship certainly offers a path around the age discrimination that older workers face.

In an AARP study released earlier this year, more than half of older workers who lost jobs during the Great Recession said age discrimination had a significant impact on their ability to find new work. But in the gig economy, if you can get the job done, no one cares about your age.

Nearly 25% of Uber’s drivers are over age 50, according to a study commissioned by the company recently – and among new drivers with no previous professional driving experience, 39% are over 50. 3% were retired before driving for Uber, and 8% were unemployed; one in five drivers was employed in a temporary job.

Uber does not disclose data about the earnings of its drivers, but the report states that drivers are making $19 per hour on average.

TIME People

Uber Wants Your Parents to Be Drivers If They Can Use a Smartphone

senior woman hands on steering wheel
Getty Images

The new economy is welcoming older Americans with open arms

“Companies don’t hire 50-year-olds. They just don’t.”

So says 50-year-old Sherry Singer. After decades of being a professional matchmaker, Singer wanted to change gears and start a non-profit, but still needed to pay the rent in L.A. Feeling she had few places to turn in the traditional job market, she looked to a more disruptive space: the booming on-demand economy led by Uber. Singer, who has now worked several of these freelancing jobs that didn’t exist a few years ago, found she could land a gig within a week.

Agism might be rampant in Silicon Valley, but some of the Bay Area’s leading companies are now actively trying to engage the senior crowd, recognizing the huge potential of experienced workers and responsible adults.

On Thursday, Uber announced a partnership with Life Reimagined, an organization under the AARP umbrella that exists to help older people figure out “what’s next?” after life transitions. The same day, Airbnb released data aimed at “celebrating” older hosts and guests, amid their executives attending summits on aging around the country.

“To overlook them participating in new activities would be really short-sighted,” says Airbnb’s Anita Roth, who attended a recent conference on aging hosted by the White House.

When these companies were startups that didn’t know how long they might survive, being short-sighted may have made sense. New tech companies have been started by young people who hire their young friends to help create solutions to problems they’re encountering in their own young lives. Their first customers are often their young, early-adopting friends who live in the Bay Area. But with valuations north of $25 billion, these “startups” are focusing on expansions into a more untapped demographic, which also happens to be huge and growing.

By 2032, Americans over the age of 65 will outnumber those under the age of 15. While bands of young companies are starting to pay more respect to the buying power of this demographic, Uber’s new effort is about recognizing their potential as workers. Life Reimagined bills itself as a helping hand for any adult in need of some direction—whether that person is a 42-year-old divorcee, 55-year-old empty nester or 66-year-old retiree bored nearly to death. Their mission isn’t just about helping people find new jobs or careers, but that’s often involved for participants who range from their late 30s to early 70s.

“The reality is there are far more adults looking for work than venues that are seeking to hire them,” says Emilio Pardo, Life Reimagined’s president. Their effort with Uber is explicitly targeting the “40-plus” crowd. The rideshare company said they don’t have a particular goal for how many drivers they hope to recruit.

Uber already has hundreds of thousands drivers coming onto their platform worldwide every month and expects perhaps another hundred thousand join their ranks in the U.S. over the next few years. Still, says Uber executive David Richter, they need to actively recruit. “We have the high-class problem of ever-increasing demand,” he says.

Uber previously engaged in targeted demographic outreach by trying to sell veterans on becoming drivers. The theory was that many veterans are task-oriented, disciplined and also looking for a healthy outlet “to bring those traits to bear,” says Richter. Those drivers turned out to get higher-than-average ratings; Uber hopes to repeat those results by capitalizing on older drivers who might provide a “more cautious, reliable ride.” According to a white paper released in January, Uber drivers are more likely to be young, female and highly educated than taxi drivers or chauffeurs. Still, about half of them are already over the age of 39.

What about the stereotype that grandma is a haphazard driver who goes everywhere with her blinker on and can operate a smartphone about as well as nuclear submarine? Ken Smith and Martha Deevy, experts from Stanford’s Center on Longevity, generally have a positive attitude about older people driving for Uber, saying that the flexibility those jobs provide will likely be attractive to retirees who need income but want flexible schedules. They also point out that if age 40 is the starting point, that means “there are 30 unambiguously safe years there.” If you look at fatal crash statistics, they point out, you could argue that getting into a car with a 65-year-old is safer than doing so with a driver who is less than 30.

Smartphones are required to do the job of being an Uber driver—as well as most new jobs in the on-demand economy—because it involves accepting and completing requests for rides through the Uber app. Just over half of 50- to 64-year-olds own smartphones, according to Pew, but those numbers are going up. In 2012, only 34% of them did. And, Richter says, new drivers can always lease a smartphone from Uber if needed.

The Center on Longevity is a leading organization dedicated to trying to figure out how Americans can all lead better, longer lives, a crucial mission given that our life expectancies have jumped 20 years since 1925. Airbnb worked with the group to develop a survey to learn more about their older users. Turns out, about one million of Airbnb’s guests and hosts are over 60. Considering 25 million people used Airbnb to find accommodations in the past year, that leaves a lot of room for growth, especially among a demographic that is more likely to own their own home. Like Uber’s veteran drivers, Airbnb’s older hosts also tend to get better reviews than the general population, Airbnb says. The majority of those hosts are either retirees or empty-nesters who start renting out rooms for the extra money; according to Airbnb’s survey, 49% of them are on a fixed income. But, Roth says, many people who come to the platform for the money end up staying for the social engagement and “renewed sense of purpose.” Isolation among older Americans, Life Reimagined’s Pardo says, “is fatal.”

Of course, the sharing and on-demand economies are not without their uncertainties and pitfalls. Lawsuits are alleging that companies like Uber are exploiting their workers, and cities like San Francisco are hotly debating how much home-sharing to allow. Though 50-year-old Singer continues to work for an on-demand ride company, she’s also a lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against Postmates, an on-demand delivery service for which she used to be a courier. The business models of these companies may have to change, but the fact that companies can benefit from giving older Americans more opportunities and attention will remain. “People are in a moment in America where either they can’t retire, don’t want to retire or they’re retired but they’re not done yet,” says Pardo. “It’s all about using the latest technology to actually open up a new opportunity, to give you options.”

TIME Travel

How to Save Money on Airbnb

An Airbnb user navigates the site in Havana on July 10, 2015.
Yamil Lage—AFP/Getty Images An Airbnb user navigates the site in Havana on July 10, 2015.

Changing currency can make a difference

Imagine my surprise when I found out Airbnb charges a foreign transaction fee on top of listings booked outside the country.

One of our readers Ted pointed this fact out a little while ago when we originally posted on the fact that it’s sometimes possible to save money on airfare by paying in a different currency. Turns out, by using the same tactics, it’s also possible to save an easy three percent on Airbnb bookings through this method.

Airbnb charges an automatic 3% on top of the base rate, usually in the local currency. I surmise this is supposed to account for the conversion fees Airbnb has to pay. (It’s important that you need a credit or debit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees for this to work or otherwise…. you pay end up exactly the same amount you originally would.)

I was reminded of this when my current man friend—who happens to be Australian—booked our accommodation for a road trip up the Californian coast. Out of curiosity, I compared the booking totals with the prices I was getting in American dollars.

Property Location Total Cost (AUD) Converted Price* (USD) Original Price (USD) Difference
Paso Robles Airbnb $338.00 $253.77 $246.00 $7.77
Carmel Airbnb $451.00 $344.06 $334.00 $10.06
San Francisco Airbnb $309.00 $233.63 $229.00 $4.63

Foreign transaction fee existence confirmed. If I had booked it, we would have saved a total of $22.46 off all our bookings which totaled $831.46.

Now onto the good part. The quickest way to avoid the fee is to go to the dead bottom of each individual listing. In the lower-left hand corner, there’s an option to change language and currency. Do not go to profile country (the point of sale) in your account because it just messes things up. Also, the footer settings seemed to override those preferences. That’s all there is to it.

But I wanted to see how different currencies compare across the board, so we tested four different Airbnb properties in different countries around the world with five different currencies. The majority of the time, the local currency yielded the cheapest price, with the glaring exception of Rio de Janeiro. (Note: it did come dangerously close, though. The Australian dollar and Swedish krona were used as controls.)

The cheapest currencies are bolded for easy reference.

Airbnb Location USD AUD BRL EUR SEK HKD
San Francisco, CA $315 $436
$324.08 USD
R$1035
$321.52 USD
€292
$321.81 USD
2749 kr
$323.05 USD
$2507
$323.24 USD
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil $34 $48
$35.68 USD
R$112
$34.79 USD
€32
$35.27 USD
298 kr
$35.05 USD
$272
$35.09 USD
Hong Kong, China $78 $105
$78.05 USD
R$250
$77.67 USD
€71
$78.25 USD
666 kr
$78.86 USD
$590
$76.11 USD
Paris, France $70 $94
$69.89 USD
R$224
$69.58 USD
€61
$67.19 USD
596 kr
$70.04 USD
$543
$70.05 USD

One interesting thing to note is Ted pointed out that:

Some currencies still settle in a “base” currency. I think when I tested RUB, the listings displayed in RUB but Airbnb said they’d bill me in EUR. Similar results when I tested a few European currencies.

But perhaps the biggest sticking point here is that this hack only works if you have a credit or debit card that’s travel-friendly and doesn’t charge these fees, otherwise the savings are nonexistent. Disregarding that, it’s a no-brainer thing to tweak one setting.

This article originally appeared on Map Happy

More from Map Happy:

TIME

Now You Can Hire RVs With Views of Manhattan on Airbnb

A night of luxury—in a New York City van—can be yours for just over $20 a night

A night of luxury—in a New York City van—can be yours for just over $20 a night.

A local New Yorker is renting out parked vans and campers in Queens, directly across the East River from Manhattan, for rates as low as $22 a night on Airbnb, DNAinfo reports.

One van is advertised for $39 per night and sleeps two “comfortably if cuddling or laying like pencils.” The van is advertised as being “Super spacious!” with “All brand new furnishings” and an “AMAZING view of the sky line.” According to the listing, it’s parked near The Mill, a coffee shop near a public playground’s restrooms, and already has 4.5 stars and 11 reviews.

Another van, slightly less plush, comes for $22 a night, and there’s even a converted taxi cab for $69 a night.

[DNAinfo]

TIME Airbnb

Cuba Libre! Airbnb Stays In the Country Are Free This Week

APTOPIX Cuba Classic Cars Photo Gallery
Franklin Reyes—AP A man drives a classic American car on The Malecon in Havana, Cuba.

There are reportedly over 2,000 active Airbnb listings in Cuba

With the Cuban Embassy reopening in Washington, D.C., this week, room-sharing service Airbnb says it will cover the cost for U.S. travelers booked to stay in the country.

The Cuba refund will apply to trips booked prior to July 20 for travel between July 19 and July 26.

A trade embargo was lifted and travel to Cuba has been allowed once again after President Barack Obama enacted policy changes at the end of last year.

“In the most significant changes in our policy in more than fifty years, we will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries,” the White House said at the time. “Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people, and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas.”

Nathan Blecharczyk, a co-founder and CTO of Airbnb, recently wrote for Fortune about Cuba’s economy. He said that since Airbnb started allowing listings in Cuba in April, there are over 2,000 rentals available.

“For the first time in decades, authorized U.S. travelers will have the chance to experience authentic Cuban hospitality at homes across the island,” an Airbnb blog post announced at the time. “Despite its proximity to the U.S., Cuba has been off limits to most Americans for over 50 years. Part of Cuba’s appeal to visitors is that it offers an experience unlike anything else.”

Airbnb announced its plan to pay for guests’ stays via Twitter.

It later clarified the specifics of the deal when customers pressed for more information.

MONEY Rentals

Thinking About Renting a Room to Travelers? Here’s What You Need to Know

San Francisco apartment with window views of the bay
Alamy

Take a cautious approach.

Of all the categories shaken up by the sharing economy, few are as transformed as lodging. For travelers, ditching the hotel for Airbnb can be a more affordable way to go. And on the flip side, offering your own home or apartment to vacationers can earn you cash—$100 to $150 a night on average, according to Airbnb, much more in some popular destinations.

That can be fairly easy money. Unless something goes wrong, in which case it can be a disaster. You need to protect yourself from legal and financial risks. Here’s what home sharers should know.

Assess Your Earning Power

If you want to rent out a room in your home while you are living there, you can post an ad for free at Airbnb, which takes a 3% cut of your rental fees, plus an additional 12% to 15% “service fee” from your guest. You set your own price; the site verifies users’ identities and provides guest and host reviews.

You can also rent your place while you’re away through Airbnb, or through vacation rental sites like VRBO and HomeAway, which charge a flat annual fee of $350 if you’re a regular user, or 10% of each rental if you’re just dabbling.

Understand Your Risk

Depending on where you live, short-term rentals could violate municipal laws or homeowners association regulations. You might be required to pay an occupancy tax or get a special hotelier’s license. (Consult a lawyer or visit town hall to check local rules.) If you rent for more than 14 days a year, you’ll also need to report the income on your taxes.

But those aren’t the big dangers. The worst-case scenario is that a guest burns down your home or gets injured there, in which case your standard homeowners policy may not cover the claim. “So that $2,000 rental fee could turn into losing everything you’ve got,” says San Francisco attorney Tad Devlin, himself an Airbnb host.

Play It Safe

Don’t just rely on the home-sharing site’s standard insurance plan, because the coverage is generally too ambiguous, says David Reiss, research director for the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School. Your existing homeowners policy may cover you for a single rental of less than two weeks, but call to ask.

More than that and you’ll need to switch to a commercial policy, which covers paying guests and typically costs an additional $500 per year, says Scott Wolf of CBIZ Property & Casualty.

Or try home swapping. For a small annual fee, sites such as HomeLink and HomeExchange connect people who want to visit each other’s location; because no money changes hands, you may avoid tax and liability issues. Still, check with your insurer—and of course, you need to be extremely cautious about who you let into your house. As a rule, none of these sites conducts background checks, so do your own by Googling guests and searching their social media accounts.

“Five years from now, the laws and the insurance policies will have caught up with the sharing economy,” Reiss predicts. “For now, though, it boils down to how risk averse you are.”

TIME Airbnb

Home-sharing Company Airbnb Is After More Business Users

Apartment in Barcelona, Spain offered through airbnb.
courtesy of airbnb Apartment in Barcelona, Spain offered through airbnb.

With more than 250 companies signed up, Airbnb is rolling out a new and better dashboard for company managers.

Home-rental company Airbnb really wants businesses’ money, so it’s revamped its tools for booking business trip accommodations.

Airbnb’s original corporate program launched last summer, and the company says that since then, more than 250 companies have signed up to provide accommodations through the service as an option, including Google, SoundCloud, and Twilio. On Monday, the company said it’s rolling out a full dashboard of tools that will help company managers better keep track of their employees’ bookings and billing.

Though Airbnb’s been quite successful in the leisure travel side of the business — it’s reportedly valued at more than $25 billion and on track to do $900 million in revenue this year — going after the business travel market could add another big stream of recurring revenue. Unlike individuals, companies book travel fairly frequently. Business travelers already seem to take well to these alternative services, with expense management company Certify reporting last week that ride-hailing service Uber has finally overtaken taxis as the more used form of transportation by its customers.

With that said, Airbnb will still face an uphill battle, especially with with executives or industries accustomed to putting up their employees in fancy hotels — staying in an average Joe’s home might sound very appealing to them. But as Bloomberg notes, Airbnb hopes it could become popular for extended-stay business travel or for offsite stays — think renting out a cabin for a team retreat.

TIME ESPYs

Google, Airbnb Air Transgender Ads During ESPYs

As ESPN honored Caitlyn Jenner at the awards ceremony, the brands pitched themselves as trans-inclusive

Many corporations have for years supported the transgender community internally by providing inclusive non-discrimination policies and benefits. But few corporate brands have publicly endorsed the transgender community.

Google and Airbnb became exceptions to that rule Wednesday night during ESPN’s annual ESPY awards on ABC, when they both ran ads advocating for diversity and trans-inclusion.

During the ESPY ceremony, ESPN awarded Caitlyn Jenner the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for going public with her transition.

Google capitalized on the recognition of Jenner by running a two-and-a-half minute advertisement that championed transgender individuals. The Mountain View, Calif., company first launched the video on YouTube in June to celebrate gay pride. The video received more than 1 million views on YouTube, so Google decided to air it during the ESPYs as a way to pitch itself as a trans-inclusive brand: “Not that many big brands have very publicly supported and endorsed the transgender community,” Google’s Vice President of Marketing Arjan Dijk told USA Today in an interview. “It’s a role we want to play as a brand.”

The Google ad chronicles the story of Jake Nothnagel, a 26-year-old, as he transitions from female to male. The Google tie-in is that he found a gym that supports transgender individuals in their efforts to build their new bodies.

Airbnb, the room-sharing platform, also aired a 60-minute spot during the ESPYs that’s part of its “Mankind” campaign. The “Is Mankind?” spot advocates viewing the world from alternative perspectives. “Go look through their windows so you can understand their views,” it says. “Sit at their table so you can share their tastes.” Near the end, the ad flashes “mankind,” “womankind,” “trans-kind,” “humankind.”

The transgender community has garnered new attention since the July cover of Vanity Fair featured Jenner, presenting as a woman for the first time, but plenty of challenges remain. Case in point: in all but 19 states and the District of Columbia, transgender individuals can be fire for their gender identity.

TIME Airbnb

Spain’s Catalonia Region the Latest to Slap a Tax on Airbnb Rentals

Beach People
Artur Debat—Moment Editorial/Getty Images Renting an Airbnb in Barcelona just got a pinch pricier.

Locals have complained that cheap rentals are attracting rowdy crowds of tourists

The Catalonia region of Spain has plenty of sunny beaches, and—according to its regulators—too many Airbnb-like rentals.

The regional government this week sought to “regularize the supply of tourist lodgings” by slapping a tax on lodging provided by rental services like Airbnb—0.65 euros per night in Barcelona, and 0.45 euros per night elsewhere in the region.

Home and apartment rentals via Airbnb, the room-sharing platform that’s valued at $24 billion and has received ire from hotels everywhere, have been subject to similar taxes in cities such as Amsterdam, Portland, Ore., San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.

A survey of hotel managers in Spain last year revealed that there were more rooms available via Airbnb-like rentals than through traditional hotels. Residents of Barcelona have complained that cheap rentals have attracted crowds of rowdy tourists.

In addition to taxing the room rentals, the regulations passed this week will limit Airbnb-like rents to two rooms per property for—at most—four months per year. Property owners must declare their rental activity to authorities and be present during guests’ stays.

Airbnb and other sharing economy companies like Uber face intense opposition in Europe. Critics have said they are anticompetitive and are undercutting traditional businesses. European Union authorities are preparing new regulations for such services, according to the AFP.

TIME housing

San Francisco Revamps Airbnb Regulations

Investors love Airbnb, but the reaction in its own backyard has been mixed.

The hometown of accommodation-sharing website Airbnb has come to a tentative resolution in a long fight over how often people can rent out their houses and apartments online.

After multiple rounds of debate over 60-day, 75-day and even 120-day caps on rentals, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to keep the current 90-day cap in place when the host is not present and allow unlimited days when the host is present.

The fight is far from over, however, with one supervisor even calling the vote “somewhat moot.” Earlier this week, a measure qualified for the November ballot that would cap both hosted and unhosted rentals at 75 days per year. The initiative would also require platforms to list only hosts who have registered with the city, a tenet of the current law that has been largely ignored by local hosts. The measure has been labeled as “anti-Airbnb.”

The debate is not just a local skirmish. Airbnb has faced concerns from lawmakers in New York as well, while cities across the country have debated limitations and even bans on companies like Uber, a ride-sharing app, as local governments struggle to update long-standing regulations in light of new technology.

The new San Francisco ordinance, which passed in a 6-5 vote, will create what supporters call a “one-stop-shop” office to handle issues related to short-term rentals, whether that’s getting through the registration process or handling neighbor complaints.

While investors love Airbnb, the reaction in its own backyard has been mixed.

The city is in the midst of a housing crisis. While some locals have been evicted from their homes by landlords hoping to rent them out on Airbnb full-time, others have testified that they’ve only been able to stay in their homes because of the extra income home-sharing has afforded them. An extensive report on the issue by the San Francisco Chronicle found that more than 150 homes seemed to be rented full-time on the platform, suggesting that might be stock taken out of the strapped rental market.

During the meeting, supervisors debated when private companies should be asked to share data and when participation in new economic opportunities turns an activity like driving or sharing an apartment into a business. “I do believe that home-sharing is here to stay, and we should support appropriate and responsible home-sharing in San Francisco,” said Supervisor Mark Farrell, who sponsored the new ordinance with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. “But we must protect our city from turning into a city solely of short-term rentals.”

Farrell, and other city lawmakers, cautioned against deciding this issue by ballot, because after a law is put in place that way, officials must return to voters in order to make any changes to it. He said that the economy and business models are changing too rapidly to put such a high bar in place for updating related laws. “We’re in the top of the first inning here,” he said.

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