The Freelance Work Gig Economy Then and Now
March 03 2020 - From 2010 to 2020: How Freelance Work has Changed the Economy By Fiverr
Whether you prefer the term freelancers, contingent labor, or gig workers—there is no doubt that over the last decade more and more people have chosen to earn an income as independent contractors. A large number of technology-driven platforms emerged over the last decade which have enabled millions to provide freelance labor to customers in need.
The arrival of these opportunities has given rise to what is now known as the “gig economy”, wherein digital platforms connect freelancers with customers in need of their services.
A Vibrant Gig Economy Emerges
Companies such as Fiverr, Uber, TaskRabbit and Airbnb are few examples of the many technology companies that have soared thanks to the gig economy.
Recent surveys suggest that about 36% of the U.S. workforce, or 57 million people, are engaged in some form of gig work. That is a good-sized chunk of the population, and speaks to the impact that the gig economy has had over the course of its rise.
But How Did We Get Here?
When Fiverr launched in 2010, the so-called gig economy was still in its infancy.
With the Great Recession came mass corporate layoffs and record-high levels of unemployment. At the same time, a multitude of new tech startups cropped up and offered the masses new ways to connect and exchange services. For many, the nascent gig economy was a lifeline for both new graduates trying to enter a ravaged job market and for those who lost their jobs amid the recession.
Now the gig economy has become a way of life for many individuals who seek the freedom and independence to set their own hours and choose their own clients. They also seek to liberate themselves from the 9-to-5 lifestyle and the cubicles that come with it. Many other individuals have turned to the gig economy as a supplement to their full or part-time job, helping them to pay off student debt or save for a down payment on a house, for example.
Companies Love the Gig Economy Too
On the flip side of the freelancer-client relationship, Corporate America has embraced the flexibility and cost-savings that come with outsourcing tasks to freelancer workers on digital platforms.
According to Intuit, more than 80% of large corporations plan to increase their use the contingent workforce in the coming years, which is a promising sign that the gig economy still has plenty of opportunities to grow even more over the next 10 years.
A Lot Has Changed
You might remember when Fiverr launched, freelancers could only charge $5 for each service. But with strengthening demand for all kinds of freelance services from the corporate sector, such a novel pricing model didn’t make sense after a while. In 2013, Fiverr dropped the $5 price tag and let freelancers set their prices how they wanted instead.
As the gig economy grew and changed over the last decade, Fiverr continued to grow along with it, expanding its offerings to include more than 300 categories of freelance work to meet the demands of customers ranging from big businesses to solo entrepreneurs boot-strapping the next big thing. And just as the gig economy expanded globally, so has Fiverr—with freelancers from more than 160 countries now offering their services in the marketplace.
A Decade of Transformation
It is clear that over the last decade the gig economy has transformed the way many people make a living. It’s also created a few billion-dollar companies along the way. As technology continues to advance and more workers discover the flexibility and empowerment that comes with freelancing, you can be sure that the gig economy is here to stay.
How To Pay for College
January 08 2020 - Advisors Counsel Clients On How To Pay Their Kids' College Tuition By Investors Business Daily
Longtime advisors may remember when helping clients save for their kids' college tuition was straightforward. They would simply urge parents to start saving early, count on financial aid and consider an affordable in-state school.
Over the last few decades, however, parents with college-bound children face more complex challenges. Tuition has increased at rates that far outpace inflation. Applying for financial aid — both need- and merit-based — often involves more paperwork than ever. And funding cuts have left in-state residents paying more out-of-pocket to attend state schools.
As more advisors embrace comprehensive financial planning, they are increasingly assisting parents who worry about school affordability. As a result, they may partner with independent educational consultants to provide wide-ranging support to their clients.
"It's a lot to try to figure out, particularly if you don't know all the rules and nuances of all the products out there to help parents save for college," said Mike Hennessy, a certified financial planner in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "Parents come to us knowing that it's complicated."
Like many advisors, Hennessy educates parents about both 529 plans as well as state-specific offerings. In Florida, for instance, a prepaid college savings plan offers tax advantages to residents.
Better To Borrow?
Parents tend to treat saving for their kids' college in isolation, as a distinct task that's separate from other budgetary concerns. While understandable, such an attitude can prove counterproductive.
"Parents usually ask, 'How should I save for college?' but that's the wrong question," said Beth Walker, an advisor in Colorado Springs, Colo. "A better question is, 'How do I incorporate saving for college given my overall financial goals, such as saving for retirement?' "
Author of "Never Pay Retail for College," Walker specializes in devising financial strategies for families with college-bound children. She takes a broad approach in assessing all possible college-funding opportunities.
"We've been trained as advisors that the only club in the golf bag is 529 plans," she said. "But it's better to look at all the sources of financing that are available. College poses a cash-flow challenge, so look to other people's money."
For starters, Walker suggests funding options such as student loans and a home equity line of credit that may let parents use deductible, interest-only loans to borrow the needed funds each year to cover tuition. Other possibilities include a 401(k) loan and even an intra-family loan.
"You draft an agreement for grandma or grandpa," Walker said. "Some grandparents would love to get 4% or 5% on a loan" while helping their grandchild afford college, especially if they'd otherwise stash their cash in a CD paying less than 3%.
Advisors can also help parents cut through the intricacies of the federal financial aid system by completing a form to find out what the U.S. Department of Education believes they can afford to pay for college. To estimate a family's eligibility for federal student aid, go to https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa.
Assessment Tools Perhaps the most vexing part of saving for college is spending the funds wisely when it's time to pick a school. Some parents — and students — harbor biases ("I must go to a prestigious private university") or impose rigid rules ("I must go to a school within a four-hour drive of home") that stymie the process.
"The single biggest factor that impacts cost is school selection," Walker said. She often advises parents to confer with independent educational consultants who provide counseling on college admissions. A professional group, Independent Educational Consultants Association, has an online directory of qualified practitioners.
A variety of assessment tools identify potential career paths and even likely majors to help families choose an appropriate college that offers the kind of programs that fit a student's proclivities. Such planning can increase the odds of earning a degree in four years, rather than prolonging the process by changing direction midstream.
"I'll come up with a four-year cash flow plan for the client," Walker said. "But if the kid takes six years to get through college, we just blew that plan out of the water."
Joe Messinger, a certified financial planner, has created a course (https://collegepreapproval.com) to help advisors work with families to manage college costs, project their expected family contribution (EFC) and evaluate need- and merit-based aid programs.
"Even if parents tell their child not to be afraid about spending the money (on an expensive college), sometimes the child is more conservative and doesn't want to spend the money," said Yves-Marc Courtines, a certified financial planner in Manhattan Beach, Calif. "So we let the child explore all the options and look at the additional value of a more expensive college."
Preparing Your Career for the AI Robots Jobs Future
November 27 2019 - AI Poised To Impact High-Skill U.S. Jobs Including Finance Tech By Investors Business Daily
Artificial intelligence is coming for America's high-paid professions as it creates winners and losers across the labor market like never before.
White-collar jobs and better-educated occupations along with production workers are among the most susceptible to AI's spread into the economy, according to a Brookings Institution report Wednesday that draws on a new analysis of patent data by a Stanford University economist.
"Just as the impacts of robotics and software tend to be sizable and negative on exposed middle- and low-skill occupations, so AI's inroads are projected to negatively impact higher-skill occupations," researchers Mark Muro, Jacob Whiton and Robert Maxim wrote. Workers with graduate or professional degrees will be almost four times as exposed to AI as workers with just a high school degree, the report showed.
The researchers also concluded that AI appears most likely to affect men, prime-age and white and Asian American workers. Business, finance, and technology will be more exposed, along with natural resource and production industries, they found. Farming, one of humanity's earliest jobs, may also be affected by AI as drones and precision agriculture help boost productivity. Farming, fishing and forestry had the top exposure score of any occupational group.
The paper is the latest in a growing body of research on how labor markets may be upended by AI, the algorithms that can learn to handle tasks by finding statistical patterns in data rather than by following directions from people.
The findings also highlight how much remains unknown about the effects of AI versus other types of automation on jobs, and that while the impacts may be concentrated more in some areas than others, the technology ultimately could affect work in almost every occupational group. Some 740 of 769 occupations in the analysis could be "exposed to, complemented by, or completed by AI," the researchers concluded.
While high-end jobs face an impact, that may not go all the way to the top: "The most elite workers such as CEOs appear to be somewhat protected," the researchers find. The category of market-research analysts and marketing specialists has the highest exposure to AI, according to the report's scores, followed by sales managers, computer programmers and personal financial advisers.
Geographically, the bigger, more technologically oriented metro areas that are heavily involved in manufacturing are likely to experience the most disruption, according to the researchers with the institution's Metropolitan Policy Program.
Exposure to AI will be greatest in the eastern heartland from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico given ties to manufacturing in states including Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama. Washington state also is highly exposed because of the concentration of advanced manufacturing and technology in the Seattle area, the home of Microsoft (MSFT) and Amazon.com (AMZN), as well as Boeing's (BA) main aircraft plants.
The report by Muro and his colleagues builds on their earlier work though it takes a new direction because of their partnership with Stanford economist and Ph.D. student Michael Webb. In his paper out this month, Webb combines descriptions from a U.S. Labor Department database of occupations and tasks with the text of patents containing information about what technologies do.
There were more than 640,000 applications filed and 338,000 patents issued last year, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. They give owners the exclusive right to an invention, and the applications for them can show where research funding is spent.
Webb uses a natural-language processing algorithm, itself a kind of AI, to extract the verb-noun pairs from the patent filings, such as how a doctor's job description might include the task "diagnose condition." Then he quantifies how many patents correspond to technology with similar verb-noun pairs, such as "diagnose disease." Finally he uses the prevalence of those patents to assign a score to the task, and aggregates the task-level scores to occupations.
Men and Women
AI is less likely to be able to take over in situations where relationships between people are key, which means men are more likely to be affected than women, Webb said in an interview. "Women are much more likely to be in occupations that require strong interpersonal skills," Webb said in a phone interview.
Webb also cautioned that timing is a big question. "We are too early in the development of AI to know how much more of the technology there is to be developed, and too early also to know how long it will take to be adopted," Webb wrote in the paper. "If history is a guide, the main impacts on the labor market may not appear for three decades."
Muro and his colleagues emphasize that the findings don't have a time element.
"Webb's novel procedures demonstrate that we have a lot to learn about artificial intelligence, and that these are extremely early days in our inquiries," the researchers wrote. "What's coming may not resemble what we have been experiencing or expect to experience."