The side hustle: it’s a relatively new term for an old way of making cash. Used to describe that extra job you pick up to supplement your primary income, the side hustle is a burgeoning trend affecting the way Americans make money. These days, more Americans than ever are embracing their side hustle and turning up their entrepreneurial efforts.
Despite its long history as a financial tool, the side hustle owes its recent rebranding to the rise of hustlers in the last several years. According to the latest survey conducted by Bankrate, there are over 44 million Americans side hustling right now. Many of them are Millennials – particularly the youngest subset of this generation, a collection of people accused of being lazy and financially irresponsible.
Bankrate estimates 28 percent of young Millennials (or those ages 18 to 26) have a side hustle at any given time. Somewhere in between one piece of avocado toast and the next, they manage to find the time to hustle more intensely than any other generation. Sixty-one percent of them work at these gigs every week, while another 96 percent revisit their side hustle at least once a month.
As the first generation raised on smartphones and other IoT devices, they understand how to use e-lancing websites and apps to their advantage. The demographics of online marketplaces like Fiverr are overwhelmingly young, with Millennials accounting for 98 percent of its users. They make up a generation of freelance writers, designers, and social media gurus selling their products online.
That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re using the gig economy to their full advantage. While a quarter of young Millennials add $500 per month to their budgets thanks to this extra stream of cash, most earn just $200. Meanwhile, older hustlers (or those ages 53 to 62) tend to earn as much as $1,000 per month.
Traditionally, before the Millennials seized the side hustle for their own, a side job was typically just a bonus padding out the budget. In the past, it was a way of going on a trip or purchasing a must-have item without dipping into your regular income. While some Millennials still use their side hustle in similar ways, the majority are relying on them to fill the holes in their budgets.
This highlights an often-overlooked characteristic in a generation infamously marketed as entitled, immature Special Snowflakes. Financial accountability is something shared by most young Millennials, despite what Buzzfeed listicles and inflammatory click-bait articles may suggest.
According to TD Banks’ 2016 Consumer Spending Index Survey, Millennials spend less money than any other generation. This is despite indulging in impulse buys more frequently. They may meet over lattes and takeout, but two-thirds of Millennials rely on specialty discount websites, rebate apps, and money saving guides online to alleviate the impact these luxuries have on their finances.
They’re more likely to live paycheck-to-paycheck even with a side hustle but not because they’re reckless with their finances. Their experiences growing up through the Recession has turned them into money-conscious and savvy-spenders according to the Nielsen Company’s Millennial Report.
As a generation, they face unfavorable conditions. They face the highest unemployment rate in the country, at 12.8 percent versus the national average of 4.3 percent. Those that do have a job struggle with underemployment and low earnings. Wage stagnation has hit such depths that the average 27-year old male in 2013 is making 31 percent less than his counterpart earned in 1969. Meanwhile they’re burdened with the worst student debt in decades.
Controlling expenses is a necessary financial strategy when the average Millennial owes $30,000 in student loans. Almost half of those surveyed by TD Ameritrade in its Millennial and Money Research study admit they’re preoccupied with their debts, listing them as their most urgent financial concern. A LendEDU poll reveals Millennials consider the country’s $1.4 trillion student loan crisis on par with global warming as a threat facing America.
This perspective affects the way they work and how they budget. As they add to their income with side hustles, 80 percent of those surveyed actively use household budgets to track their spending – compared to 61 percent of Baby Boomers. With these financial plans in hand, they’re setting financial goals (like paying their student loans off) 10 years earlier than the Boomers ever did.
Financially responsible and resourceful, side hustling Millennials are drastically different from the generation mocked in the media. Sure, they may enjoy going out for dinner more than any other generation, but their shrewd sense of finances and an entrepreneurial spirit lets them achieve financial balance and maybe even security.