Whether they need extra money or are simply looking for a way to fill the time, many retirees find they still want to work later in life. Although there are plenty of traditional job opportunities to pursue, older Americans may discover the most convenient money-making methods are on the Web.
“There are so many ways they can leverage their experience [online], and it doesn’t require too much heavy lifting,” says Andy Sweet, president of Sweet Marketing Group in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
A basic knowledge of the Internet is all it takes to work as an online entrepreneur or freelancer, according to Sweet. Meanwhile, those who’d rather not go it alone can find online franchising opportunities that are custom-made for experienced, older Americans.
Share Knowledge With a Money-Making Blog
Sweet says retirees may find it easiest to make money online by using the knowledge gained through their career or hobbies. “Even if they were to do something as simple as put up a blog,” he says. That blog could cover anything a senior might be knowledgeable about, from gardening and home repair to business strategy.
Platforms such as WordPress, Blogger and Squarespace make it relatively simple to create a blog and use ads to bring in revenue. Other ways to monetize a blog include joining affiliate programs that offer commissions on sales or selling supplemental materials. For example, a retiree with a gardening blog could sell a guide with planting dates and a checklist for setting up a first-time garden.
Entire books have been written on how to turn a blog into a source of income, and bloggers will find no shortage of people offering to set up websites for a fee. “Unfortunately, there are plenty of fly-by-night guys out there,” Sweet says. Before paying for a book or hiring a consultant, be sure to vet them carefully. A better option, Sweet says, may be to take advantage of the many online forums and websites that provide free advice to new bloggers.
Where Seniors Can Find Freelance Earning Opportunities
Not everyone wants the responsibility of creating and maintaining a blog. For those retirees, freelancing may be a better option. Numerous websites allow people to connect with others who want to hire workers for a one-time task or on a freelancer basis.
These sites include:
While writing, Web design and administrative support are popular categories on these sites, seniors may find they can market practically any skill. “One of the categories on Fiverr is career advice,” Sweet notes.
Each site operates under a different set rules, with most opting for a bidding model in which potential clients post jobs and freelancers bid on them. Others, like Fiverr, may allow freelancers to post specific work they provide at a specific price. Many sites have discussion boards that can help users learn the ropes. Seniors should also take care to understand how payments work, the commission taken by the site and their options should a job go bad.
Franchises Mean You Don’t Have to Go Solo
Both blogging and freelancing are typically solo operations. However, there is a way to make money online using a more traditional business model: franchising.
“If they don’t have a wealth of money, they could get into a franchise for well under $100,000,” says Marty Welch, chief development officer for Legacy Franchise Group in Scottsdale, Arizona.
That’s significantly more than what a retiree would pay to set up a blog or market themselves as freelancer, but a franchise offers a turnkey business that may bring in more income more quickly. Beyond that, franchises offer ongoing support to help new business owners be successful.
“The benefit of being in a franchise is being in business for yourself but not by yourself,” Welch says.
Online franchises may focus on business consulting or online teaching, among other topics. With hundreds of franchise opportunities available, Welch recommends using a franchise consultant to evaluate options and find an online business that matches your skills and time commitment. Consultants typically work free of charge for potential business owners and make their money through a commission paid by the franchising company.
Beware: Your Social Security Could Be Taxed
Before jumping into any of these money-making opportunities, retirees should be aware of how the income they earn could affect their Social Security benefits, says Scott Cousino, a certified financial planner and owner of Legacy Financial Planners in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“It absolutely can affect your benefits,” Cousino says about working. In 2016, retirees who have not yet reached their full retirement age but are receiving retirement benefits can earn $15,720 before their Social Security is reduced. For every $2 a person exceeds that limit, $1 in benefits will be withheld. People reaching their full retirement age of 66 this year can earn up to $41,880 in 2016 before they are penalized $1 for every $3 they earn over that limit.
Income that counts toward the Social Security cap includes both wages and money earned through self-employment, including blogging and freelancing. Once a person reaches their full retirement age, there is no cap on how much a retiree can earn each year.
Cousino suggests those who are still working should consider whether it makes sense tofile early for Social Security. “Prior to full retirement, they have to be very aware of why they are taking Social Security if their benefit is going to be reduced [because of excess earnings],” he says.
Another consideration for seniors is the possibility their Social Security benefits may become taxable, regardless of their age. For instance, those filing an individual return can have a combined income of up to $24,999 and not worry about their Social Security being taxed. However, if their income falls between $25,000 and $34,000, half their benefits could be subject to federal income tax. Those with incomes in excess of $34,000 will see 85 percent of their Social Security benefits subject to tax. (Combined income is calculated by adding adjusted gross income, nontaxable interest and half the amount of Social Security benefits awarded that year.)
Making money online isn’t only for the younger generations. For seniors who know their way around the Internet, there are numerous opportunities to make extra cash online using the skills they gained over the course of their career.