Got an Extra Gig? Developing a Retirement Side Hustle

Want to boost your retirement savings by moonlighting with a side job? Here are some ideas.

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In a fame-obsessed society where we too often look to celebrities for advice, it’s nice to know that at least one of them has set an example of a solid retirement plan. Jay Leno, comedian and long-time host of The Tonight Show once revealed in an interview that, from the day he got the late-night talk show gig, he’s never touched a dime of his NBC salary. He’s lived instead on the money he makes from his stand-up shows and personal appearances.

Now I know what you’re thinking. The guy’s a multi-millionaire who makes more from one sold-out show than the average American takes home all year. How can what he does possibly apply to me and my retirement? But it’s not the size of Leno’s income that’s important here, it’s the mechanics of how he earns and saves that’s interesting. In fact, ever since he was a kid making next to nothing, he’s had two jobs—his main one and what today is called a “side hustle.”

And when trying to build a retirement nest egg, developing your own side hustle can be a great way to do it.

The Right Hustle for the Right Stage

The options for creating a second income stream depend on your age, life stage, and how much you can work at it.

If you’re in your 20s, without the responsibility of a family, the simplest side hustle is to have two jobs—one full-time and one part-time. The part-time job doesn’t have to pay much to make an impact. A 20-year-old who socks away just $500 extra per week could have almost half a million by age 40. And if that money is invested in a tax-deferred IRA, it has the potential to grow even more.

Of course, things change later in life. If you have a full-time job, children, a spouse, a mortgage, and/or other responsibilities, a part-time job is probably not going to work—unless you’re willing to redefine what a “job” means to you.

Thanks to technology, your living room can now be your office, your laptop your staff, and the Internet a powerful marketing tool. In short, it gives you the ability to create income without investing the massive amounts of time and money required in years past. You can leverage that to create your second job.

So where do you start? With your skills. Do you have skills you use in your day job or have acquired over your career that others can benefit from and are willing to pay for? Do you know how to write, design, code, do taxes, or online marketing? Are you crafty or good with your hands? Are there things you can make or build that others might want?

Focus on a Niche

Even if you don’t think you have a skill, there are ways to acquire one. A friend of mine who had no previous programming experience took some classes a few years back on how to set up blogs using WordPress, a popular blogging platform. Today he works in his spare time, when he wants to, helping others set up their blogs, and makes a good chunk of change doing it.

What’s important here is that he picked a niche to serve. He didn’t have to spend years learning how to program, because he wasn’t trying to work at Google or Apple. All he wanted to do was to become very good in a specific area, which meant he could acquire the needed skills relatively quickly.

Another way to find a side hustle is to look at your hobbies. Is there something you enjoy doing in your free time that could be monetized? If you enjoy shopping at thrift stores, antique malls, and flea markets on the weekend, could you turn that into a side hustle by learning to spot items that could be flipped for cash?

Another friend of mine, who regularly attends auto parts swap meets, recently started buying old license plate rims. He buys all he can find, usually for no more than $25 each, gets them sandblasted and re-chromed, and sells them for up to $350 apiece. Who would pay that much for an old license plate rim, you might be asking? People restoring their classic cars who want every part to be authentic. His side hustle started with a hobby, and ended with a niche.

There is no one correct way to find and develop your retirement side hustle. Each person must decide what makes sense for them given the time and resources they’re able to devote, but it should be something you can do without impacting your full-time job. The money you earn stays separate from your main income, and goes right toward your retirement.

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