Monthly Archives: January 2017

A New Gig given the #ImmigrantBan

I had plans to write a totally different post today about the Gig Economy related to some work I had done for my new book, Thriving in the Gig Economy.  But the political events of the past weekend changed my thinking.

I had a Board Meeting on Saturday for ReSurge International http://www.resurge.org/home/home.cfm, where I am the Chair of the Board. (It is one of my gigs, as a member of the Gig Economy myself.)  The Resurge mission is twofold: we provide reconstructive surgery to the poor around the world, but just as importantly, we train developing world surgeons in the latest techniques of plastic surgery.  By doing this we are building medical and surgical capacity in parts of the world that are in dire need. Our patients, whether treated by our volunteer surgeons or the international partners we train, want to undergo a transformation that will improve life for themselves and their families.  And in that desire they are like many immigrants and refugees; they just want to create a better life for their families.

After our meeting we had a Board dinner at my home.  The wife of one of our newer Directors was a bit late, because, as an international law attorney, she had signed up to help represent immigrants, and so had been called to the San Francisco Airport to help out amidst the chaos.  Her description of her day dealing with the concerned and sometimes traumatized families of the immigration ban victims was riveting and led to many discussions of the immigration ban and the confusion  and angst that now surround it.

However, the other thought I had during these discussions was gratitude for the generosity of this lawyer, and hundreds of others like her across the country,  who just jumped in  to help people caught up in this awful mess.  That's the American spirit the resonates with me.  That's the commitment to helping others that I see so regularly in my Board work with ReSurge.

It struck me that for those who do not have the legal skills to help in this  situation, there are other options.  Protests may make a symbolic point, but they don't help those people in need. There are other ways you can help the people in need.  Several companies have taken strong steps:

You can help by patronizing those companies.  I for one, have always been a regular Uber customer.  Somehow I could never get past the weird pink mustaches that Lyft drivers hung on their grills  in the early days.  Now I will become a Lyft customer as well. And, right after I post this I may go out and get myself one of those new  cascara lattes at Starbucks.

You can also support the international humanitarian NGOs that support people who need help around the world.  Speaking as a Board Chair,  the not for profit world always needs donations, so making a donation will help.  But donations are not just financial, though that is always welcome.  Donations , the saying goes, include treasure ( money ),  talent, and time.  You might want to think about the talent and time part of the equation as a potential new gig.  Organizations differ regarding the type of volunteer expertise they need. One option is to join the Board of one of these organizations.  Skilled professionals with financial, marketing, technology and organizational skills who are willing to donate their time and talents can help advance the mission of these organizations dramatically.

As I  read about the chaos, protests, and signs of ill will toward the US around the world from what seems like an action that is counter to everything our country stands for, I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to help people around the world through my Board Service at ReSurge. Even though our government may seem heartless now, I know there are so many caring Americans who do want to help people around the world, whether they are immigrants, refugees, or impoverished families with no access to surgery. These Americans are making a difference, these Americans are inspiring.  You can be one too.

Advice for the Gig Economy on Retirement

Mark Miller, a journalist who writes about financial matters surrounding aging and retirement wrote a nice piece today  called "Retirement in the Gig Economy".http://www.wealthmanagement.com/retirement-planning/retirement-gig-economy  He discussed how Uber has a partnership with Betterment,https://www.betterment.com/why-betterment/ a fintech company that optimizes returns for investors through technology-enabled smart rebalancing and global diversification.  For Betterment it is a lead generation play, for Uber it is a way to deflect attention from the no benefits independent contractor issue, by providing some elective options.

He also mentions Honest Dollar, another fintech player that developed specialized retirement products for clients. One of those enabled  clients who engaged independent contractors to offer those contractors access to retirement products (IRAs, SEP IRAs etc.)  directly through its platform by a deduction from their fee payments. Goldman Sachs bought Honest Dollar in March, because they are "revolutionizing the retirement industry" by appealing to small businesses and gig workers.

Another firm in the space is Ubiquity,  a San Francisco based “fin tech” firm that is focused on providing retirement vehicles for small business and sole proprietorships, or as their website says, the “other 40 million”https://www.myubiquity.com/educate/. The company has their own version of an individual 401K, which they call a “single (k)”.  It has a flat fee and can be set up online. A single(k) enables an independent to make a larger contribution to retirement then would be allowed in a typical IRA or Roth IRA.

These firms are important for gig workers to know about, because they are providing solutions in today's environment.  What is more exciting are the opportunities that may come tomorrow. With very little fanfare, the Senate Finance Committee unanimously recommended Senate Bill 3471, The Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act. (RESA) The bill would enable a pool of employers to contribute to retirement programs.  No action was taken by the 2016 Congress, but given the support for the measure, there is an expectation it will be taken up in 2017.

That would bode well for other efforts that are underway for pooled employer programs.  New legislation  is expected to be introduced in New York state in this year. Handy, a digital platform for handymen and household workers, along with Tech NYC, a New York state trade association, is introducing a portable benefits bill Gig Economy workers. http://www.villagevoice.com/news/uber-but-for-benefits-ny-tech-companies-propose-a-gig-economy-solution-9517993 The proposed voluntary program envisions a 2.5% fee paid by participating companies into a benefits fund. Workers could access the fund to purchase benefits, whether health insurance or pensions.  The catch, according to some, is that the bill defines the workers as independent contractors, effectively cutting these gig workers off from employment benefits like overtime.  The bill’s proponents point to the need for incremental progress toward the goal of improving the social safety net.

Little steps can help.  As the saying goes, a journey of 1000 steps begins with one.

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