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The gig economy is changing the way we work. Now here's how to give workers fina ...


A chilly, rainy evening can be great news for a ride-hail driver ― who wants to walk in the rain? But what happens when a stretch of beautiful weather causes a sudden dip in business? For gig workers, rent and other bills are due monthly, but their income is far less regular. And many of them ― like ride-hail drivers ― are paid indirectly, so they're often waiting around for whatever technology their companies use to release their payments.

Whether it's an on-demand delivery person in the rural Midwest, a caregiver in Tampa, or a ride-hail driver in Chicago, gig workers, who now make up more than one-third of the American workforce, face a common challenge: how they manage their finances.

"There is a fundamental disconnect between the high, fixed-cost traditional American dream and the variable income that comes with independent work," says Diane Mulcahy, author of The Gig Economy. "Our traditional American dream is built on a foundation of fixed debt payments ― a mortgage, car loans, credit card debt, and, increasingly, college loans ― and the steady paychecks needed to service that debt."

The solutions? Easier access to digital-payments and learning how to budget for regular expenses with irregular income.

Mastercard is dedicated to serving this segment in new ways. In the US and around the globe, digital solutions and research are helping new economy workers manage their cash flow and create financial stability for themselves and their families.

Rooted in research

The best fintech solution may not be the same for every type of work, so getting it right takes some effort. Mastercard started with a multi-city campaign across the US to meet with community leaders, local government officials, businesses, and consumer-advocacy groups. The goal was to learn more about how to help gig workers balance earning, paying, and retaining their money.

"What we've seen through our research is that consumers with that volatility really struggle on the 'pay' and 'retain' side," says Jennifer Rademaker, the executive vice president of global customer delivery for Mastercard. And when they don't have the cash to make payments, she adds, they often go into debt. And savings? Forget about it.

"We know from analysis by economists Jackson, Looney, and Ramnath that gig workers are considerably less likely than traditional employees to make retirement contributions, whether through employer plans or IRAs" says Ryan Nunn, policy director for The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution. "They estimate that while 42% of wage earners make retirement contributions, only about 19% of gig workers do so. It is important that we find ways to help gig workers ― and others without traditional employer relationships ― to make the investments that will ensure their retirement security down the road."

Financial-education programs

Technology is only one piece of the financial-security puzzle. Financial skills are critical for users to make the tools work for them. But according to a 2016 study , nearly two-thirds of Americans can't pass a basic financial-literacy test ― and the financial challenges for gig workers go beyond the basics.

"Not knowing how much you're going to earn from week-to-week causes a problem when you look at how much you have to pay, because your payments are fixed," Rademaker says. "People often just don't have the budgeting skills to handle that variability."

Master Your Card is a Mastercard initiative that offers free events and financial literacy tools to anyone; much of the educational resources are available to read or download at no cost . The program provides information on avoiding financial fraud, offers economic-empowerment fairs for families, and more.

"Financial planning for gig workers is critical because many of them lack the consistent benefits that corporate workers receive, like healthcare and retirement, so they can't afford to make mistakes," Rademaker says.

Tailor-made fintech solutions

With the knowledge they need to budget and save, gig workers can take charge of their finances, especially with fintech solutions that are tailored to their needs.

Mastercard's Inclusive Futures Project aims to deliver exactly that, like a tool to help on-demand drivers collect their pay in near real-time. The company has also partnered with Care.com to make it easier for caregivers to manage their variable cash flows and personal finances with tools that facilitate real-time payments and budget management tools.

Assemble for Millennials is a targeted solution for young workers. It's a digital hub that helps millennials manage their money through a prepaid account, a mobile app, and a payment card.

With an increasing number of the global workforce striking out on their own, digital tools, training, and resources are starting to help more of them move toward a more secure financial future.

Find out more about how Mastercard is helping gig workers across the US.

This post is sponsored by Mastercard.

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