Freelance Nation? The New American Dream

But the gig economy has a dark side, TD Ameritrade survey reveals

OMAHA, Neb.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The new American dream is the ability to be your own boss, with the
freedom to work whenever and wherever you want, according to a new
conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of TD Ameritrade. Six
in 10 Americans (60 percent) said freelancing is the modern version of
the American dream. While that number was highest among those who have
already joined the on-demand workforce (71 percent), more than half (57
percent) of traditional workers agreed.

“With more than 16.5 million people in the U.S. working in ‘contingent’
or ‘alternative work arrangements,’1 we’re seeing an enormous
shift in the way people spend their working lives,” said Christine
Russell, senior manager of retirement and annuities at TD Ameritrade.
“While some see drawbacks, a lot of people put a premium on the
increased freedom and flexibility this evolution is enabling. And
however they feel about it, there’s widespread agreement that
freelancing is the future of work.”

Work is getting reworked
The workplace landscape is
shifting. Employees have lost trust in employers, leading many to become
more like the “CEO of one” – responsible for their own income, and

  • Compared to 10 years ago, respondents say employers are less loyal to
    employees (56 percent) and less trustworthy (38 percent), and think
    they see employees as more expendable (50 percent).

    • This has made employees more responsible for their own
      savings/retirement (51 percent), less loyal to their employers (48
      percent), as well as more responsible for their own income, beyond
      salary (33 percent).

Full-time freelancers report being happier than traditional workers
who do decide to take the plunge and join the on-demand workforce
full-time report a higher quality of life, experiencing higher levels of
happiness and lower levels of stress.

  • Eighty-four percent of full-time freelancers report being happy with
    work, while 77 percent of traditional workers report the same.
  • Fifty-nine percent of traditional workers report being stressed with
    work, while only 41 percent of full-time freelancers report feeling

Side hustlers are bridging the gap
Unlike full-time
freelancers, whose primary reason for joining the on-demand workforce
was to pursue their dreams (47 percent), side hustlers (those with a
traditional job and a freelance gig on the side) are primarily driven by
financial needs (52 percent). Most begin side hustling for financial
reasons, including paying off debt (44 percent), saving for major
purchases (42 percent), meeting current spending needs (38 percent),
increasing their nest egg (36 percent), and saving for retirement (32

Millennials value flexibility
Millennials are especially
likely to choose freelancing flexibility over traditional corporate
employment: 52 percent of millennials would rather work 80 hours a week
freelancing for 20 years than work a nine-to-five corporate job for 40
years, and 76 percent expect to have a side hustle at some point in
their life. Forty-eight percent of millennials would ideally have both
freelance and traditional work, while just 24 percent want to freelance

The Dark Side
While many people are excited by the
opportunity to be their own boss and chart a unique career path, others
see a dark side with a lifestyle that is unsustainable and leaves them
(and/or others) at risk financially.

  • Fifty-six percent of respondents say the on-demand workforce is the
    future of the American economy, but 57 percent of respondents agree
    that an economy driven by on-demand work is not sustainable long-term.
  • The biggest barriers to joining the on-demand workforce are financial
    uncertainty (41 percent of traditional workers, 28 percent of side
    hustlers, and 27 percent of full-time freelancers) and lack of
    traditional benefits (22 percent of traditional workers, 25 percent of
    side hustlers, 22 percent of full-time freelancers).
  • Sixty-six percent of on-demand workers say it’s harder to plan for
    retirement as part of the on-demand workforce.

“While being your own boss can give you the freedom to be more flexible
with your hours, that freedom also extends into how you build your
financial future,” explained Russell. “Unlike their traditional
counterparts, on-demand workers probably don’t receive friendly emails
from their HR department reminding them to take advantage of the company
retirement benefits – which is why it’s important to be proactive and
learn about various tools available for the on-demand workforce.”

Russell highlights some of the tools available to the on-demand workers:

  • Roth Individual Retirement Account (IRA)
    can be one approach for planning retirement. When it’s time to
    withdraw, there is no need to pay any taxes on the earnings, because
    they’re paid upfront. The 2019 contribution limit is $6,000 or $7,000
    for those who are 50 or older. While there are income limits on who
    can contribute, anyone can convert existing IRA or 401(k) assets to
  • Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) allows
    one to contribute and deduct 25 percent of their freelance/gig income
    up to $56,000 for the 2019 tax year. With SEP, it’s possible to change
    the percentage of contributions every year, skip years or even
    contribute once and never repeat it again.
  • Solo 401(k), also known as Individual
    401(k)s, also provides ability to contribute and deduct 25 percent of
    the freelance/gig income up to $56,000 for the 2019 tax year. Those 50
    years or older may qualify for $6,000 in catch-up contributions.

Note that these are not the only tools available to on-demand
workers. Be sure to consult with a qualified tax-planning professional
with regard to your personal circumstances before making a decision. TD
Ameritrade does not provide tax advice.

Source: TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation

About TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation
TD Ameritrade
provides investing
and education to
more than 11 million client accounts totaling approximately $1.2
trillion in assets, and custodial
to more than 7,000 registered investment advisors. We are a
leader in U.S. retail trading, executing an average of approximately
900,000 trades per day for our clients, more than a quarter of which
come from mobile devices. We have a proud history
of innovation
, dating back to our start in 1975, and today our team
of 10,000-strong is committed to carrying it forward. Together, we are
leveraging the latest in cutting edge technologies and one-on-one client
care to transform lives, and investing, for the better. Learn more by
visiting TD Ameritrade’s newsroom
or read our stories at Fresh

Brokerage services provided by TD Ameritrade, Inc., member FINRA (

About The Harris Poll
The Harris Poll is one of the
longest-running surveys in the U.S., tracking public opinion,
motivations and social sentiment since 1963. It is now part of Harris
Insights & Analytics, a global consulting and market research firm that
strives to reveal the authentic values of modern society to inspire
leaders to create a better tomorrow. We work with clients in three
primary areas; building twenty-first-century corporate reputation,
crafting brand strategy and performance tracking, and earning organic
media through public relations research. Our mission is to provide
insights and advisory to help leaders make the best decisions possible.
The Harris Poll is separate from and not affiliated with TD Ameritrade,
which is not responsible for their services or policies.

Survey Methodology
This survey was conducted online within
the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of TD Ameritrade from
September 28 – October 3, 2018, among 2,143 U.S. adults ages 18 and
older. Key populations include: 438 on-demand workers (220 full-time
freelancers and 218 side hustlers) and 975 traditional workers. The
remaining sample pool consists of part-time workers, students and



For Media:
Becky Niiya, 402-574-6652
Director, Corporate

For Investors:
Jeff Goeser, 402-597-8464
Managing Director,
Investor Relations

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