Gig-Economy: Are Self-Employed Americans Prepared?

WASHINGTON — A growing number of Americans are stepping away from the corporate ladder and climbing one of their own. According to the the IRS, 29 million people are self-employed nationwide, with that number increasing by half a million every year.

Katie Vlietstra, vice president for government relations and public affairs for the National Association for the Self-Employed, said often securing needs such as insurance and disability coverage is lost in the shuffle of entrepreneurship.

“You know, you have to do some research, you have to figure out how do you secure benefits for you and especially if you have a family or a spouse that receives their benefits from you,” Vlietstra said. “How do you set up your business?”

Increasingly, organizations like the NASE offer connections to life and disability insurance, as well as medical insurance for those not eligible for the marketplace.

2016 McKinsey Global Institute Report found that about 27 percent of working-age people in the United States and Europe engage at least partially in independent work.

According to USAA, 1 in 3 people in the United States doesn’t carry life insurance. Sean Scaturro, director of life and health insurance with USAA, said the lack of life insurance presents a problem for the entire economy.

“It’s a social issue. You’ve got a third of the country that doesn’t have adequate life insurance,” Scaturro said. “Now, that’s not to say that everybody is going to die at the same time, but you know what? People pass away every day, and unfortunately families are left under-protected every single day.”

Scaturro added that people assume life insurance costs two- to three-times what it normally does.

Vlietstra said people who are self-employed should take a minute to research costs and ways to protect themselves and their families.

“Just make sure you have the proper level of protection, legal protection, if that’s insurance to make sure that as you get started and you have assets that need to be protected,” she said. “You know, I would definitely spend the money at the beginning to talk to a lawyer.”

Experts say the growth in self-employment, also called the gig economy, is related to people working to piece together employment after the economy crashed during the recession, and also a general desire for more flexibility and work-life balance.

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