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Nearly half of millennials turn to gig economy to earn more cash

Millennials struggle with student loan debt
  • 48% of millennial workers say they earn extra income on the side, according to a new Bankrate.com survey
  • Meantime, 38% of Gen Xers and 28% of Baby Boomers say they've engaged in the gig economy.   .
  • Side hustles go well beyond Uber or Lyft: People with a few spare hours can walk dogs, give cooking classes or sell their artwork.

The gig economy is hot, and American workers -- especially millennial-generation workers under age 37 -- are taking advantage of the seemingly endless ways in which they can earn extra cash on the side. 

Take Kelsea Gaspari, a 27-year-old sales manager for a financial services company and part-time law student, who spends up to 10 hours a week walking dogs on tech-enabled platforms such as Wag and Rover. 

Gaspari, who says she earns an extra $100 to $300 a week, is among the 48% of millennial workers who say they have a side hustle to pay down debt, to earn extra money for living expenses or discretionary spending, or to boost their savings, according to a new Bankrate.com survey.

Employee or contractor: What's the difference?

Why are so many Americans entering the gig economy? "It's all based on working around you, and most jobs are not like that," said Kathy Kristof, editor of SideHusl.com, a website that rates and reviews gig economy platforms, and a former contributor to CBS MoneyWatch. "They are unique in that they are so flexible. Good platforms allow you to say, I have an unexpected hour here, I am going to check on Wag and see if someone wants me to walk their dog," said Kristof.

Opportunities for flexible, part-time work extend well beyond driving for Uber of Lyft -- an arrangement some drivers say provides no flexibility given how little money they earn after expenses using the ride-sharing app. 

Gourmands can teach cooking classes in their homes, artists can sell their work through print-on-demand services. 

"The options are now so varied and so rich that there are good options. It's not, 'Oh my god, I am going to have to do work,' it's more like, 'Look at all these cool little things I could do," Kristof said.

The explosion in opportunities has drawn more people -- across different generations -- into side hustles. 39% of Gen Xers and 28% of Baby Boomers said they've engaged in the gig economy, according to Bankrate's survey of 2,550 adults.

"One reason some workers feel they need second jobs is that there are now many more available than there used to be," said Andrew Schrage, founder of the personal finance website Money Crashers. "The sharing economy has grown quite a bit over the years, and now there are many more convenient options that allow people to partake in these jobs whenever they have spare time, day or night," he said. 

For record number of millennials, there's no place like home

Slow growth in wages, despite an otherwise strong jobs market, has also driven more workers to seek opportunities outside of their full- or part-time jobs. 

"Wages have been stagnant for a while, so the reality for a lot of people is they still need a side job to make ends meet," said senior Bankrate analyst Amanda Dixon.

Indeed, one in three Americans reported taking on a side hustle to earn extra spending money. "That's a bit of a concern because their primary job doesn't provide them with enough income for them to splurge a little -- people are looking to have a source of income to turn to just to enjoy life," Dixon said.

On a more promising note, 31% of millennials say they've taken on a side hustle in order to boost their savings. 

"That's a positive thing," Dixon said, "because a lot of people are struggling to save, and a side hustle is great if you are looking to boost your savings and have money for emergencies. It's great to put that money into a savings account where you are earning a high amount of interest and it's great that people are understanding it's important to save."