Retirement Planning for the Gig Economist

A sprint diary for how we built the PAIV prototype

Jacob Waites
Aug 9, 2018 · 6 min read
How might we help gig economy workers better plan their future retirement?

During one of our recent CoLab explore sprints, one brief stood out to me as being particularly challenging: “Me Now, Me Later” — a brief focused on helping your current self make decisions that benefit your future self.

Understanding the impact of your choices

Do I know I should be saving? Yes. Do I? No. Part of the reason why is because I don’t have a clear picture of what that decision is going to do to me 60 years down the road. A central challenge of this brief is about creating real empathy for your future self.

Enter the gig economy: Uber drivers, TaskRabbits, roadie haulers, Lyfters, and freelancers have taken up a line of work that frees them from the conventional 9–5 and all that comes with it: a desk, time clocks, and windowless buildings. However, what it costs might just be far greater for their future selves: what about retirement (not to mention health insurance, or family leave)? The gig economy creates a system that puts the onus of planning for the future on the workers themselves, which is hard enough when many gig workers are just trying to make enough to cover their expenses for today. When working yourself to the bone is being celebrated, how do you ride the line between healthy future planning and making ends meet?

Planning your future on your own terms

Brainstorming sprint boards while working on PAIV during the CoLab explore sprint.

After initial brainstorming and research interviews, the team found that gig economists often will set weekly goals for themselves in either hours or dollars. They also found that gig economists prefer the comfort of knowing that there’s always a way for them to go out and make money in the moment in situations where they otherwise would be unable to do anything if they couldn’t make rent working a normal hourly job. PAIV attempts to mirror these concepts, allowing users to track their weekly goals while also giving them the comfort of knowing they will only make a retirement deposit after they’ve made ends meet for the week.

Visualizing your future self

As a user, the quiz defines your “future” self’s lifestyle: where you’d live, how many kids you’d have, how physically active you want to be (because health is just important as wealth when talking about retirement), how many hours a week you want to work (if you want to work), and other factors.

An updated mockup of the “future self” creation process, guiding a user to think about their ideal future lifestyle.

A flexible retirement plan

An InVision prototype of PAIV showing the gig economist a verbal rundown of her current retirement goals.

An algorithm helps keep you on track for your retirement goals, letting you know how much you need to work each week in order to cover your current self and your future self. You even have the option of making withdrawals from your retirement fund — at the cost of getting a scolding from your future self!

What regular interactions with the app could look like, helping a user to stay on track with their retirement planning.

Why use blockchain for this?

Assuming a future in which token prices are stable, the contracts also create a flexible, trustless control mechanism for making deposits on behalf of the user when considering a retirement payment amount, frequency, or threshold could be changed at any time by changing the user’s future retirement vision. In addition, the transaction records could start to represent a form of credit: could we create trust in a community that values a ledger reflecting the willingness of someone to meet their weekly goals consistently to make sure they have savings for the future?

Tracking without engrossing, nudging without notifying

A prototype of the PAIV visual notifier for giving a gig economist an at a glance view of their progress towards making a retirement deposit. The meter has a three part “road” that paves itself as earnings accumulate. The smart contract only deposits money once a certain threshold has been reached.

This tracker simply shows an at-a-glance view of the user’s progress towards their weekly retirement deposit. Once the road (a “Paiv-ed” road ;) ) at the bottom of the tracker is complete, their deposit will be made; anything less, and the user can make the call on whether or not to take on another gig that week to meet their target.

A more tangible future

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