Retirement Income

The do’s and don’ts of the share economy

The do’s and don’ts of the share economy

Selling in the sharing economy seems efficient. You have a spare room you aren’t using, rent it on Airbnb. You have spare time and a car, drive for Uber. You have mad Ikea skills, sell them on Airtasker. Work in the sharing economy can be a major income earner or a cash booster. Whether it's your primary income or you're testing the waters, there are a few dos and don’ts to maintain financial security in the sharing economy.

The dos

1. Contribute to superannuation

Everyone earning income needs to be paying into superannuation. This is the most tax effective investment you can make in your future. Missing a few years of super payments because you were travelling and covering costs with small gigs will set you back. Even putting a little bit away helps.

2. Get insurance

Maintain your income protection insurance to protect against sickness or injury, trauma and TPD insurances. This is more important with the latest legislation change. You might also need professional indemnity and public liability insurance. Professional indemnity protects you if clients claim your service has caused them a loss. Public liability protects you if you injure a customer or damage their property. Check you are covered for general insurances – home, contents, car if you are using them for a side hustle.

3. Research tax requirements, benefits and government regulations

Governments are constantly catching-up to the sharing economy. Regulations and tax laws update frequently. Surprise tax bills are nobody’s friend, so keep on top of this. If you’re using your home, car or other assets you have opened up a new world of tax deductions. It’s worth your time to look into this. If this is an undeclared income you can’t claim deductions, but declaring a second-job might mean more tax deductions for things you previously couldn’t claim. Weigh up the options.

The don'ts

1. Don't underestimate the lifestyle costs of this work.

Consider how this will impact your life. Is it going to be profitable enough to justify the distraction? Could it impact your primary income? What are the actual costs, like cleaning and wear and tear? Would the time and energy spent on this be better spent on a second job or seeking a promotion? Often, we think we can do it all, but everything has a cost. Be honest with yourself about how you want to live.

2. Don't sacrifice your personal finances

Know your limits and how much you want to invest to make it work. You’re effectively starting a new business. In the initial set up you will invest your own money. After that draw a clear line between business and personal finances. Think about whether you run the business in your own name, as a trust or as a company. This decision could determine whether you are personally liable for any debts. Understand your finances: what’s coming in, what’s going out, what you owe and what others owe you. This will help you avoid costly mistakes.

3. Don't go in without an exit plan.

Regulations change or you might hate it. You need an exit strategy that minimises financial losses. Think about this at the start, before you’ve invested. It may change how you do the initial set up. And if you’re relying on this income, then you’ll also need a back-up plan if you’re not earning it anymore.

I have clients who have been earning income for years through the share economy. If planned and structured well it can make a real change to your financial situation. But flying in without considering costs, or personal security, could be dangerous. Take the time to think about your options. Time researching and planning is always a good investment.

Helen Baker is a licenced Australian financial adviser and author of two books: On Your Own Two Feet – Steady Steps to Women’s Financial Independence and On Your Own Two Feet Divorce – Your Survive and Thrive Financial Guide. Proceeds from the books’ sales are donated to charities supporting disadvantaged women. Helen is among the 1% of financial planners who holds a master’s degree in the field. Find out more at www.onyourowntwofeet.com.au

Note this is general advice only and you should seek advice specific to your circumstances.