More people are taking on second jobs because they literally can’t afford not to

The narrative of thriving side hustles is familiar, often characterized by individuals fueled by relentless energy, spinning their hobbies into profitable ventures on platforms like Instagram or transforming modest spaces into lucrative AirBnBs. However, the stark reality for many is that a secondary job isn't a choice born from passion but a necessity in today's economic climate. A recent MarketWatch Guides study shows that in the last year, 54% of Americans have sought additional work to bolster their primary income, with most people aiming just to make ends meet.

As inflation has somewhat receded recently, the previously soaring cost of living significantly outstripped wage growth, leaving a lasting impact. Despite productivity gains, wage increases have been slow, which contributes to a scenario where 66% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Among these, 57% have taken on extra work to supplement their earnings.

For many working in traditionally underpaid sectors, such as education, a single salary barely covers living expenses, let alone future savings. Teachers like Stephanie P. find themselves compelled to take on additional roles just to afford basic necessities, illustrating the stark economic realities faced by many.

Generational differences are also evident, with younger people being especially hit hard by economic vulnerabilities. Gen Z and millennials are more likely to juggle multiple jobs due to tougher economic conditions, such as an unforgiving housing market and student loan debt, with 71% of Gen Z and 68% of millennials reported to be working additional jobs, compared to lower percentages among older generations.

Despite the hustle, many young people still struggle financially. Bank of America's analysis suggests that side hustles have not significantly improved the financial standing of younger generations, pointing to a broader issue of economic insecurity.

A portion of individuals pursuing side gigs, even those not living paycheck to paycheck, seek not only additional income but also stability amid diminishing trust in employer-employee relationships and sector-specific layoffs. Nevertheless, the financial strain persists across the board, with those engaging in side hustles still facing significant financial insecurity, highlighting that secondary employment may not suffice to overcome the challenges posed by the current economic landscape.  

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