Meet the retirees driving for Uber and Lyft because Social Security isn't enough

Uber car next to yellow taxi

Many Uber and Lyft drivers in their retirement years are relying on income from rides and tips to supplement their Social Security.VIEW press

  • Retirees are turning to Uber and Lyft driving to supplement Social Security or pension income.

  • Some retirees who drive part- or full-time say low earnings and rising costs hurt their wallets.

  • Drivers face financial instability and declining tips, despite enjoying job flexibility.

George Conner, 78, retired in 2007 from his career as an owner of two businesses. He took it easy for the first few years, but to supplement his Social Security and pay for his medical bills, he tried various jobs — including delivering auto parts — before trying out Uber driving.

He started in 2018 in central Florida, driving five days a week for extra income. His health issues made holding down a full-time job difficult, and he valued the flexibility of gig driving to set his own schedule. It also made him feel like he had a purpose in retirement. However, he estimated he only made $13 to $15 an hour before costs like gas and car maintenance, which brought him to about $7.35 an hour net.

He quit Uber and tried another full-time job for nearly two years, though health issues brought him back last June. Working only weekends during peak times, he said he earns about $16 an hour, making him more financially stable but still without enough to live comfortably. He said all this driving has rendered his car “virtually worthless.”

Many older Americans have recently told Business Insider they’re struggling to get by on Social Security and are forced to take part- or full-time jobs. Some fear they’ll never properly retire, even after working four to five decades behind a desk.

Some recently started driving for Uber and Lyft to earn extra income and have something to do. Some drivers who spoke with BI said this was the only option that could work with their appointments, home maintenance, and health issues. Others said they wanted a service position after decades of working with people.

Still, many said with earnings declining and tips becoming harder to get, they’re worried about their financial futures. Some are considering returning to past jobs, while others are willing to keep going since any income can help pay rent or put food on the table.

“Uber offers people from all walks of life the ability to work when and where they want,” an Uber spokesperson told BI. “We have seen retirees and seniors take advantage of this opportunity to supplement their incomes and meet new people — and even to get a college degree for free.”

Lyft did not respond to a request for comment.

Having something to do in retirement

Some drivers like Glenn Mueller, 75, said Uber driving gives him something to do in his retirement. Mueller, who drives in Naples, Florida, only works one day a week since he doesn’t rely on driving to stay afloat, and he uses his earnings for expenses like dinners or filling up his tank.

“I think driving is beneficial to do besides the financial reasons — it gives them something to do,” Mueller said. “It’s important that they’re still a part of their community, and it makes them physically active.”

Others like Bob Milosavljević, 72, rely on driving income to supplement his Social Security income. The Boston driver worked as an IT and cybersecurity specialist and doesn’t fully rely on driving income to get by.

Milosavljević said his main reason for starting ride-hail driving five years ago was to get out of the house and interact with people. Once the pandemic hit, he said his personal finances weren’t great, and the extra income helped with rising inflation.

“I don’t see options for people like me short of going out and finding a real job like a desk job,” he said. “I worked my whole life to get away from that, and I’m not looking forward to having to go back to that. I will avoid it at all costs. But I see it’s not going to be any easier for us than it is today, and today is not easy.”

Over the last 18 months, he estimates his earnings have fallen 25-30%, according to earnings statements viewed by BI. He’s noticed incentives have dwindled, and growing competition has contributed to fewer profitable rides — he now declines more than half of available rides because they’re not worth it. As an older driver, he has worried about his safety while driving, though he hasn’t had issues recently.

“The reality is that people who work a 9-to-5 job in the private sector and expect to be able to retire on Social Security are deluding themselves,” Milosavljević said. “That’s just not possible. It’s imperative for retirees to religiously contribute to those 401(k)s and resist the temptation to dip into them before they retire.”

Driving with few other options

For some Uber and Lyft drivers in their retirement years, flexible employment options are few and far between.

David Petrie, 74, was laid off last year as a computer field engineer. Now, Petrie, who lives in Anderson, South Carolina, said he gets $1,780 in Social Security, which isn’t enough to cover all his expenses. He drove for Uber part-time starting six years ago for extra income but has increasingly relied on it as one of his best options to pull in enough.

At his age, driving gives him the flexibility to work when he wants. He said he makes about $700 a week with Uber, which he said has become increasingly too little for him to get by. He also said tips have declined, even though he goes the extra mile to make his passengers feel comfortable.

“My income goes down due to overhead,” Petrie said. “My income is also going down because fees are going up, and people cannot afford Uber. They also cannot tip, due to many reasons, one being lack of funds, and another being the tipper rebellion.”

Steve Wilkie, 72, has a similar story. He retired 11 years ago in Southwest Florida and started driving for Uber and Lyft in 2017 to supplement his Social Security. Still, he said his earnings have eroded to the point he barely makes enough to justify the time and money he puts into driving.

He struggles to make $20 in gross earnings an hour, screenshots show, and doesn’t do many longer rides to Miami since he can’t usually get return trips. He worries he and his wife — who still works part-time as a nurse — won’t be able to keep up financially.

“Drives from home to the airport in Fort Myers pay about half what they used to, and with gas prices, car repairs, maintenance costs, and auto insurance all increasing substantially, I can only make money because I’m driving an extremely efficient and fully depreciated 2013 Toyota Prius with 350,000 miles on it,” Wilkie said.

Some drivers are seeing benefits

For some drivers, transitioning to Uber and Lyft is challenging but worth it.

Marilyn Cassidy, 73, spent most of her life as a single mother doing her best to provide for her daughter with a disability, which left her with little to save for her retirement. The former paralegal provides what she can for her daughter and grandchildren using income from driving in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

She drives two to three times a week during the daytime with a goal of $100 to $150 a day, though she’s struggled to do that recently. She enjoys how every day is “an adventure,” though she fears getting complaints that could hurt her near-flawless performance.

“It helps me afford basic life expenses and car expenses and allows me to remain independent and active,” Cassidy said, noting she gets tips for nearly half her rides.

Susan Harward, 67, doesn’t depend on Uber driving to pay her bills in Salt Lake City, though the extra income is handy for travel or emergency expenses. Since she receives enough from Social Security and has enough saved, she doesn’t feel the need to drive late at night or on weekends, when earnings are often higher.

She drives 15 to 20 hours a week and maintains a clean car, drives as smoothly as possible, aims for genuine conversations, and helps many passengers with luggage.

“The really great thing about that is that when I’m ready to travel, I don’t have to ask a boss for time off, and I go way too much for the vacation time available in any regular job anyway. I just stop driving,” Harward said. “I always say that I’m at a point in my life where I just cannot bear to be told what to do anymore.”

Are you an Uber or Lyft driver working into your retirement years? Reach out to this reporter at

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