The Shared & Subscription Economy

Fifteen years ago, the American dream was built around home ownership and a consumer-based lifestyle. People saved their money until they could make a down payment, or to purchase high-priced items like cars and furniture. The vast majority commuted to work in an office for a 9 to 5 steady paycheck and strove for that corner office. Now, things have changed significantly.

The recession in 2008 caused a real shift in how Americans live and consume – especially among the younger millennial generation, who were saddled with college debt and low employment rates. They couldn’t afford to rent an apartment or room in expensive cities like New York or San Francisco where some of the most coveted jobs and industries are based. So instead of saving money to buy a house or car, they are making ends meet by opting to live more flexible lifestyles with the shared and subscription economy.

Website TechCrunch wrote an in-depth article of how underemployed Americans were the driving force behind the new sharing economy. To pad their wallets and help meet monthly expenses, and in the face of stagnant wages, people began freelancing their skills to multiple employers. Some began driving for Uber and Lyft and renting their rooms to AirB&B, others are hiring themselves out for work part-time on apps like TaskRabbit.

But now, many are starting to make a complete shift in their lifestyles, and opting away from the 9 to 5 corporate job altogether to have more flexible (and secure) options. They are making their part-time work, like driving for Uber or renting their rooms on AirB&B, their main sources of income.

They are reducing expenses and possessions, too. Instead of owning cars, people are using Uber or a ZipCar to get around. Instead of paying twelve to fifteen dollars to see a movie in a theatre, they are subscribing to Netflix for a flat monthly fee and unlimited viewing. They clean their residents with Handy and plan meals with Blue Apron. Instead of buying clothes and shoes, they are joining subscription services like “Rent the Runway” where they pay a fee to wear clothes and then return them, keeping their possessions to a minimum. In addition to day to day living, this subscription/ rent-based mentality extends to enjoying once-rare luxury items on a temporary basis, like paying one-time fees to ride in a private jet or taking a high-end Tesla carpool from one city to another. is taking the sharing economy to a new level. It is a start-up that advocates that the idea of “home” doesn’t even have to be tied to one location. Gone are the days of signing those year-long leases to an apartment or house. Instead, for just $1,600 per month (half the cost of renting a space in San Francisco), you get access to co-living spaces around the world. The project, which has launched pilot programs in Bali, Miami, Buenos Aires, Lisbon and Kyoto, seeks to redefine how the so-called “digital nomad” generation finds a place to live. Their website states, “Just show up with your bare essentials and immediately feel at home.”

People have found a kind of security in relying on apps to get goods and services on more flexible terms. In turn, they are looking to these services to create their own sources of income. When large corporations aren’t meeting people’s needs, the shared economy fits a gaping hole that only seems to be growing bigger.