Unemployment is decreasing. Jobs are being created and the economy is improving. Or so we hear. I think such optimism premature and fanciful. Personal experience has shown me the way solvency in this quicksand economy isn’t job hunting, college or even working a traditional job. Survival requires proactive, divergent thinking.
Step off the job-chase grid. I left my job teaching adult education in 1996 to homeschool. I re-entered the work force in 2005 and had to take classes to renew my teaching certificate. I couldn’t find a job. I subbed, earning at most, $400 a week, before taxes, no benefits. I worked on-call and only when school was in session. Most weeks, I got 2-4 partial days. Earnings barely covered gas, insurance, vehicle costs, required business wardrobe and child care. I couldn’t recoup tuition costs incurred to keep my license valid. Job-hunting for a permanent teaching slot cost me and meant missing subbing opportunities. Working put us in a higher tax bracket. We barely broke even. Even in my wealthy community, many are in similar situations.
Stop working patchwork jobs. Most jobs are minimum wage or low-paying. Even professional or skilled trade jobs pay less than they did, factoring in cost-of-living increases. Many are part-time with no benefits (or benefits too expensive to make worthwhile). To survive, you work multiple jobs. This creates a dilemma. Each employer wants workers totally committed to their company and available at all times. They don’t offer enough hours, don’t want to pay overtime, yet don’t want you working other jobs. A friend juggled four jobs, getting 6-10 hours weekly per job, traveling 60-80 miles daily and earning about $200.
Consider college carefully– maybe forego it. Routinely, I hear this story: people lose jobs. Company close. Employers move. Workers go back to school. But degrees take years to finish and are costly. A friend’s been in community college for eight years, working toward a medical technician degree. He’s still on the very-long waiting list but already owes $30,000. That’s just principal, not interest. Paying college debt can take years, unless you do it aggressively. Then you live on nothing for that period. I paid $22,000 in 18 months. We went nowhere, did nothing, shared one 25-year-old car. I know a kid who pays $2,000 monthly on loans and a mom who was denied a second mortgage and lost her home after cosigning for her sons’ loans.
Rethink everything. Simplify. Revise purchases. Try out-of-the-box ideas. I quit subbing in 2010 to freelance full-time. I earn more and save gobs on transportation, school and wardrobe. If kids were younger, I’d save on childcare, working from home.
Create multiple income sources. Don’t rely on one company. Network. I’ve written for numerous companies since I began in 2005. I blog snippets of my articles and earn ad revenue. I was an early Cha-Cha guide. I took surveys, earned gift cards from points companies like Swagbucks and partnered with companies to review products. I’m working on several print publications.
Be flexible. When the game changes, change with it. My blog earnings dropped 80 percent, so I tried new things and different avenues. If a freelance company stops paying as well, move on. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Be vigilant for opportunities. Join groups and share ideas.
Manage spending. Earn then spend, not the other way around. Pay bills on time and credit card balances monthly. We don’t have car payments. We budget, DIY, and skip excess buying. Good credit gets us better rebates and rewards.
Using this system, we’re happier. We don’t fight about money or live under shadow of debt.